Maar nahi pyar, but not for madrassa students
LAHORE: Hundreds of thousands of children studying in Punjab’s madrassas (religious seminaries) are vulnerable to corporal punishment that may result in psychological disorders and may prompt them to give up education forever.
There are around 5,000 madrassas in the province affiliated with the Wafaqul Madaris (association of madrassas). In 2005, the Punjab government had banned corporal punishment in schools and the then chief secretary Kamran Rasool had ordered the Education special secretary (schools) to put up notice boards inside and outside all public and private schools in the province, announcing the ban on corporal punishment. Following the instructions, boards were put up inside and outside schools with the slogans, ‘Maar nahi pyar’ (No beating, but affection [for children]) and ‘Corporal punishment in education institutions is forbidden by the Punjab government’. However, the government had ignored the madrassas and no such board was put up in any madrassa of the province.
The government had said that disciplinary action would be taken against the District Education Department in case of laxity in implementing the orders. However, no instructions have yet been issued to ban corporal punishment in madrassas, considered the hub of corporal punishment.
Human rights activists believe corporal punishment to be a crime, but madrassa administrations do not let them intervene in their (madrassas’) affairs calling the human rights activists ‘western agents’. Many madrassa students are known to have given up studies after getting fed up of the corporal punishment meted out to them.
Mudassir is one such student, who ran away from a madrassa because he could not bear the physical torture the students had to face every day. He said, “My parents sent me to a madrassa to learn the Holy Quran, but I ran away because my teacher used to brutally beat the students”. He said that he wanted to become a hafiz, but his teacher’s beating drove him away from his dream.
Talking to Daily Times on Monday, Rashid Aziz, national manager (Law) of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), said corporal punishment on children was a worldwide problem. He said society and human rights institutions could not raise the issue with reference to madrassas since they (madrassa administrations) did not tolerate any intervention. He said madrassa administrations defended corporal punishment as “a good method to educate students”. He said, “Corporal punishment in madrassas is a culturally accepted form of child abuse.” He demanded that the government repeal Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) as it provided legal cover to anyone physically abusing a child. The section says that any “act done in good faith for [the] benefit of a person under twelve years of age” is not an offence even if the person knows that his action would cause the child harm.
Protection against Satan’s influence: A teacher at one of Lahore’s largest madrassas told Daily Times that physical punishment was necessary to rid the children of Satan’s influence. He said, “A child is inclined to immoral acts while getting religious education because of Satan’s influence. Corporal punishment is necessary to frighten the children and to rid him of Satan’s influence.”
Wafaq not willing to pressure madrassas: Wafaqul Madaris Secretary General Hanif Jalandhari said he did not support beating children. He said, “The Wafaq trains teachers to treat children affectionately. However, if madrassa teachers beat children, the Wafaq cannot intervene in their (seminaries’) internal affairs.”
Human Rights Department Regional Director Akhtar Abdur Rehman said no application had ever been filed with the department against corporal punishment at madrassas. He said the department could not take action against any madrassa unless an application was filed with the department.
Source: Daily Times