Hyderabad, June 28: Syeda Sadar Fatima’s lips were sealed.
No, she wasn’t carrying any secrets that couldn’t be told. Her teachers had apparently used cello-tape to tape her mouth as punishment for talking in class.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Class IX student of Sam British School, a local private institution, was made to stand in the sun for five hours, the adhesive firmly in place.
Local media flashed pictures of the 14-year-old — lips sealed — after her daylong ordeal yesterday, though school authorities denied the charge when reporters met them. They said the school did not practice corporal punishment and Syeda had only been chided for being talkative.
What about the picture then?
Apparently, someone from the school had called up a parent while Syeda was still standing with her lips sealed. The parent then called up some photographers.
Syeda, who admitted that principal Afroz Mazhar Ali had “caught” her talking in class, recounted what she went through. “The principal directed the class teacher (Sajjida) to put an adhesive tape on my lips. I was ordered to stand outside the classroom for the whole day. I could not eat,” she said.
After school, the weeping girl went home and told her parents how she had been punished. Her father, Syed Mujtaba Hussein, who met the school authorities, today claimed they told him his daughter had been punished because she had breached discipline and challenged him “to do whatever he wants”.
Hussein has lodged a complaint with police, who registered a case of voluntarily causing hurt and wrongful restraint against the principal and the teacher. No arrests have yet been made.
In his complaint, Hussein also said his daughter had nearly fainted from dehydration. Since her lips were sealed, Syeda could neither eat nor drink anything.
The incident has come at a time the government is working towards banning corporal punishment from schools. A committee has recommended stiff jail terms for teachers found guilty of inflicting severe physical punishment on students.
After yesterday, some can also say the school, in Hyderabad’s Old City area, denied Syeda a basic constitutional right: freedom of speech.
When reporters met the school principal today, Ali said: “I am the second parent of all my students and I know what to do and how to correct erring students.”
Class teacher Sajjida claimed Syeda had been punished for not completing her homework, not for talking.
If so, why the cello-tape?
While Syeda didn’t deny she was caught talking, one of her classmates explained why such punishments could never work. “If sealing (of lips) were to stop girls from chattering, our parents would have tried it long ago,” said Mehrunnisa. Not bad logic from a 14-year-old.
Bottom line: Spare the rod, by all means, but don’t try cello-tape either.