PAKISTAN: Corporal punishment a major reason for increasing school dropouts 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following article from Ashoka Pakistan, written by Mr. Amir Murtaza.

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

An article from Ashoka Pakistan forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

By: Amir Murtaza

It is a fact that every day in Pakistan a number of children suffer physical and verbal abuse at their schools. Corporal punishment is an unfortunate phenomenon which is widely acceptable in developing world, including Pakistan, as a mean to discipline children, either boys or girls.

Inayat Ali, a father of three children from Hyderabad informed that once a government school teacher had severely thrashed his eldest son because his son was absent from the class for three days. The resident of Hyderabad further revealed that when he contacted with the principal of the school and informed him about the cruel behavior of school teacher; the principle also shouted on him and said, “we are trying to our utmost efforts to discipline your children and make their future bright and you people come and complain on such trivial issue.” Inayat Ali further informed that after a month of the incident, the same school teacher again beaten his child and eventually his child left the school. At present his son is helping him in his Photostat shop as the child is very much afraid to go to school.

Asif Haroon, a local journalist, informed that Pakistan has one of the highest school dropout rates in the region, and corporal punishment is considered as one of the major reasons of children’s decision to leaving schools. The Editor of a local monthly magazine also cited the report of a local NGO which stated that 35,000 students in Pakistan drop out of the education system each year due to corporal punishment. He further observed that beating and degradation had plagued the education system in Pakistan and there is a dire need to eliminate such practice forthwith.

Pakistan’s national statistics inform that the country’s literacy rate is 50% which stands Pakistan at 31st position out of 35 Muslim countries. Furthermore, the country stands at 134 out of 180 countries all over the world. The data further reveals that school droop out rate in the country is approximately 50%, which is certainly very high.

Advocate Muhammad Ashraf observed that corporal punishment is prevailed in both government and private schools. He was of the view that magnitude of such punishment is far higher in rural areas rather than big urban cities such as Karachi or Hyderabad. The human rights lawyer from Karachi further said that right to dignity is one of the founding principles of all human rights instruments. He added that society at large is responsible to protect children from such violent school discipline practices.

It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990 and the Article 19 of the Convention states; 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. 2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

Abdul Qadir, head of Karachi based Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO), observed that despite growing awareness about corporal punishment in Pakistani schools, especially those are located in urban areas, still many male and female teachers, both from government and private schools, are convinced shouting and beating is absolutely necessary to discipline children. He referred the case of a private school located in Mahmoodabad, Karachi where the class teacher severely punished whole class because students of class IV were making noise while the teacher was not present in the class. Abdul Qadir observed that punishing small children on such minor discipline issue is beyond any justification. He observed that government should strictly enforce total ban on corporal punishment in all parts of the country.

It was reported in November 2003, when the then Federal Education Minister Ms. Zobaida Jalal declared no type of corporal punishment or physical harassment would be allowed in the country’s educational institutions. Ms. Jalal informed that a bill would soon be introduced in parliament to ban physical punishment and harassment in schools. In January 2010, the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2010, which would prohibit corporal punishment in all education settings, was sent to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare and Special Education for approval. Niaz Ahmed, a child rights activist, informed that several important national level Bills and Policies related to the children have been in pending for years as legislators finds no time to discuss and approve them.

Advocate Muhammad Ashraf informed that on different occasions during previous years, the provincial governments of Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had issued necessary directives regarding the ban on corporal punishment in their respective provinces. However, the Advocate believed that such ban had not made any significance impact on prevalence of corporal punishment in schools because of the absence of implementation mechanism.

He further said that mostly parents don’t take corporal punishment incidents very seriously; furthermore, police in Pakistan also discourages to lodge complains of corporal punishment. Advocate Muhammad Ashraf observed that implementation of policies and internationally ratified conventions is a major problem in Pakistan as successive governments have failed to improve protection and promotion of child rights in the country.

Samina Khalid, a local psychologist, informed that corporal punishment has major and severe negative impact on child’s personality. She added that persistent shouting and beating has increased the feelings of fear in children. She also cited a study by Dr. Gershoff of Columbia University that found that people who were physically punished as a child were more likely to become depressed, perform poorly at school, have career problems and abuse their own children and spouses, when adults.

Nighat Shareef, a Karachi based clinical psychologist and researcher also gave reference of many recent studies, mostly conducted in US, that document the negative factors of corporal punishment on children. Studies have revealed that there are no positive long term effects or even an appropriate short term effect of physical punishment inflicted on children. It is documented that this sort of punishment in fact does more harm and leads to further misbehavior. She observed that corporal punishment not only harms its victims but society as a whole. She concluded that such punishment is clearly irrational and should be prohibited in all parts of the world, including Pakistan.

President of Roshni Missing Children Helpline, Mohammad Ali who has handled many cases of missing and abused children observed that corporal punishments in schools must be monitored and the guilty teachers must be brought to justice. He further suggested that school administration along with the help of education experts must develop alternative methods to improve the behavior and discipline of children.

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Document Type : Forwarded Article
Document ID : AHRC-FAT-009-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights, Right to education,