The punch


When will people stop playing God?



British documentary “One Killer Punch”, shown recently by a popular UK TV channel, featured cases of a one punch kill; that is, when just one punch…yes just one… leaves the person dead or worse.


It exposed three separate attacks. One after an argument over a disabled parking slot in a supermarket, a trivial fight outside a taxi stand and some teenagers fighting as they celebrate a birthday!


The producers showed their viewers both sides of each fight, families and friends of the victim and the attacker. To watch the consequences of what a single punch can do; left viewers speechless, teary and broken-hearted.


It is indeed coincidental that the story being aired by various Pakistani channels these days is about 13 year old Muhammad Ahmed, student of Cadet College Larkana, who was rendered disabled and paralysed due to alleged torture and violence by his teacher. After being throttled, Mohammed Ahmed, broke several sensitive bones of his neck. The once brilliant student lies bedridden, as his future seems bleak.


This is not the first time such news has surfaced in Pakistan. Although according to Pakistani law any sort of corporal punishment in school is illegal. Any one found to be involved in corporal punishment could be sentenced to one year in prison or Rs 50,000 fine or both. But the question arises; can it bring back what the victim has lost?


The practice of corporal punishment remains well established in social norms of the country; with many teachers and parents believing corporal punishment is a useful tool to discipline children. Spare the rod and spoil the child; is an adage that most Pakistanis firmly believe. In Pakistani cultures corporal punishment is considered a parents and teachers duty for a long time; it is not just acceptable but also encouraged. However the world over such a mind-set was completely changed specially after “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” by Benjamin Spock was published. It urged parents, guardians and adults generally, to treat a child as a person, and not just expect the children to “behave” all the time.


A decent school culture and positive disciplinary systems are the standards  for a respectable educational institution. But can a positive disciplinary system include corporal punishment? The answer is surely, no. When an adult dispenses a thrashing on the buttocks; which is the most common type of physical punishment in schools it simply reinforces a child’s idea that violence is right. It also sends the message that bullying is an acceptable way to treat a weaker person. Corporal punishment encourages bullying, although ironically, it is usually used to punish bullies. Experts agree that the effects after administration of corporal punishment range from physical damage to depression, anger and academic detachment.


For some teachers as well as parents, spanking is simply the easiest way to show anger and to display limitless authority, however without realising they cross the dangerous edge of cruelty. This is when teaching transforms into authoritative command. Authority that is most desirable but the hardest to achieve. If teachers and parents want to raise a self-confident, balanced, contented person, corporal punishment is surely not the method.


Most school authorities in Pakistani government run schools, regard corporal punishment as a necessary part of educational process and support this method. Perhaps this is a consequence of perceptive conflict. Those adults who were punished when they were young cannot accept the fact that their parents or teachers were cruel to them and don’t think that they were victims of the abuse. “My father and teachers used to spank me, and I’m alright doing the same to my children”.


The brutal incident at Larkana and the condition that the young boy has been left in has sent a wave of fright and panic among parents and students. This sad incident is a chilling reminder of the kind of treatment that children face at schools in Pakistan. If this is the state of a reputed school such as a cadet college, one shudders to think what happens in our government schools, where children are often left at the mercy of untrained staff and basic infrastructure like toilets are unavailable, making them even more vulnerable to such attacks of violence.

It is indeed shocking how a moment of madness can change life forever. I can only wish people would keep their hands to themselves and stop playing gods punishing the young “sinners” in any way they like!