DISCLAIMER: The names of some participants have been changed to respect their privacy. The views and opinions expressed are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of any educational institution.
Amongst a wide array of injustices in our society, there lies an evil which has been accepted and embraced by a large proportion of our population; corporal punishment.
Without any doubt, corporal punishment is a heinous crime. What makes it worse are the jokes and sarcastic remarks we have associated with it. What people see as ‘just a light slap’ or ‘a simple ear twist’, is equivalent to a catastrophe which destroys a child’s personality. No matter how many times we try to put a deaf ear to this problem, people must be warned before any more innocent children fall prey to it.
In the previous article, I had the opportunity to interview Mrs, Khalil regarding corporal punishment in educational institutions from a teacher’s and a parent’s perspective. But, without the perspective of the students, it is impossible to know how deeply it affects an individual. A few students from a notable private school of Lahore shared their experiences and opinions regarding corporal punishment, to provide an insight on what a student and a child goes through; the challenges they face on a daily basis and how it changes them as a person.
Qaboos Ali, an 18-year-old student, says, “These acts of violence, undermined by teachers and parents as just a slap, inflict more pain to the victims as to the pain and wounds of the beating itself. Becoming victims to constant pain and torture, they form around them an impervious shell of self-hate and misery. I saw one of my friends being disrespectful to his mother and sister everyday just because of the pain he suffered in school. The boy I played catch with in childhood, had lost the entire glimmer, wonder and excitement which used to pulsate in his eyes. He grew further apart from his close friends and vented all his frustrations on his innocent siblings because of one of his teachers. All his creativity and ingenuity drained down an abyss; suffering from an identity crisis.”
“The fear is what outweighs their curiosity and curbs their learning. Their frail minds are manipulated and disturbed to the extent that they begin to fear mistakes and accidents.“
Even after the child has grown and matured there is no way to part ways with his experiences as they lay silent in his brain inflicting in his every discussion.
Progression or oppression?
“As a student, I personally believe that Corporal Punishment is not a healthy disciplinary technique to follow in schools and colleges. Most students start to fear or lose trust in the administrator, thus harming the relationship. I vividly remember an incident that took place a few years back in my previous school. A friend of mine was physically abused by his math teacher to a point where his personality changed completely. He would skip school frequently and would not ask any questions in class in fear of any sort of punishment. If anything, the punishment had a negative impact on his education. What made matters worse was that his parents had nothing against his teachers raising a hand on their son. ‘This is for his own betterment’, they would say,” shares Ahmad Imran*.
Unfortunately, our society has played its part in normalizing corporal punishment in the name of progression of the child. Thus instilling that the only way to establish discipline is through violence.
Syed Mamoon, a 19-year-old student, acknowledges, “I studied in an institute where corporal punishment was a common practice because it was deemed mandatory to keep the boys disciplined. Once, because it wasn’t allowed to have long hair in my school, our principal grabbed a fellow student’s hair and pulled them so hard that tears were visible in his eyes. In addition to this, she would frequently slap and punch students on trivial matters such as being late to school or not wearing the school tie.”
To our principle, we were her ‘sons’ so that gave her the right to slap or beat us. To add insult to injury, parents supported this.”
“Students who were victims of this practice only did it more as a sign of retaliation instead of getting more ‘disciplined’.”
The humiliation a student feels after such incidents is simply unimaginable. He falls prey to low self-esteem and a shattered confidence. In a country where domestic violence is a common practice, one wonders what are its root causes.
Respect or fear?
Zain Khan*, an 18-year-old participant from the same school shares his opinion, “Corporal punishment in any shape or form is hardly a solution. During my A levels, there have been multiple reports of our principal having slapped and beat students on multiple occasions. Though I personally haven’t experienced it, batches before us have confirmed its occurrence. However, the principal is still there and as far as I know there haven’t been any actions taken against her. The sad reality is that it has become a cultural norm to beat children upon misbehaving. It is normal to resort to violence in order to fix the problems. There are many more effective alternatives that one may use to discipline a child. Ways that aren’t traumatizing. Ways that teach respect out of gratitude. Ways that don’t force out respect due to fear. This needs to stop.”
A vicious cycle
“When I was 13 years old, I joined a local madrassah to learn the Holy Quran by heart. Corporal punishment before coming to the madrassah seemed to me like a practice of the past but experiencing and witnessing it first-hand have left everlasting effects on my personality and life”, Ali Hassan* shares his ordeal.
“It is like a vicious cycle, those abused, abuse others when they get the chance.“
“I received punishments for the smallest of mistakes; slapped on my neck for not sitting in the correct position, punched multiple times on the back for failing to correctly memorize a passage, being beaten up with a stick for taking a day off without informing my teacher and many other countless and horrific punishments. I was brainwashed in to thinking that this is all for my benefit, so I shouldn’t complain to my parents. I would now look at my teacher with hatred and fear, not respecting him anymore, I actually wanted to hurt him like he hurt me. I had become timid, fearful of making mistakes. I couldn’t sleep well. I wouldn’t talk to my friends as I used to. My grades and performance saw a sharp decline. I would avoid family gatherings and playing sports. I just didn’t want to do anything. So many years have passed, but I still get flashbacks of those horrific days. The children from a household where even the slightest form of corporal punishment is supported, find different escape routes to counter their mental health issues.”
Unfortunately, there are so many other innocent children in our country who go through this torture and inhumane punishments on a daily basis in religious and educational institutions. Most of the times, parents are aware of these punishments, yet no one pays a heed to the complains and personality changes of the victims. A child who is supposed to learn the exact opposite, learns that might is right.
Participatory culture is a concept which explains how different media platforms, specifically internet has enabled people from all walks of life to come together, and contribute towards a common goal; also known as media convergence. People collaborate with each other and form a social connection. Hence, people not only consume the content, but also contribute and participate in it, acting as producers.
Students from ages 18 to 20, from a renowned educational institution of Lahore who are the victims and witnesses of corporal punishment were contacted to take their experiences and suggestions on board to understand and highlight the negative outcomes of this practice in educational institutions and how it leads to more problems than it appears to solve.
I reached out to my potential participants through some mutual connections. A brief introduction and the necessary information regarding the theme was provided to them. After the participants agreed to collaborate, they shared their experiences and responses via Email and WhatsApp. Participants were aware that through their collaboration, readers will have detailed information regarding corporal punishment and its outcomes. Moreover, the stories of students who have experienced it first-hand, will help identify the problems regarding corporal punishment thoroughly.
The process of incorporating participatory culture in the article was quite interesting and fascinating. I learned how people can collaborate and come together to expand a particular topic through their participation and contribution. Through this activity I explored the importance of a person’s experiences, views and opinions. And how they can make a difference by putting their voices out there.