- VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS
VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS
LET FREE AIR AND LIGHT FILL OUR CLASSROOMS
S V VENUGOPALAN
That was too horrible a photograph showing a ninth standard school girl with her mouth sealed with an adhesive tape by an express order of the Principal. While making her routine rounds in the school, the Principal had found this student being 'very talkative" in her classroom. And as per her instant angry directions to the class teacher, a tape was pasted over the poor girl's mouth and the hapless student was made to stand outside the class room for over five hours without allowing her to have even lunch. The girl could pour out her feelings only to her parents, upon returning home. This is reported from a school in Hyderabad run by a couple who have, yes you have guessed it right, denied this incident.
We hear very crude and gruesome handling of children frequently from some place or the other. Recently, a Class V student was punished by her hostel-warden in the most inhuman way, for bed-wetting. The warden, it is reported, forced the poor child to lick her own urine-sodden blankets as a 'traditional' punishment to cure that problem of bed wetting! The traumatised girl is under treatment and that this mindless act should have taken place in Tagore's Viswabharathi University hostel, Kolkata is even more shocking.
Incidents of violence against children at schools galore. In January 2007, a ninth standard girl Sudali lost her eyesight when an angry teacher threw a tumbler on her for not answering a question. In October the same year, in Ahmedabad, Milan Tana, a 11-year-old boy was made to go around the playground under the scorching sun for coming late to school and the boy collapsed and fell dead at the start of the fifth round. It was heart-breaking to know of the shocking loss of life of 11-year-old Shanukhan in April 2009 in a Corporation School at Delhi. This poor girl was made to stand in a hen's posture with some brick stones loaded on her back for not being able to read a text in English who started bleeding through the nose profusely leading to her death subsequently.
Physical and verbal attacks against children affect the self-esteem of children and gets deeply rooted in their psyche forever. The kind of trauma they undergo prevails in their internal emotional plane and would haunt them every now and then crippling their normal behaviour. The corporal punishment has no place in any modern civil society though it continues to rule in several nations. The corporal punishment law, in India, permitted the teacher to make upto three cuts on hands, in the presence of the Headmaster. The Supreme Court has already banned this inhuman practice, but the cane-wielding teachers continue to argue that beating alone shapes the future of children.
The unfolding of childhood and the unleashing of innovative potentials of children is beyond description. At home or outside, at school or in playground, the natural shades of children surface in very amiable and conducive atmosphere. Needless to say, in hostile and intimidating environment, children tend to go into a shell and their wings stand clipped ruthlessly. Every child is special and each one is different from the other in ways more than one. In European countries, complaints by neighbours on parental beating of children itself draws serious action by the authorities. But in India, those who assault children can take umbrage under Sec 88 of the IPC that is intended to protect acts done in good faith! Similarly, Sec 89 of the same IPC lends protection to any act done in good faith (?) against children under 12 years or insane.
Much of the mindless violence against children is carried out under the garb of 'helping', 'protecting' or 'in the interest of future well being' of children. Sri S S Rajagopalan, an octogenarian, a senior educator and a former Headmaster swears that punishments would no way help mend or correct a child. Rather it would prove counter-productive, the senior expert in Education cites from his own experience. On the contrary, a passionate, understand and caring attitude could bring miracles in the behaviour of children, he states further. In the former Soviet Union, even a threatening glance at children could invite action against teachers as it was felt that children deserved better treatment at schools.
"Ayesha" is a novelette in Tamil by R Natarajan that has been translated into over 13 languages and the Tamil version alone has been sold in a few lakhs. What is so special about this fiction? It is a chilling narration of the tragic ending of a wonderful school girl who had thirst for knowledge. Hailing from a minority community and orphaned by loss of both the parents, Ayesha’s overenthusiastic pestering is met with cold and punitive reaction by every other teacher in the school. She is punished for helping her seniors to do sums. She is warned for raising questions in classroom. She is beaten for writing answers that go beyond their standard texts. The poor girl cries her heart out to a Science teacher, the sole soul that starts understanding the inquisitiveness and fire in that girl; but the life of this budding scientist ends when she by a mistaken understanding injects nitrous oxide into her own body to get numbness to withstand the beating of teachers. ‘Ayesha’ continues to shake the conscience of teachers and serves to be the best-recommended reading material for progressive social field workers to create an awakening among people.
Love and affection is the secret to win the hearts of children. However, the belief that a school shall look like an army camp to discipline and bring everything to an order does all havoc. Those who fail to attract the attention of children prefer to show their brutal power to humble them to satisfy their wounded ego. But those who lose themselves in the company of children earn their graceful attachment for a life-time. Silencing the children by the show of the pointing finger or a ruler destroys the fabric of togetherness in the classroom. On the contrary, free flow of air and light brightens and heightens the classroom in unimaginable proportions. A teacher willing to learn from his or her own students promotes the free thought process developing in children at that age. Such classrooms get relieved from the drudgery or burden. Harmonious music starts flowing across endlessly.
In that paradise, we could seldom find any mouth sealed with tapes or hands fractured or eyes blinded or a flower crushed.
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