No corporal punishment would make Bangabandhu proud

by Sir Frank Peters

2020 is the year of Bangabandhu.

A year to be celebrated, cherished, and remembered by all.

On March 17, 100years ago, the umbilical cord to his loving mother was severed and the baby destined to achieve international notoriety and greatness as a man drew his first breath on the soil of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan.

There wasn’t a person alive who could predict the course of his life, his achievements nor indeed his murder.

Millions of words have been committed to paper here and overseas, transmitted across the TV and Radio airwaves and captured for eternity on celluloid and in various digital formats about the foremost national hero. Trillions more will no doubt follow… as they ought.

Bangabandhu was a member of a small elite club of exceptionally great human beings who changed the course of history and made the world a better place… Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Michael Collins, John F. Kennedy, and more recently Nelson Mandela, to mention a few.

Of all his many outstanding attributes, the one that gets my highest admiration and loudest applause is his abhorrence of corporal punishment. Like all learned men, it made no sense to him, not only was it an exercise in futility, but caused enormous damage, both mental and physical.

Another great Bangladeshi and writing genius is eternal poet Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941). Among the 2230 songs and countless words he wrote, the eight words most prominent in the minds of all good parents, good school teachers and Imams today, are: 

“To discipline means to teach, not to punish”.

When you teach a child, you teach the adult they become. Bangabandhu shared the same philosophy.

Shamefully, sad…  many school ‘teachers’ have not read them, abided by them, or have chosen to ignore them …shamefully sad.

Both Bangabandhu and Tagore would turn in their graves were they to witness the conduct of some ‘teachers’ and Imams at some schools and madrasahs.

Nobody in their right mind or state of enlightenment, would want to send the child they love and cherish to a School Of Perpetual Suffering to be ill treated and abused.

If we cannot see the harm corporal punishment causes to children, there’s little hope of Bangladesh ever achieving its greatest potential.

On January 13, 2011, the High Court of Bangladesh made it very clear that corporal punishment was an archenemy of the state.

Justice Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed the inhuman, ineffective, ignorant practice in schools and madrasas throughout Bangladesh, declaring it to be: ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

Anyone with an iota of intelligence could clearly see that kicking, grabbing, shoving, slapping, pushing, pinching or confining children in a small space, taping their mouths shut, pulling their hair, tugging at their ears, belittling, mocking, embarrassing, swearing, cursing and robbing them of their dignity, making them look foolish in front of their peers or breaking sticks upon their young tender hands, could not help their development – or the children who are watching – or help them to become upstanding citizens.

Last year, standard 2 student Mohamed Juma 14, died after receiving corporal punishment by his ‘teacher’. On his way to hospital with his father for a check-up he began vomiting blood, collapsed, and died.

Another boy needed surgery after a ‘teacher’ had kicked him in the genitals.

A Class 4 student collapsed and fell unconscious after an angry teacher flung an object at him that hit him in the groin and made him unconscious. The ‘teachers’ then called other students and asked them to throw him in the open field opposite the school where he was left agonizing in pain for 30-minutes before fellow students took him to a clinic.

Any government that claims, and seriously believes (hand-on-heart) that, “children are the future of the nation”, and “the supreme assets of the nation” and permit corporal punishment, needs to have a serious rethink about its values.

Corporal punishment, unquestionably, is child abuse that’s been falsely labelled as discipline. To call it anything else is distortion of the facts. To believe it to be anything else is ignorance of the facts.

The very foundation of the nation (any nation) is built on schools – the mental gyms where young developing minds are rigorously exercised and prepared for universities and far beyond.

There’s a line in George Bernard Shaw’s immortal play ‘Man and Superman’ that says: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”.

This, over the years, has been erroneously misinterpreted to mean, teachers themselves are incapable of success, which is totally false, at least it does not apply to all of them.

There are REMARKABLE teachers around the world (including in Bangladesh) who are performing EXTRAORDINARY work on par with the best for the benefit of society, but they are often let down by the system. Teachers, after all, are the traffic police who initially advise, direct, and guide us, to our true destinations in life.

Every loving parent wants to make life better for his/her child. They want them to have more, to enjoy more than they ever did and not go through the pain, heartaches, suffering and struggles to survive they did… because they love them. (We do not love people because they are good, but we want them to be good because we love them – Oscar Wilde).

Not only is it commonsense to most, but also it has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt, that corporal punishment has no benefits whatsoever– NONE!

If we are ever to achieve the status of Sonar Bangla and fulfill Bangabandhu’s dream, the most logical place to begin are schools and rid them of all the destructive elements.

Good education is the solid foundation of every nation and without it nations are guaranteed to decay and crumble.

The greatest birthday present ‘teachers’ and Imams in Bangladesh can give Bangabandhu on his 100th birthday anniversary this March17, would be to abstain from giving corporal punishment and damaging his children – the future of Bangladesh.

Good luck to Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni MP, in her efforts to bring about the education system Bangabandhu would want and Bangladesh ought to have.

Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, a royal goodwill ambassador and humanitarian. In recognition of his campaigned to outlaw corporal punishment in Bangladesh, three families have shown their appreciation by naming three boys ‘Frank Peters’ in his honour. <>