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On corporal punishment in schools

Corporal punishment kills Delhi schoolgirl



Eleven-year-old Shanno, who slipped into coma after her teacher made her stand in the hot sun crouching at school two days ago, died in a government hospital here on Friday.
Shanno’s elder sister Sahina, who studies in the same school, said: “The teacher made her stand in a murga position for over two hours in the hot sun and even placed seven bricks on her back. When Shanno asked for water, the teacher kicked her. Her head hit a wall, she began to bleed from the nose.”

Its hard to remain sober after reading news such as these.  But then, yet another outrageous blog is also not going to make much difference.  I was curious and studied the reactions from our leaders.  Of course, Minister Renuka says: “Its a collective failure” and we can see the followup with the commission, counseling etc.  Its the best that can be done from that position, I suppose.  What can the citizens do?  Maybe, this is a time for introspection.

It is common in our society to place discipline, respect-to-elders etc above all other values.  In the cases of children, this discipline is placed above self-respect, dignity, free thought even!  Many parents would agree.  Except on the days, when there are tragedies like this appear on news.  Tomorrow, parents would go back to normal routine and continue to tell the teachers ‘Do whatever it takes to discipline my child.’  We have sayings for everything: “Beating is more effective than brothers even!”  Nonsense.

I recall my school days, with 17-year old students.  One male student, when harassed by the teacher, reacted by putting a black plastic bag on head, and threatened the teacher’s wife with a knife, when she was alone at home.  No kidding!!  In another incident, a 17 year old female hostel student was made to kneel down in the assembly under hot sun, in front of everyone (it was not a co-ed school).  That night, she committed suicide by jumping in the school well.  She knelt down under the well, holding the pipe firmly, to avoid coming up to the surface of the water, in the well.   She was determined to kill herself, and she did succeed.  She won, we all lost!

During these days, in my 6th grade class, corporal punishment was a regular ritual.  Even top-ranking students were daily beaten-up by the teachers by specialized bamboo canes.  Students who cannot recite the sentences as-is in the book, hence even the top-ranking students, were beaten heavily.  The canes were conditioned by oil, and had to be maintained by fastening rubber tubes at both the ends to prevent them from getting torn, while beating the children.  Student’s bodies can recuperate, but canes cannot, you see.  Numerous new students in my class, ran away from the school back to their villages and dropped out.  We lost many Abdul Kalams.  But, we have trained many disciplined text book reciters.[*]

This news is not an aberration.  It is deeply inter-twined in our system.  Of course, parents would spank their kids, once in a while, upon frustration.  But, as long as parents support the corporal punishment in the school/house, no commission is going to help.  Teachers are also parents, after all.  Instead of expressing our surprise/shock whenever these news break out, we, the citizens can do something.  We can come out and hang our head in shame for having endorsed corporal punishment at school and at house, all along.


[*] – For the curious, I am talking about 90s / 80s.