The Coronavirus Covid-19 has brought the world we knew to a complete standstill. What we're seeing now is not the world we once knew or are we ever likely to see again. Despite all the wishes and prayers offered under the sun, it will never be the same again, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The epidemic has offered the entire world a vacation from self-destruction; a time to stop, ponder and think and correct the horrific errors it's made and, hopefully, put things right and back on course. While there are, perhaps, thousands of errors that can be tabulated and needing to be addressed, the number one priority in every nation on earth is it education, which much comes first.
CORRECTION! Health must always come first... without having good health there's no point in having education or owning your weight in gold. The quality of life is determined by good health, followed by education, in hot pursuit.
My blood boils when I turn on the news and hear President Donald Trump continuously ranting, raving and wanting to risk the lives of children by sending them back to school now when so little is known about coronavirus. It's akin to the children being seen as guinea pigs in a laboratory experiment and he's saying "send them back to school and let's see what happens".
Fortunately, we don't have that imbecilic mentality in Bangladesh. No doubt Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni is under much pressure in to do what's right and is holding her ground admirably.
There is no doubt education is a solid asset for anyone to have. Without a solid education, it's like building beautiful sandcastles on the beach, destined to crumble and fall.
Education is an incredible power. It can transform and enrich the lives of the individual and society. Without education, we would still be cave dwellers.
Great societies: It is the solid foundation on which all great societies are built. Divert attention and needed help away from improving education and it's like a nation signing its death warrant - a day of execution to be determined.
It is a known fact that every person academically qualified to teach are not necessarily good teachers. Similarly, not all non-qualified teachers are bad at teaching. The ideal teacher is one who is qualified to teach, knows and can teach their subjects inside out, and have compassion in their hearts to give support to the stragglers who need that little extra support occasionally. There is a humanistic attitude to teaching that, regrettably, not all teachers have,
For far too long many schools and madrassahs in Bangladesh have been void of compassion and heavily relied on sticks to "beat-in" the subjects they are teaching.
There are those among us who swear corporal punishment is highly beneficial. They even offer themselves as good examples - survivors of corporal punishment - who have greatly benefited from the experience: "I was given corporal punishment and it didn't do me any harm," they boast. God love them. They will never know how better their lives may have been without it.
Corporal punishment is just another name for child abuse, torture, cruelty and brutality that can physically and mentally impair a pupil for his entire life. It's a knee-jerk reaction to a minor, insignificant situation by adult terrorists full of exaggerated self-importance who strike fear into fragile, vulnerable children. Corporal punishment is the seed of all terrorism.
We live in a society in which striking an adult for any reason is deemed wrong and frowned upon. It's beaten-in to us (forgive the choice of words) from childhood, in the family home, school, through the media (TV, Radio and Press) and at church, mosque services and suchlike. It's an indisputable fact that civilised people just don't hit people.
Why then are adults allowed to beat children in schools, madrassahs and other settings? Aren't children, who are the most vulnerable members of society, people as well?
Where is the solid reasoning, the common-sense foundation that could justify corporal punishment? It can't be disciplined, because corporal punishment isn't discipline.
Writing genius and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who abhorred corporal punishment, said: "To discipline means to teach, not to punish".
So if it is not to discipline children, there must be other reasons, agreed?
Wait... wait...wait! I've just had a eureka moment that should put the corporal punishment debate to rest forever and a day. In the Good books, it clearly says, "spare the rod and spoil the child". I doubt if anyone could dispute or refute that sound advice that dates back centuries. If it's stated in the "good book", then it must be right. Right? - Wrong!
Spare the rod: Spare the rod and spoil the child is probably the No.1 most hackneyed expression passed on from mother to daughter and father to son over the decades. It stood the test of time for centuries and will continue to be solid advice for eternity.
However, (HUGE sigh), its interpretation is wrong. The problem lies in the flawed translation of the word 'rod'. In Hebrew (the language in which the Bible was written), the word "rod" is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, 'thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me'.
The shepherd's hooked rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat, hurt, or damage them (and lower profits).
Scientists and educationalists throughout the world have established beyond all doubt corporal punishment is totally... totally... totally without benefit, wrong, and harmful.
In 2011 Supreme Court Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment here and declared it: 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom.'
Coronavirus has opportunistically provided a CLOSED FOR RENOVATION notice on all schools. It is allowing the educational ministries to perform a makeover, put their house in order, to reflect, analyse, and to get rid of the dum-dum 'teachers' who are damaging the assets of the nation (the children) through their ignorance.
They say God works in many mysterious ways. Maybe Coronavirus is Godsend in disguise that will benefit the school and madrassah pupils and help make Bangladesh a better place for all.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh. [email protected]