On Thursday, parents of several students filed a complaint against a teacher in a panchayat school in Madurai for beating their children.
The issue came to light after Armugam, the parent of a Class I student, questioned the teacher Kannigadevi for beating his son. The teacher abused the parent, following which many parents protested against the teacher. The teacher was immediately transferred by the education department.
However, the very next day, another case was registered, this time, by a parent in Tirupur. This case was against a teacher who beat up a pre-KG student for not eating lunch.
Even as parents are seething over repeated incidents of corporal punishment by teachers, education activists believe that in many cases, parents are also at fault along with teachers. â€śIn Tamil Nadu, teachers are not given proper training. Parents expect students to get good marks, so they keep telling the teachers to be hard on the student,â€ť says Narayanan, founder of NGO Change India.
Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary of the State Platform for the Common Schooling System, explains that the problem stems from an incorrect assumption that verbal or physical abuse can result in the childâ€™s improvement. â€śIn most cases, teachers do not try to understand the children. We have to motivate the teacher and make them understand that they are facilitators in the learning process,â€ť said Prince Gajendra Babu.
A major part of the problem is a systemic failure of the education system to ensure the availability of properly qualified teachers, adds Narayan. One of the basic failures is the lack of eligibility testing for teachers in the state. â€śThe eligibility test for teachers has not been conducted in the state for many years. Only CBSE is conducting these teacherâ€™s eligibility tests and not the state,â€ť he observes.
Coupled with this is lax administrative oversight of educational institutions. â€śThe education department does not have proper inspections. The department was also short-staffed, but they have recently recruited education officers,â€ť says Narayanan.
And lest one think that the problem is restricted to government schools, activists say that there are many teachers in private sector as well who are not qualified for the jobs.
In the face of such systemic problems, parents only add to the issue with the demand for their children to score better than their peers, says Gajendra Babu. â€śParents are also abusing the children by comparing them with other children and telling teachers to be strict with them. Parents should communicate to teachers to be kind to their children and be supportive.â€ť
While Narayananâ€™s comments about the flaws in the system refer to Tamil Nadu specifically, what he and Gajendra Babu are saying about parentsâ€™ responsibility for continuing use of corporal punishment are not restricted to the state alone. In this past week, for instance, an alarming case of a nine-year-old being brutally beaten with a belt by her tuition teacher came to light in Bengaluru. The most worrisome part of the case was that this was not the first time the child had been beaten by the tuition teacher. So too had other children been beaten. But parents continued to send their children to tuition ignoring such physical abuse because they placed such a high priority on the child scoring well.
Speaking to The News Minute, a teacher from a private school in Chennai pointed out that the demand for excellence measured in terms of high marks creates excessive pressure on teachers too. School managements constantly demand that students should score well in all subjects, she said. â€śEven parents pressurize us for better performance of their children. In such cases, some teachers start beating up the children which is wrong. I feel it is important to punish the child but not by physically or verbally abusing them. We should come up with innovative ideas to work with children,â€ť she said.
Narayanan says that school administrations should at least create some avenues by which children can report instances of abuse. â€śThere is a need for counselling centres with counsellors in schools, and teachers should not be part of it. There should also be suggestion and complaint boxes set up in the schools,â€ť he explains.