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Non-violence lesson for teachers

New Delhi, July 11: Hunched in cramped classroom chairs, schoolteachers from across India explore in excited voices Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of peace and rock music legend Jimi Hendrix’s two-liners on love.

Six weeks of such talk, punctuated by visits to the Gandhi Smriti, Aurobindo Ashram and the Lotus Temple, they hope, will end the slaps, verbal abuses and the threatening gestures some of them routinely dished out to their students.

The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is teaching Gandhi’s ahimsa (non-violence) to teachers, in a bid to stop the violence that the government recently agreed pervades Indian classrooms.

“Teachers have to be role models. If teachers use blows and slaps to control the classroom, then students learn that aggression and violence are ways to control situations,” Sushma Gulati, who heads the NCERT department organising the training, told The Telegraph.

The department of educational psychology and foundations of education was influenced by a government report on child abuse that shocked the nation with its findings.

Two out of three students in Indian schools face abuse at the hands of teachers, the woman and child development ministry’s April report said.

It also exposed how children in government-run schools faced the worst abuse — both physical and emotional.

The six-week course started on June 4 and will end on July 13.

Many among the 33 teachers from Kendriya Vidyalayas (central schools) and other government schools, however, said their “task” would only begin on July 13.

“I used to frequently hit students who wouldn’t obey my instructions in class. Now, when I look back, I find my own behaviour shocking,” said K.N. Prabhudeva from Doddabellapur in Bangalore. “My task, of implementing what I have learnt here, will begin on July 13.”

Ratna Chakrabarty, who teaches at the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Ballygunge, Calcutta, never had Prabhudeva’s violent streak, but the course, she says, has helped her “regain her patience”.

“When you teach year after year, sometimes you lose your patience and become aggressive — in speech or body language,” she said.

The NCERT will follow up on the “progress” of the participants after the course, Daya Pant, the course coordinator, said.

“And those teachers who we find have learnt the most from the course will be called up the next time as resource persons,” Pant added.

While the first half of the course was exclusively aimed at making teachers introspect, the latter section seeks to also educate them about the “culture of conflicts”.

Former Research and Analysis Wing chief Hormese Tharakan lectured the teachers on the conflicts in India’s neighbouring countries.

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