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Southern States - Tamil Nadu

Corporal punishment: Suicide brings neglected issue into focus


By Ramya Kannan Chennai June 14. When Ramu Abhinav took the extreme step of committing suicide following harassment at a city school, the boy helped to drag into the limelight an issue, which has for long been wished away, denied or, worst, defended vociferously. It is now clear that the retrograde practice of corporal punishment, supported by the law in Tamil Nadu, not only exists but is reaching alarming proportions. Encouraged by the school management, some teachers still believe in `caning' the child or meting out other forms of torture. In February this year, Caroline Daffadil of the Jaigopal Garodia Government School at Ponneri, near here, was hit with a bound register by her Botany teacher. She swooned and remained unconscious for nearly two hours, without medical attention. Later, neurosurgeons said those two hours were crucial and lack of intervention then caused her physiological problems. Caroline still has problems with her neck and requires physiotherapy. Ironically, says Caroline's uncle, Peter Morwin, the teacher, who hit her has been recommended for the `best teacher' award. Nearly four months ago, about 15 children in a government Adi Dravidar school in Kancheepuram were made to crawl on their knees in the hot sun for "talking in class". Earlier, in March 2002, 150 children of the Little Angels Matriculation School at Thorappakkam here were made to stand out in the sun for nearly two and a half hours for non-payment of fees. Child Line, phone outreach programme for children in distress, received a call from a child, who had been beaten up severely in a school near Vadapalani here. Its volunteers later helped in the transfer of the girl, who was so traumatised that she could not go back to the same school. As for the Velammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Mogappair, in which Abhinav was a student, complaints have begun pouring in of corporal punishment. "There is actually a room `cell' in the school. They use the room to `coach below average students'. However, teachers do

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5/18/2011

The Hindu : Corporal punishment: Suicide brings neglected issue into focus

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hit the children when they do not perform well in examinations," said a former student. The principal, however, denied that corporal punishment was being encouraged. There have also been several cases of `torture' reported from private schools at Tiruchengode and Rasipuram in Namakkal district, according to S.S. Rajagopalan, educationist and campaigner against corporal punishment. He said punishment only retarded a child's capacity to learn. "In their enthusiasm to see that their children do well, parents sometimes force them to stretch beyond capacity. In this process, they do not even take cognisance of the fact that their children are beaten up at school," he said. Ossie Fernandes, convener, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Protection Network, said the problem still persisted. For, "clearly, the Education department has never treated it seriously. The existing Tamil Nadu Education Rules permit corporal punishment in schools. Fortunately, it has been removed from the new revised rules, recently drafted. The Government must ensure that the new rules are passed without any delay." Meanwhile, the Network has formed a fact-finding committee, which will go into the suicide by Abhinav and the alleged harassement by Velammal school authorities. A team of parents of students studying in the school has also decided to form a committee and take up independent investigation. It is also contemplating sending a complaint to the State Human Rights Commission. The Mathematics teacher, Kannappan, who was arrested yesterday, was today remanded to judicial custody for 14 days by the 19th metropolitan magistrate here.
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