End corporal punishment

End corporal punishment

Positive reinforcement is better than perverted punishments when dealing with children.

A recent incident in a school in Chamarajnagar district where a teacher beat a 14-year-old boy with an iron scale, rendering him blind in his left eye, indicates that corporal punishment, despite being forbidden under the law, continues to be practised in the country. The teacher had apparently even warned the student against informing his parents about the incident.

The teenager has been treated in several hospitals but none of them have been able to restore his eyesight. The teacher, who is absconding, has been suspended from the school. In April, a student of Narayana e-Techno School in Vidyaranyapura in Bengaluru was left with serious injury to his eardrums when his teacher hit him repeatedly with a duster. These are not isolated incidents. Indeed, they are probably just the tip of the iceberg as most children who suffer violence at the hands of their teachers are reluctant to inform their parents about the incident as they fear drawing the teacher’s ire. Children are beaten for the silliest of reasons. In one incident in 2009, a 11-year-old student was brutally beaten by her teacher and then made to squat in a ‘murga position’ with bricks on her back in the scorching sun for hours. She went into a coma and died two days later. Apparently, she did not recite the full English alphabet string, drawing the wrath of the teacher.

Article 17 of Chapter IV of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act “prohibits any child being subjected to physical punishment and mental harassment.” Yet, children continue to suffer physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their teachers. Instead of pulling up errant teachers or handing them over to the police, school authorities usually protect perpetrators of corporal punishment as they do not want the school’s image to suffer. Parents, too, cannot escape responsibility. Some do not take the child’s complaints seriously or worse, believe that beating a child is fine if it is to discipline him. Such perceptions stem from the old adage that sparing the rod will spoil the child.

Studies show that physical or emotional violence towards a child amounts to abusing him and nothing good comes from such methods. Indeed, corporal punishment causes deep physical and psychological damage to children and leaves them scarred, often forever. It is well known that punishment makes children rebellious and encourages them to break rules. Positive reinforcement rather than perverted punishments should be used in dealing with children. Parents, teachers and school authorities must be sensitised on the damaging impact of corporal punishment. It is important, too, that teachers who use such punishment are sternly dealt with under the law.