Children’s diaries: corporal punishment must stop

April 19th, 2009 - 12:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) Diaries kept by some child reporters at the instance of NGOs reveal a sordid saga of how young students are thrashed, punished, humiliated daily by teachers in schools across India. They also reveal how 11-year-old Shano Khan’s death in Delhi is far from being an isolated case.
Shano went into coma after allegedly being beaten and made to squat outside in the sun by her teacher at a Delhi municipal school for not knowing letters of the English alphabet. She died a day later, sending shock waves across the nation.

But many more heartrending stories abound. At least 1,000 “child reporters”, after being trained by various NGOs, are documenting these, mainly in rural areas and among marginalised communities.

Sandhya, who studies in Class 9, is associated with the CASP-PLAN project in Delhi. Her reporter’s diary had this entry:

“Badarpur (Delhi): ‘Madam, I did not understand, can you explain it again to me?’ ‘You stupid, you do not understand,’ was the reply of the teacher.

“I met some students from Delhi’s Tughlaqabad area who study in a government school. One said, ‘If the teacher scolds me I do not understand a word, but if she explains it to me I grasp it all. My English teacher explains things and I understand them very well.’

Another student, Laxmi, said her maths teacher hits students with a stick if they do not understand. ‘All I have to say is that they should teach us lovingly rather than scolding us unnecessarily,’ she added.”

Here’s what Rahul, another child reporter associated with CASP-PLAN project in Delhi, penned down after visiting some schools in the Badarpur area.

“Badarpur (Delhi): Some students informed us (the child reporters) that teachers use physical violence to vent their anger at children. Some teachers have family problems which leave them frustrated and during school hours, when students make even small mistakes, they gets thrashed as the teachers vent their frustration on them.

While doing so they also abuse the children. Manish, a student, said some teachers beat students even if the latter have not made a mistake. This is mental torture for the students and they usually fail in exams due to these reasons. Pradeep, a student, said that he felt like breaking the teachers’ head when they hit him.

Teachers say they do not intend to hit the child. A teacher said: ‘But the kids force us to do so. They do not study properly and some don’t even get their bags. So we have to opt for such techniques’.”

Anil, Udit, Chandan, Manoj, Jyot, Renu, Puja and Neha are all child reporters who were trained as part of the Umang group in Uttarakhand. A few months ago, they participated in a survey conducted in 13 districts of the state. These were some of the entries:

“Uttarakhand: In a country where teachers are worshiped like god, it is sad to know that there are teachers who ask students to get lost and die for coming late to school!

Nervous and frightened children said they were humiliated for coming late.

It becomes difficult for them to go to school the next day due to humiliation. They are also severely penalised for not answering questions. Children claimed that such treatment had given rise to an inferiority complex in them.”

Divya, a Class 7 student in Athri village of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, was trained by Adithi, a local NGO, as a child reporter. Here is one of the latest entries in her reporter’s dairy:

“Athri (Bihar): In a visit to the Government Senior Secondary school, Athri, we (a group of child reporters) noticed that a group of three boys and two girls = namely Ram Kumar, Gautam, Krishan, Nikita and Neha - were all standing outside the classroom in the harsh sun, reading their science books and mugging up answers.

We asked them why they were being made to stand here, to which Neha and Nikita replied, ‘We wont come to school tomorrow onwards, we don’t like coming to school.’

Neha said she had not been able to prepare some answers as relatives were visiting her home the previous day and now she was being made to stand under a harsh sun.

We tried to console her and assured her that we would go and speak to her teacher. On enquiring, the teacher named Abrendra justified the corporal punishment meted out to these children saying these students would not behave properly unless they were disciplined.”

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