Business Bhutan - - Editorial - Please send your opin­ions and com­men­taries to busi­ness­b­ P.O BOX 1190 CHANGZAMTOK, THIM­PHU

Re­cently, a war­den in Pak­shikha Cen­tral School in Ch­hukha hit two stu­dents spark­ing off a long muf­fled de­bate on the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in schools.

It was re­ported that one of the stu­dents had to re­ceive med­i­cal treat­ment due to the abuse meted out by the war­den, and in an in­ter­nal set­tle­ment of dis­pute, the per­pe­tra­tor had to shell out Nu 55,000 to the stu­dents’ par­ents.

Though Bhutan as a sig­na­tory to the Con­ven­tion of the Rights of the Child has banned cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, we can still hear of cases in­volv­ing the prac­tice.

The con­cept of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment orig­i­nated in the western world es­pe­cially the clas­si­cal civilizations of Greece, Rome and Sparta. Forms of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in­clude do­mes­tic or home dis­ci­pline, school and prison or ju­di­cial dis­ci­pline.

Af­ter hu­man­i­tar­ian rights and laws were pro­pounded, cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment has been on the de­cline un­til as of April 2017, 52 coun­tries in the world, mostly from Europe and Latin Amer­ica had banned the prac­tice.

How do you re­late all this in the con­text of Bhutan? Is our coun­try still prim­i­tive in its ed­u­ca­tional and up­bring­ing prac­tices? The Bhutanese so­ci­ety has borne cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment as a norm un­til in re­cent years the prac­tice is seen as a scourge lit­er­ally.

Does cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment work? Why was it ef­fec­tive in the past? To think log­i­cally, cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment be­came pop­u­lar be­cause it pro­duced a men­tal­ity of sub­ju­ga­tion through fear tac­tics. It would still be suc­cess­ful to­day but only through in­tim­i­da­tion meth­ods.

Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment also lasted long in Bhutan be­cause it pro­duced a school and so­ci­etal reg­i­men that lacked free thinkers. Ba­si­cally the dic­tum was: “Do as the author­ity says oth­er­wise you can­not be right.”

While the oc­ca­sional spank­ing maybe nec­es­sary and unavoid­able to bring young chil­dren to their senses, the prob­lem starts when cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment crosses the line, hing­ing on phys­i­cal and men­tal abuse caus­ing trauma in young, im­pres­sion­able minds and bod­ies.

It also be­comes a prob­lem when au­thor­i­ties take it for granted that the only so­lu­tion to a prob­lem is lash­ing and can­ing. When they do not make ex­tra ef­forts to en­force pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline in the form of coun­sel­ing, ad­vice, and dis­ci­plin­ing through pro­duc­tive tasks in­stead of wield­ing the rod ev­ery time a stu­dent errs.

Granted that it will be an up­hill task for teach­ers to dis­ci­pline chil­dren pos­i­tively: some are will­fully mis­chievous and al­most malev­o­lent, but we also have to un­der­stand youth­ful in­cli­na­tions and moods. And given that teach­ers are the care­tak­ers of the most im­por­tant re­source of the coun­try: youth, they must strive to not only mould them but also do so with ut­most care.

If the care­tak­ers be­come en­e­mies, who will take on the du­ties of ed­u­cat­ing, pro­tect­ing and nur­tur­ing? This ap­plies to par­ents as well be­cause the role of the fam­ily in shap­ing a young­ster can never be re­placed by the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

The fam­ily has to be ac­tively in­volved with the school au­thor­i­ties in shap­ing up a child or ado­les­cent’s for­ma­tive years. This means blame games are best avoided and con­fronta­tions should be sorted out with mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and good will.

At the end, what we need is a gen­er­a­tion that knows and shows the power of love and pos­i­tiv­ity in an in­creas­ingly ha­tred-in­cited world. And this can be done if the com­mu­nity mem­bers work in syn­ergy with each other.

Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment can be used to dis­ci­pline if one knows how and when to use it, which would de­mand pru­dence from the one us­ing it, but why risk its many pos­si­ble neg­a­tive ef­fects when one could al­ways fare bet­ter with sus­tained pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline?

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