Muhammad Umar, a student of class six at a government school in Faisalabad, died at a local hospital because he had suffered 90 percent burns. It is unfortunate that his young life ended in great pain and at his own hands. He missed school for two days, following which he was reprimanded and beaten by a teacher at his school. Umar had been asked by the teacher to bring his father. Fearing punishment at the hands of his father as well, the despondent child committed self-immolation. Following the incident, the concerned teacher has been suspended and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ordered an inquiry into the death of the child. This inquiry too would prove futile. Similar inquiries have been ordered before but they failed to bring justice to the victims.

The questions that need to be answered go far beyond the immediate incident. The conditions prevailing in government schools need to be improved so that children like Umar do not find themselves reluctant to attend them. Corporal punishment and other physical abuses continue at schools despite a ban on these; this practice must be stopped immediately. Other youngsters had also killed themselves previously in similar circumstances by either hanging or taking poison, etc. Such incidents are a reflection of the general social situation of Pakistan that has gone abnormal to the hilt.


Karachi, May 25.