Disciplining the child

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has expanded the definition of corporal punishment; however, its guidelines reflect the flux that society is in, says
Roopinder Singh

MY son had been slapped, and he felt that he had not done anything wrong. At a subsequent parent-teacher meeting, as a concerned parent, I went to the school to find out what had transpired. The lady in the line in front of me was telling the teacher that her son did not study hard enough. “Ma’m Please make him work, he needs a couple of slaps before he gets started. Don’t spare the rod. We have to keep him on the right track.” She took off in this vein. When my turn came, I told the teacher that I had exactly the opposite problem, my child was a sensitive and disciplined student, he needed a different kind of treatment and he felt that he had been wrongly punished for something that he had not done. After an investigation, it turned out that he was right and the teacher concerned did address the issue.However, this incident brought home two distinct views on punishment. Is corporal punishment justified? Was it right to slap a student? How is the justness of punishment to be established?

The incident took place years ago, but the debate still rages on and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has taken it further by issuing a directive that has expanded the definition of corporal punishment to included acts such as slapping, rapping on the knuckles, making students kneel down or stand up for long hours, sitting like a chair and beating with a scale, pinching and slapping, locking up student alone in classrooms and making a child run in the school.

Not limiting itself to physical acts alone, the commission has also come down heavily on the use of foul and abusive language. A teacher can be jailed for calling a child “idiot” or “stupid” or “mindless”. Even something as common as impositions like asking the students to write that they will not repeat their mistakes in class are now considered corporal punishment.

Is there anyone who has not been punished in school? Actually for most of us, indiscipline, and thereafter punishment was very much a part of school life. Many a time it was, especially for boys, corporal punishment involving physical pain, something that was taken as a part of the growing process.

Corporal punishment is rightly condemned worldwide today, and there is no doubt that all too distressingly often students are abused by teachers who lose control and as a result of this, sometimes, children are injured, even killed. Those who perpetuate these acts deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.

However, there is another side to the problem too. The NCPCR directive says that a First Information Report (FIR) must be filed against teachers accused of punishing children. School administrators and teachers are understandably edgy about being harassed, and these provisions being misused. They insist that teachers must have certain means to discipline children. While this provision must be invoked in case of serious abuse of children, including are child sexual abuse, torture, electric shocks, inflicting injuries on children, it can also be misused by students and their parents.

As a teacher put it: “If the child needs to be punished for something, what is wrong with making him run around the grounds provided he is hale and hearty? These days the parents themselves are not raising disciplined children. If the school also does not help in disciplining this generation where are we headed?”
The NCPCR guidelines, no doubt, reflect the flux that the society is in. No doubt, sometimes even corrective actions need correction. However, the commission has done well to bring to the fore what was often brushed under the carpet-the abuse of disciplinary powers given to teachers.