Chennai student kills teacher

Stabbed in class for negative remarks in report card

Shock and horror stalked a historic school here on Thursday after a Class IX student gruesomely murdered his 39-year-old woman teacher in broad daylight as she was about to begin a class.

The school where the murder took place. DH photo

Preliminary investigations by the police suggested the boy’s action was spurred by a negative comment the teacher had made in his progress card report.

The teacher, Uma Maheswari, taught Science and Hindi for the past eight to 10 years in the 173-year-old St Mary’s Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, a revered missionary institution reputed for its discipline and quality in the heart of the city near the Madras High Court.

The nearly 1,000-strong students’ fraternity, other teachers and the entire neighbourhood in a busy commercial area panicked after Maheshwari’s chilling murder. Quickly, the grieving school authorities declared a holiday.

Maheshwari was in the Standard X classroom, waiting to take a class for the day, when the 15-year-old male student (name withheld by police as he is a minor), suddenly walked in and whipped out a pen-knife and threatened her, police sources told Deccan Herald.

Scared out of her wits, Maheshwari screamed and tried to move out of harm’s way, but the boy in a fit of rage chased her before stabbing her several times on her neck and in some other parts of her body until the profusely bleeding lady fell unconscious near the class door, sources said.

Horrified, students who watched the killing and the assailant-boy flee, soon raised an alarm and the boy, who is said to hail from a middle-class family, was quickly nabbed and handed over to the police in North Chennai.

In a critical condition, Maheshwari was rushed to a private hospital nearby, but she died on the way and was declared ‘brought dead’ by the doctors whose efforts to save her failed. Later in the evening, after the post-mortem at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, Maheshwari’s body was handed over to her relatrives, Assistant Commissioner of Police M Murali said.

Preliminary investigations by the police showed that the boy had deeply resented his teacher making a negative comment in his ‘progress report card’, and he “feared” that it might adversely affect his prospects at the school which led to this horrendous retaliation. 

The assailant-boy, otherwise said to be a reserved student, was detained at the police station and was remanded later in the evening to a juvenile home, Murali said, adding that this was perhaps the first such case in known memory of the Chennai police’s history.

School Principal Fr Bosco Periyanayagam told the media that Maheswari “was a very good teacher”. She would not beat or chide any student and had won the affection of one and all. “We don’t know whether the boy acted this way because of a remark of the teacher or due to any other reason,” the visibly shattered principal added.

Quite a few of Maheshwari’s colleagues described her as a “very dedicated and sacrificing teacher” who would even spend her lunch hour to give students some advice or a tip or two. “It’s a very great shock. This is how goodness is repaid today,” one of them said.

Another senior teacher with deep regrets said: “So far we have heard such violence happening only in American institutions. This is perhaps the first of its kind in Tamil Nadu’s history, posing a challenge to the teaching fraternity.” She, however, admitted that both teachers and students were under pressure to perform in a highly competitive result-oriented environment.

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