Nagaland: Many schools defying SC ban on corporal punishment

“Yoga,” “bottoms up,” “birthday treat” are some languages referred to different forms of corporal punishment inflicted by teachers on students  

Y Merina Chishi
Dimapur | November 23  

Some schools call it a “birthday treat”; some call it “yoga.”  Some schools have nasty names like “bottoms up”- implying the use of cane on the posterior of a student. These are names of corporal punishment in some schools of Nagaland State.  

“Yoga is when we are made to stand on one leg with our hands in the air for about 10-15 minutes,” a class seven student studying in a private school in Dimapur said. She says most of the students in her school prefer “yoga” to “birthday treat” as the latter leaves bruises on certain parts of the body.  

A class eleven student from another private school disclosed that teachers in her school use sticks tied with rubber at the tip to beat students. Students are caned, slapped, made to squat and verbally abused in front of class/school mates, she says.  

Most students are punished for coming late, not doing their home work or misbehaving in the classroom.  However, there are reports of students being punished for trivial reasons, like torn books or unpolished shoes.  

In some cases, which occur mostly in government schools, “class monitors” are made to watch over fellow students when teachers are absent. 

The schools give authority to the “monitor” to cane their fellow students in the name of punishment. This causes rift and dislike among class mates.  

A girl from a government school in Dimapur says that even children studying in the primary section are not spared. “They lift our skirts and beat us in the back,” she says. Asked if she has ever received corporal punishment, she says: “once my class teacher banged my forehead against another girl’s forehead. It was so painful and I didn’t attend school for two days because I was afraid of being punished again.”  

According to psychologists, punishing a child physically can have an adverse effect on the child’s behaviour. A mother of a ten year old child told this reporter that her son stopped cooperating in school after being punished by his physical education instructor. “My son is good in sports but he refused to take part in any inter-school event after being punished,” she said.  

“Punishment can stimulate anger. Some children lose their self esteem and it can also prevent a child’s talent from flourishing,” says Lobeni G. Momin, Counsellor and lecturer in Psychology at Mason Philips Academy, Meghalaya. She adds that some children lose interest in studies and turn to drugs and other substance abuse. In extreme cases, corporal punishment may provide the child a negative view of other people and society as a threatening place. While some parents think it is alright for schools to give punishment, there are some who strongly oppose such actions. One mother stated that punishments like “detention” or “writing lines” is acceptable, but physical abuse of any kind should not be encouraged. The mother, who has personally dealt with this issue when her daughter was in school, stated that she made it a point to discuss it with the principal. However, not all parents have the courage to confront school authorities for fear of their wards being expelled.  

Momin says that the best way to discipline a child is to have parent-teacher interaction time to time because teachers alone cannot do it. “A child’s behaviour may be very different at home and at school. That is why it is very important that both parents and teachers play active roles in disciplining a child,” she says.  

Although corporal punishment is banned in India, many states, including Nagaland have not implemented it. Many schools in Nagaland still subject students to brutal forms of punishment. Cases go unreported as schools and teachers see this as the only option to discipline children.  

The Indian Penal Code is also supposed to protect children from being subjected to punishment in schools. According to IPC section 83, any child who has not done homework or has not dressed in an appropriate fashion should not incite any form of corporal punishment in schools. All children under the age of seven are supposed to be exempted from criminal liability and any mistake they may have done cannot merit corporal punishment as they are still in an age of innocence and they are incapable of understanding complex issues.  

Upto 3 years imprisonment for violating ban

•    The Supreme Court of India introduced a law to ban corporal punishment in the year 2000. The first violation of the ban will invite up to one year in jail, or a fine of Rs. 50, 000 or both.

•    For subsequent violators, imprisonment could be extended to 3 years with an additional fine of Rs. 25, 000. Heads of schools will be responsible to prevent corporal punishment. Teachers found guilty could be denied promotion and even increments.

•    A Child Right Cell to be up in all schools where children can lodge a complaint.