Were the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of Bristi Das to become a lawyer, a doctor, or a politician? Perhaps even to nudge Sheikh Hasina from her lofty seat one day and become Prime Minister?
Unfortunately we will never know what went on in that young developing mind of hers or what greatness this cheerful 12-year-old Class 5 student might have achieved or what worthwhile contribution to Bangladesh she might have made, if she had survived the alleged horrific beatings of a criminal 'teacher' that ultimately led to her death.
Bristi's young life came to a sad close 13-days after an alleged cruel beating by her private tutor in Boalkhali upazila of Chittagong. Her crime? – Apparently, failing to answer some questions correctly.
The tutor was an assistant teacher of Paschim Kodurkhil Koibortolpara Government Primary School Bristi attended. A murder case has been filed against him.
Death is such a severe and inappropriate punishment for a child's fleeting forgetfulness, but while corporal punishment is allowed to continue unabated in schools throughout Bangladesh, the horrific health risks to children is omnipresent.
One can only wonder which young boy or girl is going to be next. Will it be your child... a relative... a neighbour? Only the Almighty knows, but one thing's for certain it will happen again, as long as the evildoers of corporal punishment are not stopped.
No one questions how difficult it is to raise children. The majority of children will drive you up the wall and most want to see how high you will go (!) but that's no reason for beating them.
Extensive international research has conclusively proved beyond any shadow of doubt that corporal punishment is a mental scab a child carries for life that never heals.
Children damaged by corporal punishment today are the law-breaking, antisocial, broken adults of tomorrow.
Corporal punishment beats-in all that society despises: fear, hatred, violence, disrespect, resentment and vengeance and can (and often does) lead to mental and physical disorders, antisocial behaviour. It's also linked to cancer.
What parent in their right mind, you might ask, would seek to harm the child they allegedly love beyond human measure, to cause them pain, to damage their child for life? What parent would knowingly risk the mental or physical health of their child?
It's incomprehensible that most parents openly declare their love for their offspring, even to the point of declaring their willingness to sacrifice their own lives to protect them. Much to their shame and ignorance (or both) they deliver them in total trust into the hands of 'strangers' in the chalk-polluted air of local torture dens (schools) without questioning what's taking place inside.
How is it possible for anyone to even think that beating a child is good for him or her? Sure there are the twisted minds who endeavour to cover up their own shortcomings and vent their anger and frustrations through aggression and cause physical pain to others under the guise of 'discipline'. And among the ignorant and uneducated they get away with it.
But where is the evidence to support that beating a child with a stick, clenched fist, leather belt, bamboo cane or some other instrument or how by kicking, punching, pinching, pulling their ears and hair or branding them with a red-hot spatula is good for the child? Not to mention the damaged hearing, the broken limbs, broken fingers and other disfigurations.
On the other hand there are tons of research that says the use of corporal punishment ultimately leads to increased anxiety and depression, increased aggressive and antisocial behaviour, decreased self control, lower self confidence, impaired self esteem and disrespect for the school, parents and society that condones it.
Fact: corporal punishment is ineffective. It doesn't generate the behaviour change desired. It doesn't teach a child anything that enhances their character or the society in which they live. It doesn't teach the child anything about why they should behave in a certain way or internalize positive moral values and it certainly doesn't make them better Bangladeshi citizens.
In fact the opposite is true. It actually encourages a child to make antisocial choices like lying to avoid being beaten and to distrust those in authority. Extensive research corroborated over decades show that corporal punishment by teachers and parents is highly predictive of adult antisocial and criminal behaviour. And we unavoidably witness this disgraceful antisocial behaviour and national shame during hartals… the playfields and Mardi Gras of delinquents!
There's a proverb that says 'spare the rod and spoil the child' that's generally interpreted in society today to mean, if children are not physically punished when they do wrong their personal development will suffer. Right?
Many people are fond of quoting holy scriptures to justify corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, 'He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him'.
The real meaning, however, is lost in translation. In Hebrew the word translated as “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
The shepherd's rod/staff was/is used to encourage and guide the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat them.
The proverb, therefore, should read 'spare good guidance and spoil the child'.
And this makes total sense to me. Pause for one moment and think… can you imagine great holy men like Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) or Jesus (pbuh), who preached universal love, beating a child?
I doubt it.
End corporal punishment now before it damages Bangladesh more than it's already done.
It's been almost four years since Bangladesh High Court justices Md Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric practice of corporal punishment in schools declaring it "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom".
It's evident that many Bangladeshi 'teachers' are slow learners.
The writer is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, a royal Goodwill Ambassador, and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh.