Six students from Chaitanya Bharathi School at Punganur in Andhra’s Chittoor district were forced to strip naked as a punishment for being late to school on Wednesday morning. A video of the shocking incident shows six students aged 9-10 years, belonging to class 3 and 4, standing naked in the hot sun, with their pants down to their ankles and their arms up in the air. The boys stand outside their classroom, even as other students pass by.
The private school, located in the interiors of Chittoor, is run and owned by the school principal Maharaja Naidu, who is on the run after the video came to the attention of child rights activists. According to child rights activists, the students’ parents allege that it was the principal who humiliated the students by asking them to remove their clothes for being late to school. Some parents also say that the kids were punished for not performing their homework. The parents have been staging a protest in front of the school from Thursday morning.
Speaking to TNM, Achyuta Rao, president of Hyderabad-based child rights organisation Balala Hakula Sangham, alleges that not just the principal, but the Mandal Educational Officer (MEO) is also colluding with the school authorities and is trying to hush up the issue.
“Our organisation had a word with the MEO. Instead of immediately cancelling the recognition of the school, the MEO Leela Rani is trying to cover up the issue and has said that she will be taking up the matter with the higher authorities. Is that how an issue of such serious nature has to be dealt with? The principal of the school should be booked under POCSO Act as it’s a clear case of exploiting the children’s modesty. The children should also be given psychological counselling in the aftermath of such a traumatic experience,” Rao said.
Balala Hakula Sangham has filed a complaint with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and has demanded that action be taken under the POCSO Act. Until now, the police have not registered a case against the school management.
Speaking to the local media, Chittoor DEO B Pratap Reddy, said an investigation into the issue is underway and that the school’s recognition for the academic year 2019-2020 could be withdrawn.