Improve the child
A recent study
by Unicef has found that a growing number of children experience
some degree of ‘violent discipline and psychological
aggression’ at the hands of their caregivers, both at home and
school, writes Shobita Shivshankar
punishment will be firmly excluded from the educational system
in order to have a child-centric approach."—
The national policy on education, 1986.
nearly 25 years later...
Some years ago the Delhi
High Court came down heavily on any form of physical
punishment in schools. In a landmark judgment, the High
Court had ruled that children have the right to education
with dignity, and corporal punishment is violative of
their fundamental right to equality before the law. The
Bench noted, "Brutal treatment of children can never
inculcate discipline in them and obedience exacted by
striking fear of punishment can make them adopt the same
tactics when they grow up for getting what they
February 12, 2010, Rouvanjit Rawla, a 13-year-old class
Vlll student of Kolkata’s prestigious La Martiniere for Boys’
school, committed suicide after being allegedly caned by the
school principal. `A0Though the cops arrested principal Sunirmal
Chakravarthy and three other teachers, they were unable to book
them for abetting suicide as the charge could not be
suicide is not a sole exception. In a study last year, children’s
organisation Plan International revealed a shocking fact that
almost 65 per cent of students admitted to some form of corporal
punishment at school. And, at times, such violence against young
people could prove to be fatal.
In April 2009,
Shanno, an 11-year-old girl, slipped into coma and later died
after her teacher made her stand in the sun for a long period of
time. Her fault? She failed to recite the full English language
alphabets from A to Z!
In a country
that has traditionally exhorted high values of the guru-shishya
parampara, we often hear of schoolteachers, whose barbarity
makes people shudder. The growing incidence of violence by
teachers is a phenomenon that an increasing number children have
been forced to live with.
We have all
read newspaper reports how trivial matters like not wearing
proper uniform, talking in class or not doing homework can
trigger off brutal reaction in teachers.
are not the only villains. A recent Unicef study has found that
a growing number of kids experience some degree ‘violent
discipline and psychological aggression’ at the hands of their
parents, while others suffer some form of physical punishment.
Rouvanjit Rawla, a 13-year-old class Vlll student of Kolkata’s La
Martiniere for Boys’ school, committed suicide after
being allegedly caned by the school principal. His suicide
is not a sole exception. In a study last year, children’s
organisation Plan International revealed that almost 65
per cent students admitted to some form of corporal
punishment at school. And at times such violence against
young people could prove to be fatal
on the Rights of the Child (CRC) requires states to protect
children from "all forms of physical or mental
violence" while in the care of parents or others.`A0It
requires discipline in schools to be "administered in a
manner consistent with the child’s human dignity."
Children everywhere must never be subjected to "torture or
other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
parents are of the opinion that some form of corporal punishment
is necessary to discipline children. The study has found that a
number of parents use psychological violence like threatening
little children that they would be turned out of the house and
abandoned for good.
shown that the different forms of violence resorted to by
parents and teachers can have a direct impact on the child’s
psyche, which can manifest itself in low performance in school,
poor cognitive capacity and future negative behaviour when kids
But despite a
number of high-powered studies, the fact is that physical and
psychological violence by parents and teachers against children
is a commonday affair. Ask young kids
and they are usually full of such stories of abusive treatment
at home and in the classroom.
Many parents vent their anger against children by hitting them
— Thinkstockphotos/Getty Images
A teacher at
one of the New Delhi’s schools was apprehended for possessing
a special cane that he used to whip his students with. At
another well-known Delhi school, a simple request for a change
of stream in class XI was met with severe thrashing. In yet one
more school in New Delhi, a group of nursery girls were beaten
up with a badminton racquet for talking and giggling in class.
Some years ago,
14-year-old Divya Pandey of Lucknow arrived in school, not
wearing the correct uniform. She was hit severely by her teacher
for this offence. Divya came back home, in a dazed state and
died the same evening.
Or take the
case of 15-year-old Delhi boy Ojaswi Khanna, who forgot to bring
a compass for his maths class. He was felled by two mighty blows
on the face by his teacher. Ojaswi sank to the ground with
unbearable pain shooting through his left ear. When the parents
took him to an ENT specialist, the doctor told them that he had
lost all hearing in his left ear because of the blows he
Why does the
situation ever deteriorate to the extent that a parent or a
teacher needs to strike a child? Says Dr Janaki Vishwanathan a
New Delhi-based psychiatrist, "Sometimes, the pressure of
work and problems at home might make parents and teachers vent
their frustrations on children."
There are times when
parents get fed up with children’s behaviour and lash
out at the kids. Words hurt as much as physical abuse.
Parents must correct their actions and be more
responsible. On the other hand, if a child’s behaviour
or conduct is genuinely wrong, it is up to the parents to
correct it in whichever way they can. If this involves
getting medical help for a troubled child, it should not
be withheld. Proper guidance is the key to raising morally
academician S. C. Arora adds, "Schools have increased the
number of students to unmanageable extents. Hence, whenever
there is a bit of indiscipline, teachers feel free to crush it
by violence." Crusader-educationist Sonam Wangchuk says in
one of his essays, "The teachers consider corporal
punishment their right rather than their weakness. Even many
parents vent their anger against children by hitting them."
While it is a
fact that incidents of indiscipline among young people have
increased over the years, parents and teachers seem to be at a
loss for methods to reform such rebels. Says Dr Vishwanathan,
"By resorting to corporal punishment, parents and teachers
give undue attention to the negative traits of a child. Stubborn
kids should be dealt with a lot of patience. A lot more can be
achieved with kindness than with force."
parents are vociferous votaries of proper counselling in
schools, they themselves would not hesitate in resorting to
physical and psychological punishment when it comes to
disciplining their own children. Such violent means can leave
deep scars on a child’s psyche.
academicians, there is an urgent need to analyse the effects of
corporal punishment on the growth process of a child. Child
counsellor, Vinita Pawan, who has worked with children subjected
to physical punishment by teachers, says, "Studies have
shown that in the long run beating and bruising a child may
result in negative personality traits. It may make the child
either very submissive or very defiant when he or she grows up.
In a class of 50 if one child is beaten up, 49 others are
looking on. It’s a trauma for other kids as well."
|Trivial matters like not wearing proper uniform, talking in class or not doing homework can trigger off brutal reaction in teachers
Peter Newell, coordinator, Global Initiative, Unicef, there is a
great deal of research of varying quality into the harmful
potential effects of corporal punishment. According to him, it
can be a significant factor in the development of violent
attitudes and actions in childhood and adult life. It can make a
child grow up with low self-esteem, depression, delinquency and
all the things we do not want for our children.
study quoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child states
that it leaves no room for justification of violent or degrading
forms of discipline. Governments need to enact laws to combat
and prevent physical violent punishment on children, according
to the International Child Rights Body.
Will the Unicef study have any
impact on the violent behaviour of some parents and teachers
towards children? The chances look bleak, considering the fact
that despite clear-cut laws, violence towards children in
schools and households is a common everyday affair. Corporal
punishment has become a part of our drab educational system.
Many teachers, fearless of the law and the consequences, use
their hands and rods freely inflicting physical harm without
realising the psychological harm they are inflicting on the
child. — NF