Corporal Punishment: The Monster That Won’t Leave Us!

Image Source: http://www.unicef.org/india/child_protection_5386.htm

It’s been a little over a month that Bangalore was rocked by the shocking rape of a 6-year old in an upscale school in town – during school hours. Bangalore awakened to a rude shock and deep disappointment when their willingness to pay a premium for the safety of their children clearly did not yield results. Peace marches and demands for a safer city rang throughout the city.

However, what silently escaped was another hideous monster hiding behind all the limelight that ‘sexual harassment’ was getting. It went almost unnoticed that the child was punished by her teacher and kept in confinement in a dark room as punishment. The monster is ‘Corporal Punishment’. Though the incidents following the confinement have been highly unfortunate, what really should have raised eyebrows is “Why was the child allowed to be punished that way?” Why the school’s policies not strong enough to prevent such mishaps? Why were the teachers encouraged to indulge in such methods to discipline their wards?

Over the past few years, several such incidents have come and gone. There have been reports of children being shamed and humiliated to such an extent that the young adolescents reel into depressions. Such incidents can also ignite and fuel anti-social, violent or suicidal tendencies. In other cases, the physical torture itself has taken a toll on the children- in several cases leading to death and deformity. In other cases, the child is simply de-motivated from attending school – making it the very antithesis of good foundation for education. Even watching other children being punished can be extremely stressful for children. My daughter went through a severe bout of headaches as a result of the fear she felt from watching her teacher spank other children in the class.

Violence against children has been high on the International agenda for a very long time. Even developed nations still report very high rates of corporal punishments in schools – spanking and slapping being the most common of them all. As for India, a landmark judgment barring the use of corporal punishment in schools came in 2000. The judgment directed the Government of India to ensure ‘that children are not subjected to corporal punishment in schools and they receive education in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear’. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as follows:

The Committee defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.

Despite an official ban on corporal punishments by several states, many educators and parents continue to believe in the adage “Spare the rod and Spoil the child.” According to a study conducted by Young Lives-India, many parents do not take corporal punishment seriously as long as it is ‘justified‘. Some of them even equate this mode of disciplining to ‘caring’. The caveat here is that terms like ‘justification’ and ‘severity’ of punishment are entirely left to individuals. Also, there is overwhelming evidence that poor children and children in Government schools face much more of physical disciplining. Several cases go unreported because the parents and the teachers perceive punishing as normal.

One of the reasons that corporal punishment is still so prevalent is the fact that our educators are a stressed lot; often working under conditions of over-crowding and lack of resources. This is a tacit admission of the fact that corporal punishment is often just an easy outlet for the frustrated teacher. The other obvious reason is that the teachers themselves have minimal or no training that equips them to handle growing human beings. A major part of the emphasis goes into covering syllabus in the textbooks, naturally prying away attention from the quality of interactions with the students. Bettering a child’s learning environment should not depend on adjustments to the adult world.

Parents form an important slice of the education pie. Among the many things we can do to tackle this problem, a few basic ones are listed below. Some of these are actually mandated by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR):

1. Connect with your child’s school to know and understand their policies on corporal punishment. Look beyond the books to understand the mechanisms to enforce the guidelines.

2. Your best source of information is your child. Talk to him/her every day after school, regardless of whether it was an eventful day or not. Keeping the channel open can alert you to trends in the school.

3. Connect with the teachers on a regular basis. Put in suggestions for ‘Emotional awareness programs’ for the teachers. Organizations like www.sixseconds.org help with orientation programs for educators to assist in dealing with the challenges of interacting with several children at a time. Emphasis is placed on training that nurtures the emotional quotient in children.

4. Insist on seeing clear-cut protocols for redressing the grievances of the students and helping the child re-adjust in case of incidents.

5. Insist on a drop-box for complaints which maintains the anonymity of the children/parents. The school should have a mechanism to address these grievances.

It is not a myth that several lives have turned around with the help of one magical teacher. There are many more examples to show that children have failed to achieve their full potential due to lack of good teachers. Schools have the potential to break the patterns of violence by giving children, their parents and communities the knowledge and skills to communicate, negotiate and resolve conflicts in more constructive ways.

Let’s not lose this great opportunity and cripple the entire human race.

 

Devishobha is a writer, blogger, and a passionate mom of 2 kids. She relives the journey of childhood through them by collecting quips by kids on the world through theirs eyes A lot of other parents have joined her in this journey. 
Her other passions include Child Psychology, Public Policy and Green Sustainability Solutions. Her articles have also appeared on Citizen Matters, Deccan Chronicle and Huffington Post.
She blogs on www.kidskintha.com

6 thoughts on “Corporal Punishment: The Monster That Won’t Leave Us!”

  1. Anant Mani says:

    This article is an eye opener for me. I’m able to feel the gravity of the situation and the root-cause of the problem.

  2. Monalisa Hota says:

    Wonderful article, great links. Hits the nail on the head and offers practical tips for parents to take immediate action.

  3. Karan says:

    Very nice article. Some of the points mentioned here will aid parents to tackle the problem. Of all the points listed, I believe point 2 has higher importance, since it is the only point that a Parent is under control and it focuses on Parent-Child relationship. Building a open relationship with the child will not only enable Parents to be aware of such punishments but also handle child’s stress / emotions.

    While reading the article, my memory just flashed incidents when I was in my Middle and High School. I have been beaten on knucles, smashed on palm, pinched on thigh. I am sure almost everybody would have gone through these punishments. These incidents certainly created some kind of fear on those teachers. They were labelled as RUDE teachers, but I never complained to my parents about these incidents. Even if I had complained I guess they would have first questioned me ‘What wrong you did?’.

    But if such incidents occur now, there is a high possibility for a child to break down. It can be very stressful for a child. If a parent comes to know about this incident, they are most likely to get emotional, angry and report to the school management and demand an action. Parents of this generation care for their child so much, they are not ready to tolerate any form of corporal punishment. They themselves do not physically punish their child, how can they allow others to physically punish their child.

    I think solution to this problem are many
    1. Choose a right school – Research and pick a cchool which is open, approachable and have good policies. It would be even great if the school satisfies points mentioned in this article. To enable parents to identify a good school, it would be really helpful if such ‘Corporal Punishment’ incidents are reported in a online forum.

    2. Build a good rappo with the child – Spend time with the child every single day. At least one of parent should listen to the child about what happened during the day. Almost all problems can be solved if the child approaches and consults their parents first.

    3. Be proactive than being reactive – Parents should build the habit of being proactive. Be proactive and talk about corporal punishment to the child at a right age. Teach them how to handle such situations and how to take it sportive.

    4. Install problem-solving skills – There are many ways to enhance a problem-solving skill of the child. Best method would be to put the child under a situation, enable him/her to first identify the problem, then patiently list down solutions for the problem and pick a right solution and possibly implement it.

    These are points that just struck me. I am not a ‘Been there done that’ Parent. So I do not have a white paper to backup my points :) Just voiced my thoughts. Hope the author will gracefully accept my thoughts and give her feedback.

  4. Monalisa Hota says:

    http://www.ncpcr.gov.in/view_file.php?fid=107
    All about corporal punishment. Content covers: Why corporal punishment is not the right way to discipline children, myth around corporal punishment, legal provisions and lot more. Good reference to keep handy!

  5. edmond chicheko says:

    A brilliant article very insightful and a clear manual for practising teachers. Thank you.

  6. edmond chicheko says:

    A working manual for the practising teacher and concerned parents. Thank you.

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