Tuesday, Jun 17, 2003
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VIOLENCE AGAINST A child is an unpardonable act. It needs to be condemned outright. Nothing can be more cruel than beating a child, which is often helpless in the face of adult might. And to spank it or cane it in a way that it feels ashamed to face the world is nothing short of barbarism. The case of a 16-year-old boy in Chennai who committed suicide after being thrashed by his schoolmaster underlines a sadistic tendency among a class of people entrusted with the wellbeing and welfare of children. If acts of teachers were to drive their students to death, it merely indicates a serious malaise in our society. It is unfortunate that many schools still have rules permitting corporal punishment. Obviously, many rules in India are misinterpreted to suit personal convenience and prejudice, and the guilty master probably went overboard in trying to discipline a boy. What is even more disturbing is the fact that the school concerned had reportedly pushed at least one more teenager to the precipice some time ago, besides regularly resorting to ugly forms of "detention". All these forms of retribution contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, and acceded to by India in 1992. Article 28 of the Convention provides: "State parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity".
Decried by psychologists and social scientists, these incidents of corporal punishment come at a time when India's school system is under severe strain. The syllabus is dominated by a textbook culture, which forces a child to cram for examination grades, rather than help him or her develop as rounded human beings with a fine sense of intelligence and a mind sensitive to the common good of the community and the suffering of a fellow being. In an increasingly fierce global scenario, where competition and consumerism blind men and women to rationality and reason, India's education structure refuses to incorporate imagination and pragmatism. It remains oblivious to the strides education has taken not only in the West but even in relatively newer regions, such as Australia or New Zealand, where course content is largely tailored to suit the interest and aspiration of a youngster.
India's education is handicapped in yet another way: an inadequate number of dedicated teachers. It is true that school-teachers continue to be ill-paid, and, obviously, the profession often attracts the mediocre or those who fail to find other jobs. Even those who are talented and are capable of moulding tomorrow's India soon fall into a rut of poverty and disrespect. The rod comes in handy for them to deal with their own resentment and anger against a society that is callously indifferent to their interests and betterment. The weak and helpless student is thus reduced to a punching bag. Such bodily abuse can affect a boy or a girl for life. Research has revealed that corporal punishment is not merely ineffective, but also makes children defiant, rebellious and hostile. They can develop a warped personality; they can become spouse beaters, molesters, rapists. What is more, they begin to believe that might is right, and that violence is the answer to most problems.
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