BANGALORE: ‘No child shall be subjected to physical punishment and mental harassment’, says clause 17, Chapter IV of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act.
During a visit last week to a government school in JC Nagar, a group of 20 bare-footed children were seen practising ‘attention’ and ‘stand at ease’. The Kannada medium students were intimidated not so much by the English commands as the trainer brandishing a cane. Every once in a while, he summoned a child and wielded his cane.
That corporal punishment was being practised with impunity in the school only underlined how the crucial aspect of ban on corporal punishment in RTE has been overshadowed in all the heat generated over the 25% quota.
According to RTE rules notified by the state government, the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) is tasked with protecting the rights of child. It has to monitor and enquire into grievances or complaints of violation of child rights and initiate action. But here is the catch. The commission can act only if parents register a complaint.
“Although we have registered around 1,000 cases of corporal punishment in the last three years, the number is insignificant given the scale at which it’s being practised in schools. A majority of the cases we have taken up are suo motu. People are not aware of establishments like KSCPCR,” said Vasudeva Sharma, executive director, Child Rights Trust, who was till recently a member of KSCPCR.
The law says that a school development and monitoring committee shall be the grievance redressal authority in case of aided schools. For private unaided schools, the Karnataka Education Act 1983 has suggested the establishment of an education appellate tribunal.
“After the child complains, the parents are expected to contact the head of the institution. In case such incidents continue, the parent can register a complaint at the KSCPCR office or with the respective block education officer (BEO). BEOs are both empowered to act on such complaints,” said Sarv Siksha Abhiyana consultant AS Seetharamu, who feels that it is the civil society that has to be pro-active in such cases.
‘We’ve banished cane’
Karnataka State Private Schools Managements Federation organizing secretary T Shashi Kumar admitted that corporal punishment was meted out not only in government schools but also in private schools.
“Total eradication will take some time. We have advised our member-schools to constitute child right clubs and have complaint boxes. The complaint box should not reveal the child’s identity. Managements are taking all measures to ban corporal punishment, but I feel that a minimum disciplinary punishment should be allowed and this certainly does not include the cane. Canes or sticks are prohibited in all our 800 member-schools,” said Shashi.
It is banned
“We had issued a circular a month ago about banning corporal punishment. But now that this incident has come to light, I will issue another circular. This time, schools will be asked to put up the circular on a notice board so that even children are aware about their rights.”
Devprakash |Director, primary education
Let teachers decide
“There are kids who can be handled with love, but there are some who cannot be improved without some kind of punishment. I feel freedom should be given to teachers in this regard. Teachers raising the voice or giving a small pat expressing they are unhappy should not be construed as corporal punishment.”
Nigar Sulthana | Principal, Cambridge Public School
Talking will help
“Corporal punishment is banned in our school. If a child indulges in some mischief, we immediately call the parents and talk to them. We believe that talking to a child will help. In case of any violation of the rule by teachers, kids are free to walk up to me and talk about it.”
The Times of India, 09 July 2012