Spare the rod and let the child grow
Kashmir debates corporal punishment as video showing teacher hitting a student goes viral
Last week, a video clip showing a teacher repeatedly slapping a student’s face —18 times in less than a minute— at a coaching center in Srinagar went viral on social media, causing widespread outrage among the masses.
The public uproar over the incident prompted authorities to take cognizance, and eventually, police registered an FIR and arrested the erring teacher. He was released next day only after the court granted him bail.
Besides causing outrage against the teacher, the incident has also generated a debate on corporal punishment, which like most countries is illegal in India. Many believe that even though corporal punishment is banned, the teacher did not deserve the shame and ridicule he was subjected to. Some say that physical punishment has always been a part of the teaching-learning process in Kashmir and the purpose of the practice has always been to discipline a child.
The opposing view, however, argues that the discipline should not be about harming and humiliating students while as the experts also emphasize adhering to the ban on corporal punishment. They say that only a child-friendly environment at schools and in homes would ensure their personality growth. They believe that causing physical pain or discomfort and psychological humiliation to children of any age has its negative impact on the personality development of the children, and even can cause behavioural problems among the students.
To have a comprehensive expert opinion on the subject, KASHMIR IMAGES spoke to several experts and concerned people.
I may not doubt the intention of the teacher who was seen beating a student in the captured video. It is, however, obvious that he has not been trained for the job of teaching. Even if, we accept that it was only for the well-being of the student that the teacher took this extreme step, we have to acknowledge the fact that the said teacher is not fit for the job. He doesn’t know the basic rule that corporal punishment is no longer acceptable in this era.
Earlier, there were lot of teachers who had their own traditions; they had their own body of knowledge and body of customs, the body of traditions and body of convention. They used to justify corporal punishment by saying ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’.
However, now we are living in an entirely different world. It is an era of Artificial Intelligence. Now, instead of a ‘Teaching and Learning’ paradigm, it is the ‘Teaching-Learning’ process. Like the past, it is not that a teacher is a ‘giver’ and a student is a ‘receiver’, rather it is now that both teacher and student simultaneously have to go through a learning process. The new century has given us a new concept of a ‘transformational teacher’. Now, we do not need teachers by chance, rather we need teachers by choice. We need the teachers who have opted to teaching as a profession and a career with a conscious choice and with a duly prepared mindset. The skill specialization is now the most important part of a teacher; a teacher has to be ready for a lifelong learning process.
We, better sooner than later, should adopt the new concepts of the teaching-learning process. Unfortunately, there is no concept of teacher training in private schools, except in a few of the elite ones. As director education, in 2007, I had given a proposal to the government suggesting that government training institutions should be thrown open for inducing private school teachers. The idea is still relevant and imperative because we have more improved infrastructure available now. We have an established State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) and also we have many more resources, which are underutilized. Therefore, I would suggest that let us start a proper teacher training process extensively in both private and public sector education so that incidents like this do not occur.
Children of any age are sensitive by their nature. They are like tender plants which need special care and a conducive atmosphere for their perfect growth. If not provided with a proper environment for their nourishment they may grow up with an imbalanced personality. It is an established fact that every child is born with tremendous potential, which requires to be tapped through an atmosphere that cultivates confidence and creativity in the child.
Given these proven facts, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has emphasized several basic things including the prohibition of corporal punishment. Almost all the countries are signatory to this international agreement about the cultural rights of children. The world has reached this agreement after decades of study and thorough deliberations by experts.
Corporal punishment is also banned as per the law of the land. Not to talk of physical harm to a child, you cannot subject him or her to any kind of abuse. It is simply illegal. Being a principal of a B, Ed college where teachers are taught how to deal with students, I am strictly against physical punishment. While providing soft skills training to the teachers we teach them how to deal with children. We may not be at par with the developed societies in terms of providing training to the teachers; however, we try our level best to make them understand how to deal with children.
Since I have also studied child psychology, I can tell you that physical harm to children could affect their mental health as well. Corporal punishment, therefore, is unacceptable at all. I have watched the video and would say that such behavior is simply not acceptable. A teacher essentially is a counselor, a friend, a guide, and a philosopher to a child. To ensure children express their view without hesitation, teachers must have to develop a friendly atmosphere with them.
Beating or humiliating a child can lead to low self confidence, low motivation, self-critical attitude, which can further affect the academics and the child’s performance in daily life. They won’t feel the same about the place where they were punished; a mix feeling of hatred, anger, and guilt will change their perception. Once favourite place, can become the most disliked place for the child. They would resist to go to school or tuitions and may isolate themselves.
Severe corporal punishment doesn’t just end with the physical marks, its scars continue in later stages of life where these children may develop hostile personality traits and become aggressive in their nature. Such experiences are known Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Dating back to few decades- corporal punishment was a norm; considered normal for imparting discipline in children and used as a reformative measure, but over the years, researches have revealed the consequences of this practice.
We need to be more sensitive about our children considering they already have a baggage of ongoing conflict that has already affected them in many ways. Any small trauma can cause severe damage. If compared with children across the globe – Kashmir lacks adequate and healthy environment for their overall mental development. Quoting my clinical experience, I often see children who have behavioural issues, developed symptoms of anxiety or depression due to their ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) somewhere connected to the conflict related situation of Kashmir. They have lost interest, prefer to be alone, and suffer breakdowns on trivial things.
Already being so fragile, emotionally and psychologically, we need to be more particular as adults about the experiences of our children particularly in controlled situations like schools, colleges, tuition or at home.
As experts suggest, schools should have psychologists/counsellors who would not only cater to the issues of the students but create an atmosphere of safety and easy expression for children. In Kashmir coaching centres are trending since past few decades, these centres should also have visiting counsellors or some similar arrangement where children will have an open window to vent their feelings.
Corporal punishment won’t serve any good, change comes from within, be on a level where your child or your student gets motivated by your words and not by your harsh actions.
I was utterly shocked to see the video showing a teacher repeatedly slapping a young student. In a minute-long video, one could see the teacher hitting him more than ten times on his face. I immediately passed on the clip to some child welfare officials requesting them to look into the matter. I wonder what would be the state of mind of this boy after facing this ruthlessness. Given the fact that, unlike the previous generation, our children are emotionally more sensitive, this youngster could have taken any extreme step after facing such abuse. This incident is even beyond the definition of corporal punishment. The behaviour of the teacher, seen in the video, can be neither morally nor legally acceptable.
Under section 17 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2019, physical punishment and mental harassment is prohibited. In case the child is grievously hurt, emotionally or physically, the action can also be initiated under section 325 of the Indian Penal Code against the erring teacher. We also have something called Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in place here. Under this law there are Juvenile Justice Boards established in every district of J&K. The concerned board also has the mandate to initiate action against such teachers.
Given this particular incident, parents need to be vigilant to ensure that their children are not subjected to corporal punishment anywhere —neither at home nor in school or tuition center. They must also understand that since educational institutions have turned into a commercial industry, the schools and tuition centers are obligated to employ the teachers who are not only educationally well qualified but also having knowledge about the child rights and child psychology. Children of all ages are vulnerable minds; they should be treated with compassion.
Unfortunately, we have developed a culture of cruelty against the child in our society and our kids are on the receiving end. As a child rights lawyer, I can tell with my experience that the practice of corporal punishment still exists in our society despite the ban. All this is happening at a time when experts across the world are emphasizing creating Child-Friendly School system for the well-being of new generation. Worse, we lack redressal agencies such as a Child Rights Commission in Kashmir, which could have ensured the rights of children are protected.
It is only because of social media that the video reached the concerned authorities. However, I would request the people that since the case has been reported and the authorities have taken cognizance of the incident, they should stop sharing the video on social media because it can also subject the particular child to further humiliation and hurt. It is the duty of the authorities to ensure that the video is removed from the internet.
I came to know about this regrettable incident only after the video got viral on social media websites. The incident has occurred on April 9. It was the same day when we decided to close down our institution for few days because some people at our workplace had tested Covid positive. Also, neither the student nor his parents had brought this matter to our notice.
Honestly speaking, I am shocked. More because the concerned teacher is considered well-reputed and he is also having ten years of teaching experience. However, what he has done is simply unacceptable because beating up a student is an illegal act. As an initial action against him, we have prohibited him from taking classes anymore. I have also publicly apologized for what has happened and I will ensure no such incident occurs at our coaching center in the future.
First of all, let me say that whatever has happened in the coaching center is unfortunate and the action of the teacher, in any case, cannot be justified.
Considering the gravity of the incident, the coaching centres association, immediately called a meeting to discuss the issue. To ensure no such incident happens in the future, we took a few decisions. First, we decided that every coaching centre will establish a counselling cell to look into the student-related complaints if any. Second, we decided that no teacher would be allowed to take any sort of action against any erring student, rather the counselling cell will look into the matter, and the concerned parents will be taken on board if needed. Third, we decided that CCTV cameras should mandatorily be installed at every coaching centre and these cameras must be functional all the time. Forth, we have decided that, like in schools, the teachers in coaching centres will be provided soft skills training to ensure that they know how to deal with the students. Lastly, we have decided that in the teacher recruitment process, the personal behaviour of the candidate would be considered imperative. The minutes of the meeting have been passed on to all coaching centres across Kashmir.
That said, let me also say that since an FIR stands registered against the teacher and the case is before the court, the administration should not initiate a separate investigation into the matter. Let the teacher face the law through the judicial system. Also, I would say that since the teachers and children have been going through a psychological depression for the past two years; the administration must come forward to look into some issues, which if sorted out, would provide some relief to both the teachers and children. For example, the government can help to provide soft skills training to the teachers of private schools and coaching centres as well, the way government school teachers are being provided. As we are facing tough times due to the pandemic, the government must, at least for a time being, stop the discrimination between private and public sector schooling.