Corporal punishment in madrasas
Thousands studying in Punjab’s madrasas are frequently subject to severe corporal punishment which may result in psychological disorders and prompt some children to give up education permanently, experts say.
Young Tahir is among the many students who ran away from a madrasa because of everyday physical abuse. “My parents sent me to madrasa to learn the Holy Quran, but I ran away due to my teacher’s brutality”, he said. “I wanted to become a hafiz but physical torture drove me away from my dream.”
Far from denying Tahir's claims, a teacher at one of Lahore’s largest madrasas asserted that, “Physical punishment is necessary to rid the children of Satan’s influence. A child is inclined to immoral acts while getting religious education because of Satan’s influence.”
There are around 5,000 madrasas in the Punjab affiliated with the Wafaqul Madaris (Association of Madrasss). In 2005, the Punjab government banned corporal punishment in schools, but it overlooked madrasas where harsh corporal punishment is fairly common across all of Pakistan.
According to Drs Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi, two educators who specialise in the education of Muslim children, changing people’s minds regarding religious values can only be achieved by developing a curriculum compatible with the needs of the modern era.
“In Pakistan, teachers have become addicted to using sticks while teaching Quran and Sunnah, which is an entirely non-Islamic approach. We should change this culture under the supervision of scholars", Abidullah Ghazi recommended. “Pakistan madrasas lack a scientific methodology to educate students who are being taught 200-year-old courses that are irrelevant to present age requirements. Changes in madrasa curricula are [needed].”
"Although parents want a safe environment for their children, application of physical force generates a profound, negative impact on the attitude of young people and also disrupts the learning process", Tasneema said. "The very thought of having classes makes them tremble."
And while the teachers proclaim their intent is to scourge sin out of students, the beatings are administered to pre-teens and children still learning to read.
“Use of corporal punishment in Islamic schools literally means to ‘beat the devil’ out of children", Tasneema said. "But, one should never forget that human beings are born pure, so the child should be nurtured like a flower by the teachers, parents and the community."