Bangladesh teacher arrested over burns on pupils' legs

burned girls
Image caption The students who were burned are at home after the school was temporarily shut

Bangladeshi police have arrested a teacher from a religious school who allegedly placed a burning hot iron rod on the legs of her pupils for failing to pray regularly.

The teacher, Jesmin Akther, has made no comment. Police said she went into hiding after parents complained.

Officials say 14 girls, aged between eight and 12, received burn injuries.

Bangladesh banned corporal punishment in educational institutions, including religious schools (madrassas), in 2010.

"Acting on a tip-off, we raided a house in the old part of Dhaka and we arrested Jesmin Akther, who is accused of burning the legs of her students. We are seeking to remand her in custody for seven days," police officer Shafiqul Islam told the BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Dhaka.

The school has been temporarily closed following the incident and the "hellish experience" of the girls has been widely reported. Their injuries are not thought to be serious.

The girls were learning Arabic and Bengali at the Talimul Koran Mahila madrassa at Namashyampur in Dhaka. The incident is said to have happened last Tuesday.

"It was the first day of the madrassa after our holidays. Our teacher got angry when she heard that we were not offering regular prayers during our vacation," Ferdousi Akther, aged eight, told the BBC last week.

"Then she asked her servant to heat up the rod and then she pressed it on our legs. The pain was unbearable."

Pupils say the teacher asked the pupils whether they knew the severity of the fire in hell. They were allegedly told that if they did not offer prayers regularly, they would experience a similar punishment.


Bangladesh, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, has two types of madrassas.

There are more than 16,000 state-sponsored Alia madrassas across the country teaching more than five million students.

Apart from Islamic studies, students in these institutions learn English, maths and science.

The second type are Qaumi madrassas, which are independent and run by donations from people inside and outside Bangladesh. They focus mainly on Islamic studies.

Almost every village in Bangladesh has a Qaumi madrassa. People from poorer communities tend to enrol their children in them when there are no government-run schools in their villages.

Officials are checking to see which category the Talimul Koran Mahila madrassa falls into.

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