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End Corporal Punishment in Pakistan’s Schools

Student’s Death Highlights Need for Urgent Reform

A boy passes by a classroom in a school in Qutbal, Pakistan, October 13, 2009. © 2009 AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

Hunain Bilal, a 17-year-old student in Lahore, had failed to memorize a lesson at school. As punishment, his teacher “punched him repeatedly, grabbed his hair and hit his head against the wall,” according to accounts from fellow students. Hunain died later that day, September 5.

Hunain’s classmates said that the teacher, who now faces criminal charges, had a history of beating students and had been fired from the school, but was rehired again six months later.

Hunain’s father alleges the school was also inflicting mental punishment on his son by harassing him for non-payment of school fees, which were deposited the day Hunain died.

Hunain’s death is the most recent and egregious example of the widespread problem of corporal punishment in Pakistan’s schools. Beatings leave students frightened, sometimes injured, and unable to learn effectively, making it more likely they will leave school. According to the Pakistani child rights group Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), corporal punishment causes up to 35,000 children in Pakistan to drop out of school every year.

Pakistan has ratified international conventions prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, both physical and mental. In Punjab province, the government and school officials are required to take disciplinary action against teachers who inflict violence, though that order is often ignored. Last year, Pakistan’s federal minister for human rights proposed legislation seeking to end corporal punishment in the country.

But Pakistan faces an education emergency. Nearly 22.5 million Pakistani children are out of school, most of them girls, and corporal punishment remains a significant reason. The government should act urgently to end abuse in schools and create a safe environment for Pakistani children to learn without having to fear for their lives.

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