I n our society a large number of our children seldom get to enjoy childhood. In lower income groups toys are a luxury for many kids. For them life is one harsh experience after another. We must remember that children are delicate beings who have been born with clean slates. They will only mirror what is reflected in them. A child of law abiding parents will learn from an early age that breaking the law is a bad thing. Similarly, a child who is exposed to abuse since childhood, might grow up to be a bully him/herself and tackle life with a lot of anger and aggression or turn into a weak punching bag for others. The way a child is moulded and sculpted into an adult through experience and learning is very important for their later life.
But recently we have seen many incidents where children have been made the targeted of the worst kind of aggression and torture at the hands of adults. Recently, in Multan a 10 year old girl was literally beaten to death by a woman, who seemed to belong to an educated background and was the wife of a doctor. According to news reports, the child was taken to a hospital by her employers for treatment where later she succumbed to her injuries. It was not ascertained what crime the child had committed to be beaten to a state from the only way out was death. The story died the very next day, since there was nothing 'else' to report as the 'victim' had died and her family was too poor to pursue the case and the perpetrators were probably well connected and got away with cold blooded murder. Of course they seemed to think they had done their duty by taking the child they beat up to the hospital.
Nowadays because of rising inflation and spiralling prices, poor parents are more interested in getting employment for their children, by placing them with families who are ready to give a small monetary compensation to them and guarantee that the child will get food at least three times a day. Also due to the situation of law and order in the country, people tend to prefer keeping young children in their employment to work around the house. What these people forget is that these servants are just children, and will sometimes act their age and they should be reprimanded just like the other children and not 'taught a lesson' by verbal and physical, and sometimes sexual, abuse.
According to Dr Nausheen Shahzad, Director of Neuropsychology Centre, Karachi says, "Aggression has become a big problem in Pakistan, especially in women, due to many health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure etc. Aggression and anger have become a severe issue in our society which leads to many of the ills. People, especially women, suffer from undiagnosed depression which causes them to implode or if they can they lash out on those weaker than themselves. Many aggressive/violent people copy what they see around them, absorbing all the anger and then lashing out. Depression can also be caused by the imbalance of a substance called serotonin in the body which results in aggression and violence. To maintain a balance of serotonin levels in the body it is necessary to seek treatment.
"In our society an aggressive person usually cannot vent their emotions on the person who has hurt them, so they tend to thrash out violently. They usually react to what is going on around them. Getting angry is not a bad thing, it is how we take it out or react to it that may turn out bad - if one takes it out aggressively that should raise red flags."
Earlier in the year another 11-year-old child servant was reportedly strangled to death by his employer because he had not looked after the seven month old child, while the mother catched-up on her sleep. The child was taken to the hospital, where doctors determined that the child had not tried to commit suicide but that he was strangled to death.
Such rage for a simple mistake is a big price to pay, but if the mother had taken her duty of being a mother seriously maybe she wouldn't have turned murderer for such a small thing.
Dr Nausheen Shahzad, comments while speaking about the rise in aggression in our society that, "The other reason for an increase in aggression especially in women in our society could be traced to their new lifestyles in which they delegate everything from household chores to raising their kids etc to help; with maids catering to them their daily routine means they have more time on their hands with nothing to do, the idle time and pent up energy leads to anger and aggression which they take out on those around them including family members even children. During anger the brain undergoes certain chemical changes which sometimes 'cloud' other emotions and one may not react in the way they would have otherwise to a situation."
"The media is also playing a large role in formulating people's behaviours nowadays. The portrayal of how people are treated, especially the weak and poor - the servants - with brute force is unconsciously absorbed by the viewer and therefore we see more and more people being rude and loud, and sometimes aggressive towards the weak and meek," adds Dr Nausheen.
Unfortunately only those stories come to the fore that are reported in the media. In 2010 an 11-year-old girl Shazia was employed at a lawyers' house to do chores around the house, she was brought to the hospital. The cause of death was injuries to her body. Similarly another child-servant was beaten to death for not feeding the family dog. These cases were highlighted because they were reported by the media, otherwise they would have slipped into oblivion.
But physical and verbal abuse is not only restricted to servants, teachers are known to be extremely brutal with their students. There have been incidents in which students of various schools and madaris have been violently beaten by their teachers and some have even died from the wounds inflicted on them through torture. Sometimes teachers of students as young as montesssori levels have been known to use physical reprimand on children below four.
Dr Sofia Rahman, owner and director of Dr Sofia Rahman's Learning School and Day Care Centre in Karachi, says, "Children are extremely delicate, especially in their formative years. Using force or violence against them will not only hurt them physically but scar them psychologically for life. In my day care centre, my helpers are not allowed to handle a child roughly, let alone hit them. But I know of some day cares and montessoris where helpers and even teachers manhandle children and often reprimand a 'difficult' child by slapping them or shaking them. Children as young as five or six need to be dealt with extreme care; alas in our society we are seeing more and more violence directed towards them."
These kids are too young to go home and complain, but an aggressive teacher could scar a child for life. The young child manifests the emotions of fear through various ways like acting up at home, becoming quieter or louder, frequent urinating etc. It is the duty of the parent or the administrator to pick up these signs in children too young to express their feelings, and investigate for the cause.
According to Dr Nausheen, "Aggression in teachers is basically because they lack education on how to handle student behaviour. An untrained teacher will not understand that different students have different learning abilities and therefore if a child is slow in class, the teacher lashes out on that child. At times teachers use verbal abuse to 'tackle' their students which includes using degrading words which affect the child adversely. Sometimes teachers resort to physical violence against the child, and at times it goes bad and the child is severely injured. Even some parents treat their children harshly, believing there is no other way to handle a 'difficult' child. These parents need help to bring up their children, and may need to take training. If students are taught intrapersonal skills and subjects like home economics, ethics, law at the secondary level, people will be more capable of controlling the negative aspects of their behaviour like aggression."
She says even madaris teachers can be taught how to handle children through certain courses so that they do not resort to the use of violence.