Monday, 24 October 2016

‘Teacher beat me’

-Brian Mendonça

We had been hearing about how a teacher in the pre-primary class used to scare everyone – students and parents included. But we held our peace. After all, our child was not affected.

Then one day we noticed he was very quiet. On gently prodding he opened up and said, ‘Teacher beat me.’ ‘S/he hit me on my face with a ruler.’ She also made him kneel down in front of the class for a long period of time. The pretext was, he did not remember his nursery rhyme completely:
Pitter patter pit pat
Here comes the rain
Pitter patter pit pat
We’ll go out again . . .

We tried to ignore the many times he used to cry not to go to school.  We were unaware what was happening inside the classroom. Sometimes the kids used to be too terrified even to ask to go to relieve themselves. As a result they ended up soiling their pants. Another child vomits regularly in class. The reasons have yet to be probed.

That was the last straw. I drafted a letter to the Principal. To it I attached the Advisory by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for Eliminating Corporal Punishment in Schools Under Section 35 (1) of the Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009. The 18 page document is available on the internet for free download.*According to it, the Act prohibits ‘physical punishment’ and ‘mental harassment’ under Section 17(1) and makes it a punishable offence under Section 17 (2).

5.2 Examples of physical punishment as defined by the Act are:
a)     Causing physical harm to children by hitting, kicking, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling the hair, boxing ears, smacking, slapping, spanking with or without any implement.
b)    Making children assume an uncomfortable position (standing on bench, standing against the wall in a chair-like position, standing with school-bag on head, holding ears through legs, kneeling etc.
c)     Forced ingestion of anything (example washing soap, mud, chalk, hot spices etc.)
d)    Detention in the classroom, library, toilet or any closed space in the school.

5.3 Mental harassment is understood as any non-physical treatment that is detrimental to the academic and psychological well-being of the child. It includes but is not restricted to:
a) Sarcasm that hurts or lowers the child’s dignity.
b) Calling names and scolding using humiliating adjectives, intimidation
c) Using derogatory remarks for the child
d) Belittling a child in the classroom due to his/her inability to meet the teacher’s expectations of academic achievement.
e) ‘Shaming’ the child to motivate the child to improve his/her performance.

6.3 Perpetrators of corporal punishment against children in an institutional setting can be booked under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), viz. Section 323 – voluntarily causing hurt; Section 326 – voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means.

The school management invited us to talk about the issue and the matter was resolved amicably. Grades have improved and the child is happy – for now.
* Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 23 October 2016,

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