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Islamabad Maar Nahin Pyar” is a slogan ......... read more about it

Islamabad Maar Nahin Pyar” is a slogan which, to all intents and purposes, has been restricted to official documents. Besides a number of incidents of roughing up of children and in some cases brutal torture reported in backward areas, efforts to justify some kind of punishment to “enforce discipline” in urban areas have defeated the very purpose of anti-corporal punishment campaigns in schools.

While teachers generally detest violence against children, many among them insist that children must face some forms of
punishments in a friendly way to maintain discipline.

During the past few weeks, a large number of teachers as well as their associations and unions gathered across Pakistan and engaged in four social dialogues in connection with the World Teachers Day 2011. They voiced their repeated requests as well
as protests that an end to corporal punishment in schools actually ties their hands in controlling their students.

A large segment of the community says the 17th century notion of “Spare the rod and spoil the child” had flourished well in Pakistan. Children, they believe, flourish if chastised, physically or otherwise, for any wrongdoing.

In a study done earlier by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Children (SPARC), as high as 76 per cent of parents had endorsed corporal punishment in schools.

The Punjab government had banned corporal punishment in government schools way back in September 2005. However, the facts suggest otherwise. On a routine basis, we come across news items in print as well as electronic media about children being beaten up inschools by teachers at the slightest of pretexts; homework not being done; textbooks not present; uniforms not worn properly, children’s clashes etc.

Recently in Gujranwala, three Grade-VII girl students were tortured at a private school by “blackening their faces” for not completing their homework. Later, the school administration also threatened parents and local media persons. The DCO cancelled the school registration.

In the wake of fundamental Right to Education for children aged 5-16 under Article 25-A of the Constitution, there is a need to develop minimum standards and zero tolerance forcorporal punishment. A society needs to be reborn where parents and teachers can think of other ways to address children’s behavioral issues rather than through corporal punishment and complete indifference to the right of dignity as the essence of a healthy childhood.

At a recent consultation on “Development of School Based Complaint Mechanism for Corporal Punishment” organised by SPARC in collaboration with the Punjab school education department at a local hotel this past week, Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi director programmesBaela Raza Jamil stressed that open debates should be held at teacher forums facilitated by child rights facilitators to speak about the resistance towards ending violence against children and finding suitable alterative mechanisms and language of behavior change to resolve the current impasse on this critical issue for a healthy society.

She stressed that pre-service and in-service training of teachers needed to have clear modules on ending violence against children replacing the current perversion of theteachers, parents and sometimes even children themselves with more positive constructive and creative methods of deterrence.

Ms Jamil suggested setting up of a complaint mechanism such as a 24-hour hotline with links to paralegal and legal support cell to provide instant help to such children.

Stating that there is a longstanding demand for a National Commission on Children, passed by the National Assembly and the Senate for implementation, she recommended that a core agenda of the proposed commission should be end to violence and torture against children.

She also called for a nationwide campaign for awareness and necessary actions for ending violence against children in learning places to be integrated in political parties’ manifestoes.

SPARC’s Violence against Children programme manager Iftikhar Mubarik said a teacher might be more likely to resort to violent discipline under stressful conditions, including overcrowded classrooms, insufficient resources, and increased emphasis on student testing and achievement.

As government is making progress in increasing the number of children attendingschools, he regretted that resources often did not keep pace. “Teachers have less capacity to intervene in peer violence when classes are very large and may resort to punitive management strategies such as corporal punishment,” he said.

Though a UN study on Violence against Children reflected that millions of children across the world become victim of sexual, physical and emotional violence, many on a daily basis, Mr Mubarik stated that societal acceptance of violence against children appeared to be the norm and to be a key obstacle to its elimination.

Government schools’ heads demanded that the government should arrange teacherstraining programme on alternatives of corporal punishment for effective implementation of notification issued by the education department regarding ban on corporal punishment.

They also suggested that child-friendly schooling, facilitation and presentation skills, dealing with children and positive disciplining should be the part of educational courses. They suggested that there must be a school psychologist to deal with emotional and behavioural issues of children including learning disabilities.Dawn.

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