Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Murder in Sargodha

Murder in Sargodha

Pakistanis are being exposed to strange, unbelievable and tragic murders that we thought happened in countries not having as stable societies as ours. This has caused a fear in the society and a sense of uncertainty. Psychopathic murders are routinely reported along with suicidal terrorist acts, murders by police, honor killings bringing shame to the nation and giving the image of a strange uncivilized society living in an age the rest of the world had came out off long ago. These happenings were sufficient to make any sensitive human being but our society was not through; then came the most troubling and painful news, a little child ten years old was punished by his teacher for not doing his home work in a school in Sargodha. The little ones head was banged against the wall and he died (Ina lillahe wa ina alehe rajioon). Luckily the international media did not pick this tragic story other wise we would be going through more humiliation and ridicule.

No society can stop such incidences altogether but it is the responsibility of the society to investigate such happenings and get to the base of the problem and then take steps to rectify the problems and ensure that such incidents do not get repeated. It is the responsibility of the state to protect its people. In this particular tragic incidents*- there are many failures of the society and the state that should be identified and rectified. According to the news the teacher is still teaching and the matter would be put under the rug soon.
We send our children to school so that their complete personalities are built up in a healthy environment. Self-esteem, social skills and interaction with the fellow students are as important as any academic skill. Good academics but an injured personality is of no use. Any amount of knowledge is useless if it is not accompanied by a healthy personality. A healthy personality cannot be developed without self esteem. Seeing students getting physically abused is no way of imparting self-esteem in the children. It can only instill fear, rather dread in the students along with a certain amount of hatred for the teacher and the whole process of education.

Self respect, a proper sense of ones own dignity is the most valuable possession of any individual. A person who does not respect himself cannot respect anyone else, even his country. Such a person can only respect brute force. This is the difference between humans and animals, humans respond to reason whereas the animals respond to brute force. The higher human values of honesty, integrity, and patriotism cannot be developed without first developing proper self-respect. Probably many of the ills of the society like crimes; corruption, lack of driving sense etc could be improved by giving self-respect to our children when they are as young as the student in Sargodha.
Punishments, or negative reinforcements may be necessary under extreme situations. Not doing the homework or learning the lesson is no extreme situation. If at all necessary for some reasons special care should be taken not to injure the self esteem of the child, the younger the child the more fragile the self-esteem. Bodily harm as any physical attack is and should be a plain and simple criminal matter.

Teaching has always been the most respected profession. This is the only common profession adopted by all the prophets that came. The most potent method used by these most effective teachers was kindness. I am not aware of any prophet beating his pupils let alone causing bodily harm. Kindness is contagious as is rudeness. These prophets made sure to make learning a pleasurable experience resulting in the increase in students longing for more knowledge. One act of rudeness can cause grave damage to the appetite for knowledge and learning. This attitude of unkindness must be avoided to the utmost in any age group. Younger the student the more kindness he deserves. Teaching without kindness loses some of its sanctity.

Using physical force and punishments while teaching in addition to damaging the self-esteem of the pupils conveys a very dangerous message; brute force is a legitimate method of achieving ones aims. It is not only legitimate but also desirable. This negative thinking imparted in the students form the cause of host of problems for the individual and the country. No civilized society can afford to let physical force decide matters.
This culture of physical abuse in our society has its roots in our prevalent myths with ignorance not rationality or knowledge. We still argue about sparing the rod and spoiling the child and our parents still tell the teachers that the body of their child belongs to the teacher. We still believe that physical abuse is good for the child; yes we are talking human child and the twenty first century. Fortunately these old and damaging beliefs are on decline at least in the cities but still dwelling in the rural areas constituting the majority in Pakistan. This is a sad commentary of the overall level of awareness in our society. It also explains why this society can be so over compliant and easy to be abused and victimized whether by the state or the unscrupulous con men.

Our teachers are the most neglected and underpaid and underprivileged part of our society. This deprivation spoils the personalities of the teachers and damages their self-esteem. The situation has become so pathetic that no healthy talented person wants to join this cadre and only the left outs become teachers. In our society no one likes to marry his daughter to a teacher commenting eloquently about the situation of this profession. This severe deprivation that all our teachers go through naturally breeds frustration and anger naturally venting out at the weakest; poor students. In sharp contrast equally qualified or experienced people in other government department enjoy much better perks and benefit from a much higher social status.

This takes us to the root cause of the problem; we are spending the least on education that should have been our first priority. We are spending less than nearly the whole of the world whereas we are high on non-productive expenditures. We are the seventh highest spenders on arms and the lowest spenders on education so we have no right to complain when all the national indicators are perpetually going down. We are spending less than 2% of GDP on education against 18.9% of the developed world and 8% being spent by the Indians. No wonder India has passed ahead of us economically and in considered much more seriously in the world. Israel, which is in a perpetual state of war, is spending over 22% of its GDP on education. After all we are the only country in the world in which illiteracy has shot up after we were blessed with independence. How can we expect our people to compete with the rest of the world without getting educated? Any nation that cannot educate its people loses much of its purpose and rationale.

We have been cruel to our children for the last fifty-six years. This has caused lots of personal sufferings and embarrassments for the nation. To rectify we must increase our budgetary allocation for education to over 18% (average of the civilized worlds) from the present less than 2%. We must pay our teachers handsomely, at least equal to the administrative services and give them equal if not more perks. These steps will help the social status of our educational workers, which must be further helped by other measures; immunity from police pickets for instance.

Once these steps are taken then we can educate our teachers about child psychology and the new theories on education along with the vices and negative effects of physical punishment. After this groundwork is completed physical punishments should be banned and this ban enforced. Periodic assessments of the teachers by the students may be useful here along with the assessments of superiors. The world has realized that the best assessor of the teacher is the student and this is being done everywhere and should be done here also. If any teacher still indulges in this unhealthy practice he should be dealt as any common criminal. Once we instill proper self-esteem in our teachers and give them an opportunity to lead a healthy life such incidents should be an exception and rare.

We have lost fifty-six years of national life pursuing strange and impractical policies. This has caused grave sufferings to our people and shame to the nation to the extent that the world started questioning the viability and purpose of the nation. We have one of the most undesirable national images in the world and unfortunately it is not all untrue. It is about time, rather high time that we correct our priorities and start looking after our children and the nation. We have already made too many mistakes. We may not have the luxury of many more.

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