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To cane or not to cane

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Corporal punishment An uncivilised measure
Corporal punishment An uncivilised measure

So much can be achieved without wielding the stick

A forgotten notebook, an unpolished shoe or chatting with a bench-mate during class hours always elicits one result: an annoyed teacher.

However, the way an upset teacher reacts varies. There can be abrupt silence that puts you to shame or chalk pieces can zoom your way or the lean-and-mean cane can do the talking with your palms (and elsewhere!).

Then, the spring in your step goes missing. All that remains are tear-filled eyes, and an angry pink streak, threatening to turn purple across the unfolded palm.

In a few instances there could also be snipping off of dainty locks. In 2002 in Chandigarh, a physical instruction teacher sheared off the hair of two students.

They were being punished for not getting a haircut despite several reminders.

Obeying orders

While the Government may have banned corporal punishment, one always wonders if it is possible for schools to strictly adhere to the orders.

And, questions about sparing the rod and spoiling the child continue to remain unanswered.

Says Christopher Dhanabal a teacher: “Teachers must not be gagged or their hands, tied. They must be given the liberty to admonish the students to solve issues such as quarrelling, biting, beating, stealing, etc. Because, as gurus, teachers have the responsibility of shaping their students.”

Surekha Nair, principal of Vivekalaya Matriculation School says: “When a child is beaten, it believes that the language of anger is beating, and it starts using physical violence on others. Further, beating only makes him or her stubborn.”

Exercise self restraint

This is something that everyone agrees upon: no violence. Dhanabal says that teachers should exercise self-restraint and discretion; there should not be any room for physical harm.

V. Subramanian, educationist says that caning does not reform a person. Instead, it lets the person to continue to err.

So, what is the alternative? Is it possible to do away with the rod? “Yes”, says Surekha.

“Talking. We talk to the students to find out why they behave the way they do. Sometimes, their behaviour is the result of low self-esteem or neglect. We ask the parents to treat them the way we treat the children at school – no beating”.

Purni Krishnakumar, Consultant Special Educationist, says that there are many ways of disciplining children, without wielding a stick.

“Teachers could use time-out from play time or a favourite activity. For instance, a homework defaulter can be made to complete the work during the break or made to sit in a corner for talking . Children should be taught to face the consequence. But, where discipline is absolutely vital, corporal punishment is not. While mild punishments may not cause psychological scars, corporal punishment may give rise to school phobia.”

Agrees T. Anju, a teacher and mother of two. “The school follows a discipline chart, wherein erring students get a black mark and the obedient ones get a star. Discipline monitors are appointed for each class, and the most disciplined students bag gifts at the end of every week. The cooperation of parents is also very important in bringing about order in children.”

T. Haritha, a Class VI student in the same school says that the best row, best bench, best boy and best girl are chosen by virtue of their behaviour.

Taking it a step ahead, Subramaniam says that moral instruction classes help a long way in disciplining students. Even group sports increase healthy competition among students, thus eliminating rivalry.

“The rapport with the class teacher, who is seen as a second mother, also lets the students realise their responsibility towards the teacher, the class, the school, their parents, and even society as a whole,” he says.

W. SREELALITHA

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