On Friday, five Intermediate students from Payakaraopeta in the district were admonished by their college principal and were made to stand in the sun for being late to the class. Hours later, the students ended up at King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam. However, both the students and their parents were reluctant to register a complaint against the college principal when the police approached them as they preferred not to make the issue public for fear of strained relations with the principal and the college management.
This incident reflects the mindset of students and parents who are reluctant to make the corporal punishment an issue in the public fearing that it would affect the future of the child. Many such incidents keep occurring in Vizag and its surrounding areas particularly in schools, despite the ban on corporal punishment in the State. However, not many are reported to either the police or the education department officials.
“Recently, my daughter was hospitalised after being beaten up by her teacher for not completing her homework. We wanted to take up the issue with the officials but decided not to lodge a complaint after holding discussions with the school management and sorting out the issue amicably,” said Arvind Sarma, a textile merchant. He said that though parents want to protect their children from punishment, they cannot risk the careers of their children.
According to a survey conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) across seven States including Andhra Pradesh last year, about 99 per cent children had experienced some kind of stern punishment in school. While caning topped the punishments, slapping got the second place followed by abusing. Other types of common punishments given to children include: Making to stand in the sun and kneel down, sit ups, making to stand on the bench in the classroom, and pinching apart from emotional punishments. Sections 16 and 17 of the Right to Education Act (RTE) ban corporal punishment, both mental and physical, or expulsion from school.
Despite lack of official statistics as many cases go unreported, psychiatrists and children counsellors in the city say that they receive at least two cases of corporal punishment every day. “Several parents complain about physical torture and harassment faced by their children in various private schools in the city, indicating a rise in corporal punishment cases. But many do not reach the authorities concerned to enable them initiate stringent action and thus, ensure punishment-free studies for children,” said Dr Radhakrishna, a psychiatrist.
Radhakrishna said that most of the victims of corporal punishment do not even know that it is a crime and has been banned.
Surprisingly, even teachers themselves do not understand the difference between child abuse and discipline, and thus, go to extreme lengths sometimes in an attempt to discipline their students. “Every teacher must undergo training on how to tackle children, however problematic they may be,” he said, adding that most teachers are not taught how to deal with small children, who are the main victims of corporal punishment.
Agreeing with him, Visakhapatnam District Education Officer B Lingeswara Reddy said that unlike cities like Chennai and Hyderabad, the awareness of corporal punishment as an offence is lacking among students, parents and teachers in Visakhapatnam. He emphasised the need for awareness programmes to educate students, parents and teachers about corporal punishment. “We tried to conduct awareness programmes in the schools but due to cyclones and agitations, it could not be implemented. But we intend to conduct the awareness programmes in the initial months of the next academic year,” he added.
Interestingly, both officials and child counsellors point out that the corporal punishment cases are reported more in private schools than in government schools, indicating the need for creating awareness against corporal punishment immediately.
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