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AP scan on school beatings

Hyderabad, Nov. 28: A rise in corporal punishment at schools has prompted the Andhra Pradesh government to issue a circular reaffirming the ban on child abuse and suggesting alternative measures.

Hyderabad police last year recorded 600 complaints of physical punishment and the figure has already crossed 800 this year with one month to go.

In July, an 11-year-old boy burnt himself to death after allegedly being humiliated and beaten up by the principal of his school in upscale Banjara Hills.

Sections 16 and 17 of the Right to Education Act ban any punishment that might lead to mental and physical trauma, Hyderabad district education officer A. Subba Reddy said.

The circular issued by the school education department asks teachers and schools to look for alternatives to physical punishment, such as giving lower grades for habitual late arrival and recording “latecomer” in progress reports.

In the circular, “physical punishment” has been defined as any action that causes pain, injury and discomfort, however light.

It includes hitting, kicking, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling the child’s hair, boxing his ears, slapping, electric shocks and beatings with any implement such as a cane, stick, shoe, piece of chalk, duster, belt or whip.

Also banned are making children assume uncomfortable positions such as kneeling, standing on a bench or against a wall in a chair-like position, standing with the schoolbag on one’s head, or holding one’s ears through one’s legs.

A survey by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights across seven states, including Andhra Pradesh, showed that 99.86 per cent of the 6,632 children questioned had received some kind of harsh punishment at school.

“Seventy-five per cent of them had been hit with a cane and 69 per cent had been slapped on the cheek,” says the report.

S. Sreenivas Reddy, president of the Andhra Pradesh Recognised Private School Managements Association, said punishments were meant for the good of the pupils and to set a precedent.

“Often, the children blame their parents, traffic or even domestic hands for late arrivals, which is unacceptable,” he said.

Last month, a Class IV pupil of a private school in Karimnagar district committed suicide after constant taunts and punishment from his school warden for not attending his classes.

Earlier, a teacher was accused of threatening a three-year-old with a penknife, leaving the child mentally traumatised.

Shanth Kumar Goel, president of the Andhra Pradesh Parents Association, said the association receives at least a dozen complaints every week from parents in Hyderabad and Secunderabad about physical abuse of their children by teachers and school authorities.

“We refer the complaints to the education department and, in some dire cases, to the police,” he said.

Subba Reddy, the district education officer, said: “After an inquiry, we issue a show-cause notice to the school management, who stand to lose recognition if they fail to respond.”

Activists say the rise in physical punishment indicates that teachers need to attend workshops and learn the difference between enforcing discipline and abusing children.