Corporal punishment – and shattered dreams of children

By Arun Anand, IANS,

Muzaffarpur (Bihar) : “I wish I could fly in the sky and come out in the light from this darkness,” says 10-year-old Pradip, who left school last year after being beaten severely by a teacher, as tears swell in his eyes.

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His father, a labourer, was not interested in sending him to school but Pradip’s mother supported him initially. In June 2008, Pradip was physically abused and thrown out of a local government school by his class teacher for not completing his class assignments.

Pradip came home crying. That was his last day in the school. His mother did not question the teacher and told Pradip to stay back home and help in the household work. Pradip wants to resume his studies. But he does not see any hope.

This is one of the case studies prepared by Sushila Rani, a Class 6 student in one of the small villages of Bihar. She, along with 19 others, conducted a field survey last year to highlight the plight of children suffering from corporal punishment in local government schools.

These children have come out with around a dozen such case studies highlighting the incidents where children either drop out of the schools or lose interest in studies due to corporal punishment.

The survey was conducted recently in around two dozen schools in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Sitamarhi districts of Bihar.

“These children were trained to conduct interviews and pen down the findings in two training workshops specifically designed for them and held in Muzaffarpur last year,” said Sanjiv Kumar Mishra, programme cocoordinator (learning and child rights) with Adithi, a non-governmental organisation which facilitated the survey as a part of the “Young Hearts project” that focuses on child rights.

“More than 100 children and 15 teachers from these schools were interviewed by children. They devised their own questionnaires and then on the basis of answers provided by the children and teachers came up with their own findings and case studies,” he said.

“Children face a lot of physical and emotional trauma in schools due to corporal punishment. This affects their studies and many of them stop attending school altogether,” observed Sushila in the survey report.

Sushila, a member of the survey team, went to one of the schools in Athri in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district and interviewed several students and teachers.

In another case study, she mentioned Roshan, a student in a local government school, who was a victim of verbal abuse. “He no longer attends the school after an incident in which he was verbally abused by a teacher during lunch break when he was trying to get mid-day meal,”

Shankar, a Class 10 student and one of the members of the survey team, interviewed Chotan, Soni, Kamlesh, Pooja, Ganga and Asha, all students in a local government school.

“They told us that if they are not able to attend school for a day or two, the teachers beat them with a cane. They even hit them on the head. But no one objects to this. The teachers never ask why they did not come to the school.”

The findings of this survey are being published in a children’s newspaper “Hamari Awaaz (Our Voice)”. The monthly newspaper is brought out in Hindi by the children with support from Adithi and Plan India and distributed in the local community to raise awareness about child rights.

“The survey was part of the Young Hearts project under which several organisations across the country are focusing on issues like bullying, substance abuse, corporal punishment and discrimination affecting children in schools,” Mishra said.

(Arun Anand can be contacted at [email protected])