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Cane-happy schools to get hefty cash slap

Ranchi, Feb. 22: Schools found guilty of hitting or torturing students will be fined Rs 25,000 by State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), a penalty which may not be sufficient compensation for traumatised children but at least heralds a new era of accountability.

In all, the child rights body, constituted last year, has received 500 complaints so far. Of these, 200 related to corporal punishment in which around 60 schools across the state, including government-run and private ones, have been accused. The rest 300 complaints relate to trafficking or missing children.

To haul up schools guilty of hitting, slapping or torturing a child, the commission will impose the cash fine on the management of the cradles after verifying the claims of the complainant by March 31.

If the school — irrespective of whether it is state-run or private — denies charges or refuses to pay up, the commission will take legal action or even move to cancel their affiliations to boards concerned, be it Jharkhand Academic Council (JAC), ICSE or CBSE.

The commission issued a notification to this effect a week back in consultation with state departments of HRD and social welfare, women and child development.

Though it is just the tip of the iceberg with one-lakh-plus schools in the state, complaints have been received against a number of well-known capital cradles such as St Thomas School, Gurunanak School and Oxford Public School.

RTE Act, 2009, prohibits physical punishment and mental harassment of children under Section 17(1) and makes it a punishable offence under Section 17(2). But despite the media highlighting the cases of children injured due to corporal punishment, schools were rarely punished.

The reasons why children are tortured in schools range from disciplinary issues to sadism to corruption.

For instance, a source at the commission revealed that at a state-run school, girls who demanded their free cycles from authorities were asked to shell out bribe money and “mentally tortured” by teachers when they refused.

Caning, boxing ears, slapping, humiliating and forcing children to do menial labour in school were some of the other complaints. Girls “unable to attend schools due to constant torture by male teachers” hinting at child sexual abuse, also formed a part of the shame list.

Commission chairperson Rooplakshmi Munda said most of the complaints came from Ramgarh, Ranchi, Khunti, Seraikela-Kharsawan, Gumla and Sahebganj.

“It is shocking. But at least the numbers prove that children won’t take the beatings lying down. We have decided to impose fine of Rs 25,000 on schools found guilty. We have to complete the process before March 31 as it is the RTE deadline,” Munda said.

Commission members Sunit Kalyan, Ranjana Kumari, Sanjay Kumar Mishra and Sunil Kumar are working round the clock to tighten the noose around the schools.

“Madhukar Gupta, adviser to the governor has sanctioned us Rs 40 lakh for the smooth functioning of the commission,” Mishra said.

Commission member Ranjana Kumari said what disturbed them the most was the prevalence of fear among children about schools. “Why should physical or mental torture be a part of schooling? Many parents complain that their children face some physical or mental abuse. A student of Class XI of Oxford Public School committed suicide last September allegedly due to teacher’s behaviour. Then, parents approached the commission. Such a sad waste of a young life,” she added.

Commission member Sanjay Mishra said they had asked schools to set up corporal punishment monitoring cells, each comprising two teachers, parents and students; a doctor; a lawyer; an independent counsellor; and an independent child rights or woman’s rights activist.