Dhaka Courier

Aritry: the wake-up call Bangladesh desperately needed

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While mothers are known to suffer both in the coming of their children into this world and their going from it, nothing prepares them for the suicide of their offspring. That’s a hell within a hell. Parents have the misfortune of holding the hands of their children for just a little while, but the good fortune and Godly blessing of holding them in their hearts forever

How is it possible? How could it be? How could it happen? How could an effervescent teenage girl – yet to complete her schooling – with so much love, joy, and hope in her heart do such a thing?

It’s unimaginable that a beautiful young girl in the prime of her life, with so much to live for, could arrive at the conclusion “enough is enough” and end the hurt that tormented her mind by taking her own life, but it happened.

I have no intention of writing about the incident itself. Similarly, I cannot say what really propelled young Aritry to take her own life, the loudest cry for help any human being is capable of screaming, I was not privy to her thoughts. Nobody was.

It’s evident she was extremely upset by the events of the day, but did that alone justify her drastic action? One could speculate she was experiencing other unrelated problems and that incident in the school was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, but nevertheless it should never have happened. Society failed her. No doubt the police investigation will reveal much more.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to Aritry’s parents and family, who no doubt are experiencing the suffering, pain and hell for which no one is prepared. May Almighty Allah give all of them the strength they need to find solace and get through their grief unscathed. No amount of words, however comforting, could make-up for their incalculable loss.

While mothers are known to suffer both in the coming of their children into this world and their going from it, nothing prepares them for the suicide of their offspring. That’s a hell within a hell. Parents have the misfortune of holding the hands of their children for just a little while, but the good fortune and Godly blessing of holding them in their hearts forever.

Deplorably sad

While it is deplorably sad that Aritry is no longer with us in person, her death may have triggered a wake-up call for all to hear, one that will greatly benefit Bangladesh.

Her clarion call from the grave has been heard in the corridors of the Education Ministry, Parliament, and all the schools and madrasahs throughout the land.

I doubt if there is a single schoolteacher in Bangladesh that has not read or heard the name Aritry Adhikary and the circumstances surrounding her death.

In 2011, Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif of the Bangladesh Supreme Court outlawed corporal punishment in schools and madrasahs, describing it as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

Corporal punishment can be a horrific experience for any child. The fact that an adult perpetrates the corporal punishment, someone to whom children look up to for guidance and who should know better, only deepens the severity of the injury and suffering.

Corporal punishment is an act of stupidity, ignorance, child abuse and an act against humanity, all rolled-into one. In it’s corner, there is nothing that speaks favourably for it. It instantly destroys trust and relationship between parent and child, teacher and pupil and can ruin relationships for life.

Corporal punishment takes many forms. It isn’t just being physically hit, but could be name-calling, chiding and humiliation, among others.

Thousands of research studies throughout the world have proved corporal punishment to be totally ineffective, immoral, humiliating, degrading, harmful and without an iota of good whatsoever. No way does it help make people better well-rounded more-balanced citizens. It does the opposite.

Fortunately, not all teachers are the same. There are good ones about and from these children (and Bangladesh) have nothing to fear.

A bully ‘teacher’ has a flawed character. He/she is known to take their personal problems into the classroom and releases their frustrations there upon the unsuspecting ‘victims’, often in monstrous ways, without fear of repercussions. Who’s to stop them?

Teaching violence

When we ignore corporal punishment in the classrooms of Bangladesh we are legitimizing violence in Bangladesh. We are teaching children a lie, that violence is the panacea to all troubles. Teachers should never lie.

It’s painfully sad when some children, beaten in the classroom by their ‘teacher’, complain to their parents only to be told by them that they must have deserved it... that discipline never did anyone any harm... that it didn’t do them any harm and that the ‘teacher’ had acted in their best interests!

God love and pity them… for they know not what they do. The innocent child is sandwiched between ignorance.

A best-selling book entitled Breaking the Paddle: Ending School Corporal Punishment by Nadine A. Block of the Center for Effective Discipline highlights the many dangers and long-term effects of corporal punishment on children – and society at large.

“How is it possible for a child to simply ignore the humiliation and hurt of corporal punishment?” She asks. “It’s like being slapped hard on the face and told to forget it.”

Some experiences can be put to the side, even suppressed for years, but never forgotten.

When a person contracts a contagious disease, they are isolated to prevent the disease from spreading. When a ‘teacher’, subjects a child to corporal punishment, there is no isolation of the teacher, no attempt to sanitize the environment, no effort to make things right. The disease is allowed to spread in the classroom, often affecting the minds, thoughts, hopes, aspirations and future of 120 pupils at a time.

No doubt, among the millions of school students of average intelligence and above, there are many who have asked themselves from time to time why they are victims of torture, abuse, humiliation and given ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

And then to be told they are the future of the nation! You don’t have to be a mathematician to know it just doesn’t add up. It’s the height of hypocrisy.

In the average village home, one could not expect to find too many right answers. There is too much ignorance, archaic ways, and uneducated dwellers – not necessarily their fault.

In village schools, however, it should be different. While you cannot expect the pupils to know what’s right from wrong, you should be able to rely upon the teachers to know. It’s their job to know…they’re paid from your taxes to know and to do.

And if they don’t know, how is it possible for them, to teach? A teacher can be a child’s best friend or worst enemy and if the latter, society has failed and nobody wins.

Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor

  • Aritry: the wake-up call Bangladesh desperately needed
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  • Sir Frank Peters
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