Two days back, a picture of a small kid went viral on social networking sites. A kindergarten teacher has been arrested in Ghaziabad, near Delhi, for beating up a 6-year-old student with an iron ruler for not finishing his homework. Police arrested Joshna Nigam, who had been working with Krishna Public School in Vijay Nagar from last eight months, for beating up a lower kindergarten student. She has been booked under section 323 of the Indian Penal Code for “voluntarily causing injury” and Uttar Pradesh’s Child Protection Laws. Offences registered under section 323 are non-cognizable. When will corporal punishment actually be banned in India?
Before this incident, a teacher from Andhra Pradesh was caught on camera heartlessly beating three young visually challenged children. That video too went viral on social network; he gave explanation that he wanted to “discipline the students” and their parents had told him that he must put fear in the children’s mind so that they study and behave well. In a video that became public, the children can be seen screaming and begging to be spared as he inflicted injury upon them. The video was so scary and excruciating to see. God knows, how those children beared so much pain, and for what?
Earlier, corporal punishment in school was quite a common practice. It was considered to be an official punishment for misbehaving by school students, involves striking the student a given number of times in a generally methodical and premeditated way. The punishment is usually directed either across the buttocks or on the hands; specially kept for the purpose is a rattan cane, wooden paddle, slipper, leather strap or wooden yardstick. Less commonly, it could also include spanking or smacking the student in a deliberate manner on a specific part of the body with the open hand, especially at the elementary school level. Most of the old schools of thought believe in the concept, “the more you cane, more disciplined one can be”. In few years, many students have been either psychologically or physically hurt by such punishment. Even some have felt insulted and killed themselves to get rid of this humiliation.
The teacher KV Rao, who is also visually challenged, was arrested along with the school principal. He runs the Greenfield Residential School in Kakinada, over 650 km from the state capital of Hyderabad. The incident reportedly happened on July 19. Who filmed the video using a cellphone is yet not clear. However, thank god he has exposed the master and has given some relief to students who were victims of his cruelty. In the video, the teacher is seen grabbing hold of one of the students and banging his head against the floor. Another adult, not clearly visible in the footage, helps him assault the children, all younger than 10. The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Andhra Pradesh government after the shocking footage became public. This school was built on government land with the help of donations from some big corporates. The badly bruised boys have been admitted to Government General Hospital in Kakinada. The district administration failed to appoint trained staff for the school.
Spare the rod or end up in jail. That’s the latest warning to teachers who resort to corporal punishment. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has issued a new set of guidelines that bans physical punishment of students. First violation of the ban will invite up to one year in jail, or a fine of Rs. 50,000 or both. For subsequent violations, imprisonment could be extending to 3 years with an additional fine of Rs. 25,000. Heads of schools will be responsible for preventing corporal punishment. Teachers, who will found guilty, could be denied promotion, and even increments. A child rights cell was supposed to be set up in all schools where children can lodge a complaint. Apart from this, the government was also supposed to work on the final draft of the Prevention of Child Offences Bill where even parents, relatives and neighbours can be punished for hitting children. The draft bill was expected to include not just physical or sexual abuse, but also verbal abuse, molestation and ragging, but so far nothing has been done and government changed, sending the bill to cold storage. Let it be any government but this crucial problem was never addressed.
The debate was sparked off by the death of Rouvanjit Rawla in 2012, the 12-year-old who committed suicide in February that year, days after being humiliated and caned by the principal of his school, the prestigious La Martiniere School for Boys in Kolkata. Many instances of corporal punishment came to light in that period. Another prestigious school in Kolkata, St James school had a similar incident to narrate. In the same year, a nine-year-old girl, who had lost vision in one eye allegedly due to corporal punishment at a private school, died in Jaipur. Pia Chaudhary, a Class 1 student of Tagore Public School in Jhunjhunu district was beaten by her teacher for not completing her homework. She had sustained injury in one eye which later became critical and the vision in her second eye also got affected. She was operated several times but the vision in one eye had been completely lost. Now, the pressure was on her second eye and she had to be in hospital for several months in Delhi and Jaipur. She was being treated for the injury and the infection and she died at a hospital. Same year in yet another case of corporal punishment, a class X student died in Hyderabad after he was made to do sit ups as punishment in the school. A case was filed against two teachers of the private school.
15-year-old Mohammed Ismail Hussain was asked to do 100 sit-ups by teachers Mobina Begum and Wahid, after he was found quarrelling with another student on the school premises of Royal Embassy High School at Madannapet area. After being forced to do sit-ups by the two teachers their son developed fever and died while undergoing treatment.
Every year, there are many children who are victims of corporal punishments, hundreds suffer and few grab attention. Children die from cruelty by parents, teachers or tuition masters. Beating a child to create deterrence is not accepted. The world is progressing so are the studies. Children are adapting modern life style and high-tech educational methods, then why cause cruelty to them?