Why are some teachers so unkind and so cruel to children?

August 7, 2013
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Corporal punishment is linked to cancer and a multitude of health maladies, massive school drop-outs, mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, cardio-vascular disease, arthritis, obesity, wife-beatings, muggings and other social misbehavior.

Research has also shown that its stress can cause inflammation to cells, tissues and blood vessels and that hitting or even just yelling at children can trigger a significant chain of biological changes that can damage their future health.

In turn, this increases the likelihood of tumours, heart conditions and respiratory diseases like asthma and less fatal, but discomforting and irritating allergies, rashes and suchlike.

And some people in their state of ignorance, arrogance – or both – still refer to it as discipline and condone it.

Yet another controversial ‘wake-up world’ report into the multifarious dangers of inflicting corporal punishment on children has been unleashed that unequivocally condemns the disgraceful ignorance-propelled inhuman practice.

It states, hitting any child can cause irreparable mental health problems and aggressive behavior that hurts and scars them well into adulthood.

So what, you might ask yourself with ‘I’m all right Jack’ flippancy because you don’t have any children, or your children are grown up, or are free of corporal punishment in both home and school (lucky them); has this got to do with me?

Corporal punishment of children needs to be a concern for all of us, individually and collectively, because it does concern all of us, whether we have children of our own or not, as does the spread of any disease in the community.

It might not affect us at this moment in time, but the hidden dangers of inflicting corporal punishment on children lurks menacingly in the shadows for decades giving no warnings when they will strike, in Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde fashion.

British psychologist Penelope Leach said in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Journal: “When a big child hits a small child in the playground, we call him a bully; five years later he punches a woman for her handbag and he is called a mugger. Later still, when he slugs a workmate who insults him, he is called a troublemaker, but when he becomes a father and hits his tiresome, disobedient or disrespectful child, we call him a disciplinarian.”

It is wrong… wrong… WRONG to hit a child. And never… never… NEVER is it ‘for their own good’. That idea is totally absurd and demonstrates the gross ignorance of the perpetrator, whether that is a teacher or parent. There is no right time to hit a child and NEVER any justification.

In the minds of many there is much confusion between discipline and punishment and that by hitting children is the best, quickest, and most effective way to bring them under control. Perpetrators rationalise that a light beating, a reminder smack now and again, provided it does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, keeps the children in line. Nonsense! Ridiculous! Absurd!

Corporal punishment.1If by hitting or smacking an adult kept them in line, I would be expecting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to be smacking her ministers on a regular basis or Opposition Leaders Khaleda Zia and former president Ershad to be applying a stick across the backs of those who do not meet the standards they demand, for the benefit of the nation.

But it’s obvious that corporal punishment would only yield a mammoth and monstrous negative effect on adults who would cloak their feelings and eventually retaliate. So why would anyone in their right mind think children are different, that corporal punishment would be beneficial to them and in turn benefit society? Get real!

The moment you hit a child, you trigger a time-bomb that’s likely to explode when least expected and it ought to be remembered that time is on their side, not ours.
In the latest report condemning corporal punishment, Prof. Tracie Afifi of the University of Manitoba (Canada) uncovered a link between hitting children and the increased potential for serious health problems in the coming years.

She said harsh physical punishment administered to kids – acts of pushing, grabbing, slapping and hitting – can lead to a higher risk of cardio-vascular disease, arthritis and obesity.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has also published a scathing editorial on the shortsightedness of corporal punishment for children and the need for parents and teachers to explore other, more positive methods to discipline their children.

It said: “Children who are given corporal punishment in school or in the home, spanked, slapped, grabbed and pushed, shoved, kicked, beaten with a cane or any other means of physical punishment, may be at an increased risk for developing mental problems later in life and it may cause mood and anxiety disorders or lead to alcohol and drug abuse.”

In July 2012, the same university sent an earth-shattering shockwave throughout the world pleading – for the sake of the children and society on the whole¬ – to abolish corporal punishment completely and immediately.

British psychologists at Plymouth University informed us that punishment in childhood makes kids more prone to serious illness and that smacking or even shouting at children boosts their risk of developing cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Thanks to modern superheroes Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md Sheikh Hasan Arif corporal punishment was outlawed in Bangladesh schools and madrassas on January 13, 2011. They in their vast wisdom defined the act as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

Although it’s no longer lawful or acceptable for a ‘teacher’ to strike, verbally abuse, discriminate against or threatens any child, there are still many ignorant teachers and headmasters in Bangladesh who disagree, flaunt the law, and whose actions cry out for exemplary punishment.

Just as we must always remember and honour the heroes who fought and won independence for Bangladesh, we must never forget the cruelty and inhuman treatment of the 14 girl students of Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasah in Kadamtali who in May 2012, were literally branded for life with a red-hot cooking spatula by their ‘teacher’ to give them the experience of hell.

If that wasn’t the biggest wake-up call to the evils of corporal punishment, there is little hope of Bangladesh ever becoming civilised.

The seeds sown today bear the fruits of tomorrow and if the youth of today are to be the upright law-abiding citizens we hope for tomorrow, we ought to respect them more and remove the weeds from the education system that choke their development.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, human rights activist, and a respected foreign friend of Bangladesh. E-mail:sirfrankpeters@googlemail.com)

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