Against corporal punishment

Corporal punishment is no longer permitted in schools.
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When we were students of primary, secondary and even higher secondary schools, corporal punishment would be considered by many as an integral part of education. The disapproved dictum “Spare the rod and spoil the child” of today was then regarded as a truth universally. Then the teachers adhered to an loco parentis approach when dealing with students. They were considered authority figures granted the same rights as parents to discipline and punish children in their care if they did not stick to the set rules.

In those days, the teachers with the power of inventing novel ideas of corporal punishment were respected with high esteem. Even the students after leaving schools would frequently remember those teachers who were famous or notorious for beating students mercilessly. Therefore, to a large number of particularly inattentive pupils, school was nothing but a ‘compulsory purgatory’. They would very often try to play truant.

During my school life, I got a few teachers who enjoyed inflicting physical pain on the students. Their range of punishment would not be limited to flogging, spanking, twisting ears, pinching or pounding. A teacher in our primary school would make us kneel down on the floor covered with small gravel. It was then very painful for us as we would then wear short half pants with knees uncovered. Another teacher during that time would bring in his pocket a few small broken pieces of burnt clayware. When he twisted our ears, he would fix a small clay piece in the earlobes to make the pain more excruciating. Murga punishem was another most stressful punishment applied by our headmaster. A student had to squat, loop his arms behind his knees and hold his earlobes in a pose resembling that of a chicken laying an egg.

When we were promoted to the high school, we came across another teacher who was popularly known as tailoring sir. He was appointed to teach tailoring. But when the subject was no longer in the school curriculum, he would teach drawing to the students of class five. But he was in charge of visiting every class during recess periods to maintain discipline. He was a terror. Being a bodybuilder, he was so powerful that he would grab us by our neck with just two fingers and lift up and release us from a few feet above the ground. He would sometimes clutch with both hands the locks of the students with long hair and hoist them from the ground. There was a teacher who taught us Sanskrit. He was very strict about ‘Dhaturup’ (conjugation) and ‘Shabdarup’ (descriptor). It was a gruelling task to remember them by heart. If a student made a little mistake, he would be flogged from top to bottom mercilessly. However, almost all the teachers were more or less ingrained with the idea that there was no alternative to corporal punishment to make both obedient and disobedient students men in the true sense of the term.

Above all, strictness and starkness exhibited by a teacher would then be considered as a quality by the parents and guardians. Unlike today, the students were scared of complaining against their teachers to the parents in fear of another prospective phase of beating by the latter.

But today, the scenario has changed drastically. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 prohibits ‘physical punishment’ and ‘mental harassment’ under Section 17(1) and makes it a punishable offence under Section 17(2). What is surprising to notice is that despite the abolition of corporal punishment the teacher-student relationship has been degenerating day by day. Therefore, a question arises in our mind whether the absence of the loco parentis approach of the teachers is responsible for the deterioration of this sacred relationship.

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