Children are physically punished in almost all societies even when it is known that, physical violence against children and the concept of punishment in response to wrongdoing can be damaging to children’s development. Research studies reveals that parents and teachers equate discipline with punishment and couple this with violence even when they know the results can be quite catastrophic for the children.
“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is still a popular quote among teachers and parents alike in many parts of the country. A survey of university students found that 91 per cent of males and 86 per cent of females in India had been physically punished as children.
Ways suggested to end corporal punishment are as follows-
1. Make corporal punishment free environment a condition for recognition of a school
2. Issues of not adhering to time and routine, cleanliness, academic performance and inattentiveness can be handled by a teacher
3. Schools should develop standard protocol to deal with children with aggressive behaviour who can affect others.
4. Drop boxes for complaints and a mechanism to address them:Setting up bal sabhas to know about the problems children are facing in schools.
5. Teachers should be asked to submit a written undertaking that they will not engage in corporal punishment before they are appointed.
In a bid to oppose the imposition of any kind of corporal punishment in schools, the Directorate of Education (DoE ) , Delhi has published a set of detailed guidelines to eliminate corporal punishment from schools. These were issued by ministry of Human Resource Development on March 26, 2014. In addition to physical punishment, the guidelines include “mental harassment” and “discrimination” in the definition of corporal punishment and have broadly listed the different forms of it under three categories: –
n Physical punishment includes– Physical harm, forcing children to assume uncomfortable positions, forced ingestion, detention in classrooms or any other closed space.
n Mental harassment inlcudes – Sarcasm, derogatory remarks, ridiculing, and labeling a child as difficult.
n Discrimination – Belittling remarks, commenting on academic ability based on caste/community prejudices, deliberate neglect, denying midday meal, and access to library etc.
Kushal Singh who is chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights which originally drew up the guidelines several years ago remarked that, “We worked within the wider framework of child abuse and considered any form of harassment a child may be put through. Since discrimination is a major form of abuse, within the guidelines, discrimination “Is understood as prejudiced views and behaviour towards any child because of his caste/gender, occupation and region or non-payment of fees or for being a student admitted under the 25% reservation to disadvantagegroups or weaker sections of society under the RTE Act 2009.” The guidelines are laid down to encourage school authorities and teachers to “try and understand what could be causing the behaviour” and even “ignore minor incidents or lapses”. It states that if teachers politely handle children, they can be motivated to act in a disciplined manner and this is exactly the right course of action to follow for children. Yet, Kushal Singh laments that, “People are still not sensitive. There are many who still feel corporal punishment is required.”
According to the study titled “Child Abuse in India-2007” commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, “Every two out of three school children reported facing corporal punishment.” Hence, if this landmark move is implemented in letter and spirit in all the states, it will protect children from corporal punishment and ensure they grow without fear of stick, and develop rational approach to contribute to society in a meaningful manner.
-Sanjeev Sirohi (The writer is an advocate)