Spare the rod, “save” the child


A Delhi based government school recently shot to headlines. Shanno, a class II student of MCD primary school in Bawana, was “made to stand” in the sun with bricks on her shoulders allegedly by her teacher. She breathed her last at Maharishi Valmiki Hospital in Delhi.

I was shaken by the compassionless approach of the teacher towards a second standard student. I condemn such attack on “innocence”.

I have spent five valuable years of my life educating and exploring young minds. I have been an educator and a guide. I recall my teaching days as one of the best days of my life. I take pride in starting a career as a teacher, being a teacher and proving myself a teacher.

“Proving” is a big word, rather carrying so much of guaranteed truth and honesty; without which proving oneself is a distant dream.

As a teacher, I tried my best to prove myself a worthy teacher. But how successful I am in this endeavour, is a big question, which I guess only my students can answer with absolute precision.

I fondly recall those teaching days: dealing with students of varied minds, backgrounds and abilities, was a tough job no doubt, but a challenging one. Doing homework for the next day’s class, preparing notes, discovering easy and shortcut teaching methodologies, which could be easily grasped by both the fast and slow learners, was a fun!

I came across varied categories of students. Category1: Fast learners, Category2: Mediocres, Cartegory3: Slow Learners. In my dictionary there is no adjective called ” dull” for students, because I believe students are basically avid learners. It’s the teaching methodology that makes him/her fall in the above mentioned categories.

I strongly believe is that a student’s destiny is planned and made out of the efforts of his/her teacher. All depends on how a teacher teaches. How does he/she handle moments of a student’s emotional crisis. All depends on the question: Is she an ‘educator’, an ‘instructor’, or a ‘dictator’? Ask a student to pick the right option of the three given. He will undoubtedly pick the third for the most hated teacher and the first one for the most loved one!

Instruction or dictation?

Instructing and dictating is what most of my friends in the teaching fraternity do. Thus in this attempt to dictate, they turn out to be very harsh and ruthless at times. I remember my class teacher of second standard, who use to pierce her sharp nails into our ear lobes when angry.

What I just said about the teacher fraternity, is not a pre-conceived opinion, but an assumption that I deduced based on my experience. There could be many viable reasons for this common quality in a majority of teachers.

Firstly, many of them take up teaching because this was the last career option for them. Secondly, because they are not happy with the pay package. Thirdly, they vent out their latent anger and frustration on poor students. Last, but “perhaps” not the least, the feeling of being superior in a class of little fools (as considered by most of the teachers).

Now the need for “corporal punishment” to deal with unruly students, has been an issue of debate for many scholars and educationists.

Spare the child or the rod?

The advocates of the famous axiom, “Spare the rod, save the child”, are of the opinion that it is impossible to make a child understand his flaws by punishing him physically or verbally. He is termed innocent and hence, it’s the duty of the teacher to be polite and patient with a student.

The Legal facts

The Indian legal system also protects children from abuse of school authorities or even at home.

– Indian Penal Code Section 88 protects an act which is not intended to cause death, done by consent in good faith for person’s benefit. Master chastising pupil fall under this clause.

– A head teacher who administers in good faith a moderate and reasonable corporal punishment to a pupil to enforce discipline in school is protected by this section and such an act is not crime under Section 323.

– Section 89 of Indian Penal Code protects an act by guardian or by consent of guardian done in good faith for benefit of child under 12 years.

However the same section says that this exception will not extend to cause death, or attempting to cause death, causing grievous hurt. These provisions extend to teachers having quasi-parental authority i.e., consent or delegation of authority from parents also, of course, with exceptions. Using excessive force, causing serious injury, purpose being very unreasonable can turn the act of the guardian or teacher with the consent of guardian, an offence, because such incidents are outside the scope of “good faith”.

– Section 23 of new Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 provides punishment for cruelty to juvenile or child. Whoever, having the actual charge of or control over, a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or willfully neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner likely to cause such juvenile or the child unnecessarily mental or physical suffering shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or with both.This section has no exceptions to exempt parents or teachers.

Corporal punishment still exists

Despite all these prohibitions and protections, it’s important to analyse why “corporal punishment” exists in the Indian education system. Why is it still there despite so many laws prohibiting its practice?

Even psychologists opine that “no man is born criminal”. It is his bad past, to be precise, a painful experience of some kind, his failures, his unfulfilled desires which make him cruel.

Teachers practicing cruelty in classroom, are “criminals” in my opinion. As far as I think, a teacher with cruel or criminal mentality of physically assaulting a child might be suffering from a similar psychological disorder. May be he his trying to vent out his anger, guilt or anguish of some kind by punishing a child for his mistakes.

But whatever the reason may be, valid or invalid, I seriously think that innocent students should never be made to suffer.

There is always a way out of this. It is the duty of the schools to organise orientation programmes to make teachers understand and feel the serious responsibility they shoulder. They should realise that in the absence of parents, they are carrying out a proxy task; it is the responsibility of “proxy parenthood” that they shoulder.

In such a case how can they be so harsh to an innocent student, that a corporal punishment turns out to be a capital punishment for him/her!

Although I am no more in this “once termed” humble profession of teaching, I still strongly find myself attached with it. I love my students and fondly remember them.

My appeal to the teaching fraternity: Let’s not forget that our students are also human beings, just like us. They also have the right to know where they go wrong. They too deserve to be loved and treated with care.
And it’s our professional, moral and emotional duty to answer all their queries, however trivial they might be.

Let’s give them a chance to live this beautiful period of their life called ‘childhood’.

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