Corporal punishment in schools should be banned
A student severely caned by his teacher has now died from complications from internal injuries. This happened in Udaipur. But why think of just Udaipur? Just type in key words like corporal punishment india or indian schools and you will be flooded with articles on the rampant use of corporal punishment all over India. Some articles look at the problem in detail, some provide examples of horrific cases and some talk about it in a lighter vein.
There is so much to read that it would take a long time to go through it all…
I doubt whether there is anyone who has gone through the education system in India and not suffered humiliation at the hands of a teacher – pinching and slapping being some of the milder punishments. Caning is more common in boys’ schools. Other harsh punishments like standing in the hot sun the whole day is also common, yes in girls schools as well. (A comprehensive list of punishments is given here.)
Verbal abuse is routine. I had a science teacher who routinely mouthed obscenities of a nature I cannot pen down here.
Punishments are given for minor misdemeanors…like talking, not obeying an instruction quickly enough, fiddling with some object, not paying attention, wearing an uniform which is say an inch shorter that school regulations…
During our time it was not common to complain to the parents. Today’s children are bolder, but this is not always the case. This boy from Udaipur for instance did not tell his parents initially and this delayed treatment. The boy apparently comes from a middle class family – there is no doubt that corporal punishment is widespread and more severe in lesser known private schools and almost all government schools. The students are also more hesitant to complain about their teachers.
Some of my poor students from the slums have told me things that have made my hair stand on end. Beating, hitting, slapping, dragging is a regular feature they told me calmly. It happened every single day to someone or the other in their class. Narrating any such incident to parents was humiliating. The parents would blame them, not the teachers. So these kids had accepted it as a part and parcel of life…and I felt had internalised it. They justified the teachers behavior and demands. The teachers wanted them to be robots and this the students felt was desirable behavior, even though difficult. It was more difficult for boys they explained, the girls could remain still for hours…
It looks like that neither the schools nor parents are going to try to put a stop to this. At least not make any concerted effort. Its time the government stepped in and banned corporal punishment, at least in schools.
This is in keeping with world trends: Western Europe, most of Eastern Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and South Africa have banned corporal punishment in schools. Australia has partially banned it. In the US, 23 states allow it. But I am sure the situation is not this bad in the US…they care about child rights.
There are countries which have gone a step ahead and banned corporal punishment at home. The countries are: Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ukraine and New Zealand.
Personally I don’t believe that corporal punishment either at school or at home works in changing behavior. It instills fear, not discipline…and it can do untold psychological harm and at times cause even death or permanent disability. I can’t begin to imagine the number of children who are growing up with emotional and physical scars in this country.
Update: There is news that corporal punishment will be banned in Indian schools soon. It was not just this incident in Jaipur that has made the government sit up, but also other incidents of death by caning that are surfacing. Suddenly the media is working overtime reporting severe caning incidents. In fact, now the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has expanded the definition of corporal punishment to include even small acts like name-calling. Well, thats a good start!