No sir, please, I
promise sir, I won't do it again. P-l-e-a-s-e sir."
His pleas made no
difference. Our English teacher had a vise-like grip on the left
wrist of that student. A few days before we had a brief English
test. That student got 5 out of 10. Like everybody else, he had to
get the signature of one of his parents. Which he did, after he
had changed that "5" to an "8". Now, the student was fruitlessly
attempting to avoid the customary thrashing.
The teacher held
the wrist of the student with his left hand and with his right hit
the student multiple times; on the head, the face, the neck, a few
punches on the ribs. I sat in front of the class, a few feet away
from the entire revolting episode.
The student was
half-way between standing upright and on his knees. His voice
muffled because of sobs, he again futilely begged, "P-p-please
s-s-sir, I w-w-won't do it..."
Then, a man from
the school administration entered the room to hand the teacher
some kind of note. That man looked at the whole situation and
airily inquired about the weeping student. The teacher told the
story as he hit him again. The man responded in Punjabi, "Tsk,
kids nowadays" and then left.
The above scene was
from my Pakistani school in Saudi Arabia. It was just another
normal day at our Muslim school. Everyone knew about the default
mode of "teaching". Most of the teachers barked out whatever was
in the books and the students heard the whole thing without often
comprehending the subject. Practically all the students had study
guides, or photocopies of them, to answer the questions for the
myself included, simply memorized whatever was in the books and
the study guides and regurgitated the material on tests and exams.
This activity of cramming alien material into our heads was known
as ratta (pronounced rut-ta). It was sad that most
students did the same with mathematics; they could solve any
problem from the book but give 'em something even slightly
different, and they would be stumped.
Arabic was our
third language; Urdu and English were the first and second
respectively. This made Arabic and Islamiyat (the study/world of
Islam) our worst courses. To top it off, we had the most grotesque
teacher for these two subjects. He wore shalwar kameez and had a
big black beard. His style of teaching was quite simple: If the
kid doesn't learn, then you haven't beaten him enough.
On the day of our
test, this teacher would start off by calling out a student and
then telling him to write such-and-such sura from the Quran.
Understand that the meaning of the Quran is immaterial, what
matters is that a student could vomit it all back. If the student
made even a single mistake, then the teacher would send him off to
the faculty lounge. You see, all the exquisite dunday
(long and strong wooden sticks) were there. The teacher would tell
the student to bring back the one with the black tape--the
heaviest one. I can't imagine that long walk. Afterwards the
teacher would hit the open palms of the student with the stick,
one hit for every mistake. A few students later, the teacher would
get bored, so he would start hitting students on the back of their
knees and thighs as they wrote out the verses on the board and
Imagine the effects
of this Muslim way of teaching on the psyche of young kids. Formal
education becomes synonymous with pain and suffering. These kids
repeatedly learn that violence is an acceptable method of
instruction. When they do graduate from high school, they have
little to zero understanding of what they've "learned". Whatever
they've memorized evaporates within a few years and all they're
left with is horror stories of vile teachers.
If it wasn't for my
introduction to the Western way of teaching less than a decade
ago, then I would have forever thought of teaching as an odious
profession. Though, most Muslims aren't so lucky. Everyday,
thousands, perhaps millions, of Muslims are brutalized by their
teachers as we're repeatedly told that Islam is a Religion of
Some of you might be asking, "How could the parents allow this
barbarity to continue in schools?" You naively assume that such
violence is limited to schools in Muslim lands.