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August 1, 2009

Corporal punishment

Spare the rod and spoil the child – the adage is fast losing its appeal and relevance in today’s changing educational environment. This is because corporal punishment often tends to assume extreme forms, causing serious physical harm as well as mental trauma on children subjected to such distressing experiences. Research has also established that the mental scars resulting from corporal punishment and emotional abuse are deep-rooted and can have a lifelong debilitating impact on child psychology. Above all, the child needs a liberating educational atmosphere and not repressive environs which choke both its creativity and natural curiosity to learn without fear and suppression. Some commonly-practised disciplinary measures such as twisting of ears, severe scolding, making students kneel down and stand outside classes, etc., also cause low self-esteem, aggression, depression and disrespect for authority among students. Any form of violence against children is neither justifiable nor acceptable, and corporal punishment in any form should have no place in educational institutions. Unfortunately, corporal punishment continues to be a widespread practice in India notwithstanding legal interventions. According to a report on child abuse prepared by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development covering 13 States, as many as 99.56 per cent students are subjected to physical punishment. Emotional abuse too is quite high, with 71.31 per cent students facing humiliation of some kind. Among the surveyed States, Assam recorded the highest incidence of emotional abuse through humiliation with 68.36 per cent of the students passing through such mental disturbance.

The State Government has now banned corporal punishment and a legislation to the effect is to be brought soon. Legal aspects apart, an attitudinal change in the society is critical to bringing about the desired transformation. Over the years corporal punishment has become a socially accepted norm for inculcating discipline, and wearing down this collective psyche would obviously take some time and effort. Raising awareness on this front – especially among teachers and parents – assumes a great deal of significance under the prevailing circumstances. A pertinent question vis-a-vis doing away with corporal punishment relates to enforcement of discipline in educational institutions and among children. Experts believe that the most important step towards ensuring discipline is helping them shed their fears and not through coercion which stifles creativity and original thinking in the name of discipline. ASSAM TRIBUNE

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