Better education behind bars

Better education behind bars

Pruning Juvenile delinquents need to be shown love and care, apart from being educated and disciplined, writes N N Prahallada  

A “borstal” was a type of youth prison in the United Kingdom, run by the prison service and intended to reform seriously delinquent young people.

Borstal schools are designed to be “educational rather than punitive”. However, they are bent on routine, discipline, and authority. The idea of borstal schools is to care for young offenders and rehabilitate them for a normal social life. The delinquents are given vocational trainings, apart from being disciplined and instilling humane values. They are also given academic education as that of other normal children.

Today, education is a mass privilege. But it is a fact that no two pupils are alike.  Many culturally handicapped children are viewed as slow learners and potential dropouts. They are grouped accordingly in schools, yet some of them are academically gifted too. In every group, whether it is based on academic ability, creative talent, cultural background, physical condition, or some other criteria, there are fast learners, slow learners, average learners, juvenile delinquents and pupils with behavioural problems.
Educational needs of all children cannot be met by a single uniform programme of instruction. Equal opportunity does not mean identical education. The curriculum must be differentiated to provide for individual differences, if all pupils are to have equal opportunities to develop their potential.

Juvenile delinquency becomes one such special case, when we consider framing the curriculum based on individual differences. If it is not checked at an early stage, it is likely to continue into the adult life of students and they may become anti-social elements. Most children from slums, broken families, and deprived sections of society, due to lack of proper guidance, treatment, and home environment, become juvenile delinquents. They fail in school and drop out. Preventive efforts should be made to help children from deprived families in reading and other skills, so that they receive more help and satisfaction from schools. The youth who can be identified as vulnerable to delinquency should be given a special school programme.

Juvenile delinquents need proper care and treatment. In many homes, parents are responsible for their children to become delinquents. Many parents, including educated ones, mistreat treat their children or mistreat their spouses in front of the children. As a result, the behaviour of such children is significantly different from that of other normal children. When in a congenial home atmosphere, children behave well and grow up to be good adults. Therefore, it is very important to educate parents as well in this regard.

In western countries, work-study programmes for pre-delinquents in elementary and junior high schools have been introduced. In India too, there are a few such schools, but they are not sufficient. Twelve States namely Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu each reported one Borstal School in  their respective jurisdiction. Madhya Pradesh has the highest capacity for keeping 608 inmates, followed by Tami Nadu with 405, Haryana with 355, and Punjab 300. Himachal Pradesh and Orissa have also reported female inmates in their borstal schools.

Research has shown that the behaviour of juvenile delinquents can be set right, provided they are given proper treatment and education.

While we may have a few borstal schools in place, there is a great need to educate the borstal school authorities too with child psychology. Handling delinquent children requires several special tactics and therefore, it becomes all the more essential to ensure that our country has enough resources and knowledge to handle such cases.

(The writer is a Guest Faculty and Associate Professor in Education, Regional  Institute of Education, NCERT, Mysore)

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