Respect for mankind, kindness towards the human race, caring for others… virtues we’ve grown up with…principles instilled by our parents and more importantly by teachers. As someone wisely said “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that whatever success we achieve at any front of our lives, a great deal depends on how we’ve been sculpted by life altering people…teachers. While growing up, I came to feel sincere admiration and regard for the fraternity of teachers and educationalists, which was pertinent until repeated incidents of most horrid nature, rattled and scathed my faith. Whether it be news regarding teachers bashing up little ones for not doing their homework or answering questions incorrectly or even for dressing up imperfectly… or incidents involving molestation or sexual abuse… looks like schools are increasingly becoming favoured crime spots for a bunch of mentally disarrayed people who’re unfortunately serving in these schools. As a mother of a toddler who’s soon to start attending school, I’m petrified thinking about what my child will face there. What if he’s punished harshly in light of ‘imparting discipline’, what if he’s reprimanded beyond repair for being mischievous? All such thoughts are giving me sleepless nights. Even if I come to think of other children, by no means does any child deserves to be ill-treated…forget corporal punishment. If the one soul who’s supposed to be a role model and bear the responsibility of moulding little ones, goes and ravages their psychology, such a teacher merits the harshest of penalty. School administrations are no less liable. It is plausible that excess commercialization of the education sector is a major cause of growing frustration amongst teachers who’re given overcrowded classrooms to handle with multiple batches running through the day. Considering they’re humans, they might cross the threshold at times and act adversely. However, that certainly cannot be considered as an excuse to mishandle little children as a teacher is expected to practice patience and poise. I’m not blaming every teacher or educationalist for the current situation but a handful of people, who don’t deserve to call themselves as ‘teachers’ are blotting the entire fraternity. We all have our own demons and it is in our power to disallow them to overcome our senses and rational thinking. Each one of us is battling with daily struggles in life…to survive, to move ahead of others… but at what cost? If such insanity will prevail wherein the pillars of the nation will be the ones who’re harming its future generations, we’ll be left with a country full of emotionally battered children with their little immaculate, innocent minds wounded and scarred for life. But who cares…not my problem… right?
Can you strip your children naked when they do not complete homework? Can you then make them stand in the street, in full public view, for nearly 30 minutes? Can you then hope to get away after facing some half-hearted condemnation and a few unconvincing voices of protest? Horrific and impossible though this sounds, you can get away virtually scot-free after doing all this and more, aided by a corroded judicial system and abysmally-low conviction rates. On March 12, a tuition class management in Mumbai made two of their students stand outside in the street, after making them strip. Their fault: They did not complete the homework given to them! So, these kids – both boys, both under 10 years – were thus ‘punished’! Ganesh Nayar, the tuition class owner, and Saroj Jaiswal, a teacher, were arrested. A case was registered against them under Sections 75 and 82 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2014. While this may appear to be ‘swift action’, a close look at the two sections of the Juvenile Justice Act 2014 will reveal it to be a mere ‘eyewash’. Section 75 says, “No report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law, involved in such matter.” Section 82 states, “Any person who sells or buys a child for any purpose shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to a fine of Rs 1 Lakh: Provided that such offence is committed by a person having actual charge of the child…” Effectively, Section 75 prohibits disclosing the identity of the child involved and Section 82 involves punishment for ‘buying’ or ‘selling’ a child. So, how is this relevant to the case in question? Was a child being ‘bought’ or ‘sold’ here? As regards the identity of the children involved in this shocking incident, that is easy to determine, in contravention of Section 75 above, since names of the tuition class owners are public knowledge. What does this incident reveal about the mentality and motivations of a ‘modern’ society, of which the most vulnerable constituents are children? In one news report, Ganesh Nayar, the owner, defended his act of stripping the kids by pinning the blame on their parents. He went on to state that the kids’ parents were present at the tuition class when they were stripped and it was at their insistence that the punishment was carried out! If true, this disclosure is even more shocking than the punishment. For, what kind of mental make-up would make parents subject their wards to such public humiliation? And startling though it might appear, it is a fact that children in India are most at risk from adults they ‘trust’ most. Statistics point out how most crimes in a family in India – rape, child abuse, murder, domestic violence – are committed by close family members, relatives and friends. In 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of rape cases registered in the country was 37,413. Out of these, the number of cases in which offenders were known to victims was 32,187, a shocking 86%! Among these, the total number of cases in which offenders were related to the victim was 12,207. These relatives included the victim’s grandfather, father, brother, son, close family members and other relatives. Again, according to NCRB figures, 89,423 cases of crimes against children, including incest rape, were registered in the year 2014. Among the perpetrators, a very high percentage was ‘known to the victims’. According to UNICEF, violence against children can be “physical and mental abuse and injury, neglect or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse. Violence may take place in homes, schools, orphanages, residential care facilities, on the streets, in the workplace, in prisons and in places of detention.” In its Guidelines for Eliminating Corporal Punishment in Schools, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) makes clear that positive intervention is the only way forward in addressing ‘disciplinary’ concerns involving children. “Some behaviours of children are perceived by schools and teachers as problematic and the prevalent practice is to respond to them with punishment of varying degrees.” NCPCR suggests that while most situations be ‘handled’ by the teacher concerned, in trickier instances, the school should have a clear protocol to guide teachers about which situation needs assessment and intervention by a school counsellor and which one needs immediate intimation to higher authorities at school and to the parents. “If an attempt at resolving the problem is not satisfactory, parents could then be referred to a specialist (a child and adolescent psychiatrist or a counsellor),” the guidelines state. Such instances as the one in the Mumbai tuition class strip children not only of their clothes but also of their dignity, their confidence and their childhood in the name of educating them. Ultimately, it is respect for another human being, even if it is a little human, that should be paramount. It is about a fundamental change in attitudes … the ability to love, respect, have compassion for and make fun-filled and free-from-fear learning the right of every child!