A four-member team finds corporal punishment continues in many schools, writes T. SARAVANAN

Despite numerous campaigns and demonstrations against corporal punishment in schools, there are more than 70 different kinds of punishments in practice even today, according to a study conducted by a group of college students under the Verugal (Roots) Trust.

“ The word punishment,” says S.Balakrishnan, the guide for the study, “sounds negative.” . “Students are not criminals to be punished. Their mischief should be taken in the right spirit and what they need is correction and not punishment,” he says.

But there is a general perception that students can be disciplined only through punishments.

This team set off to find out whether schoolteachers impose punishments, what kind of punitive actions are they and how it affects the students.

The four-member team met students from 60 schools under the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Matriculation boards, Government and aided schools.

“The intensity of punishments may have reduced after concerted efforts, but the punishment continues in some way or the other,” points out, S. Saradha Devi, one of the team members.

Stressful

“In most of the cases, punishment is not for any mischief in class but for poor performance in tests. Hapless students, who are not up to the mark, are subjected to immense stress. Teachers, in their attempt to make the students get more marks, punish them,” says R. Mathivanan, another team member.

Many schools have refrained themselves from corporal punishment after the government ban but punishments such as pinching, bullying, knuckle knocking on head, making the students kneel down, twisting ears, throwing dusters at students, blows on back, making the students clean the laboratory and playground are still practiced. .

“Any punishment is meant to correct a person and should not alienate the person from the mainstream,” says Balakrishnan. “Teachers should provide students an opportunity to correct themselves,” he asserts.

The team found some schools were following both inclusive and exclusive punishments.

“Under inclusive punishments, a student is forced to write impositions and do all menial work and run errands. Under exclusive punishments a student is isolated, humiliated and finally forced to drop out of school,” says Balakrishnan.

According to the study, Matriculation residential schools are more active in punishing students than other schools. Fifty students from each stream were randomly asked to grade their schools in relation to punishments. Matriculation residential schools topped the list giving 60 points followed by Matriculation schools with 50. ICSE schools were more student-friendly registering 20 points while Government and Aided schools were rated with 40 and 35 points respectively.

Cameras to monitor students

According to team member Sri Rama Subramanian, some schools have also installed surveillance cameras in classrooms to monitor the students. “It is totally unacceptable because students’ privacy is at stake. It creates a fear psychosis among students,” he says.

On one hand, educationists are trying to address the issue of dropouts by bringing the students back to classrooms and on the other some teachers are taking it out on students by punishing them.

Under such circumstances, how are we going to implement the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Education for all) scheme? asks Balakrishnan.

Based on their findings, the team has suggested school managements to organise orientation course for their faculty members and also start counselling centres for both students and teachers.

“Like colleges,” says Balakrishnan, “schools should also have the system of appointing mentor for every 15 students, who will be in charge of students’ progress and address their personal problems.” Once this works out, studying in schools will be more of a pleasure than pain for the students,” he adds.