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School CP - May 1999

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Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 2 May 1999

Spare the rod, save the child

By Vandana Majumdar

Twelve-year-old Nitin Rai has permanently lost 20 per cent vision in his right eye, thanks to a teacher who flung a duster at another boy but shattered his spectacles instead.

He's undergone three operations and, last week, a year after the incident, his parents moved the high court seeking Rs 10 lakh in damages from his school, Preet Public Secondary School, Preet Vihar.

Nitin isn't alone -- corporal punishment is widespread in schools. Eight-year-old Rohit Kumar Sakpal of Sangli, Maharashtra, was beaten to death by his headmaster this February. Infuriated over his transfer, a teacher in Madhya Pradesh beat two six-year-olds to death last December 14; Jeet Ram, a class VI student in Shimla, died on May 14 last year after he was beaten by his teacher for leaving his maths and English copies at home.

"Unless a non-violent system is created, there is no point educating a child," says advocate PS Sharda, who filed a writ petition last year in the Delhi high court on behalf of the Parents' Forum for Meaningful Education, seeking the quashing of Rule 37 (see box) of the Delhi School Education Rules (DSER).

The Union Government, one of the respondents, replied that it was the Delhi government's responsibility to amend DSER, but did say that "corporal punishment will be excluded from the educational system..." But the Delhi government doesn't share the perception. For, in his reply on December 1, 1998, NS Tolia, additional director in Delhi's education directorate, said Rule 37 " in the interest of students" and "...isolated incidents of misuse cannot form the ground for striking (it) down..."

Sharda is livid: "You can't raise a stick against a dog because of the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act. Yet you have laws authorising the hitting of a child." But the dictum, spare the rod and spoil the child, has many takers. For instance, the Chandla Committee, set up by Delhi government to suggest reforms in the education system, actually recommended in its 1997 report that Rule 37 should be amended to allow not only the principal to inflict punishment but also teachers he authorises.

Should a teacher have the right to get physical? "Not at all," maintains Jyoti Bose, principal, Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan. "Corporal punishment is reminiscent of Dickensian times. A child may be very provocative at times, but these days kids want to reason out everything. Through love and understanding, you have to make him realise his mistake."

D Virmani, principal, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Andrewsganj, feels workshops should be organised for teachers to reinforce sensitivity and awareness in handling children. "Corporal punishment only instills fear in the child and is not conducive to his growth or education," she believes. Bose and Virmani suggest stringent punishment for teachers who injure students. Even Nitin's earlier principal, HL Nagpal, claims he is against corporal punishment. "Nitin's was the only case," Nagpal submits, "and the teacher's services were terminated immediately."

"Only a dead society is unable to protect its offspring," says Sharda dramatically. The irony is that those who are authorised to inflict such punishment are the ones in whose hands parents entrust their children.

Relevant portion of Rule 37 of The Delhi School Education Rules, 1973:

4(a) Corporal punishment maybe given by the head of the school in cases of persisting impertinence or rude behaviour towards the teachers, physical violence, intemperance and serious form of misbehaviour with other students

b) Corporal punishment shall not be inflicted on the students who are in ill health

c) Where corporal punishment is imposed, it shall not be severe or excessive and shall be so administered as not to cause bodily injury

d) Where cane is used for inflicting corporal punishment, such punishment shall take the form of strokes not exceeding 10 on the palm of the hand

e) Every punishment inflicted on a student shall be recorded in the Conduct Register of such student.

blob Follow-up: 2 December 2000 - Delhi schoolkids to be spared the rod

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