New Delhi: A stick in every classroom and at least five beatings per class per day.
Those are the findings of what is believed to be the first ever survey of corporal punishment in government schools.
Among the most popular forms of punishment: Pulling students’ hair, tying them with a rope or starving them.
The study by not-for-profit organization Plan India surveyed 1,591 students in 41 government-run schools across four states. The group now plans to take its findings to the government.
But many state governments say they are already aware of the problem, and are taking steps to curb it. Some schools say they rarely hear complaints from students and parents—but know it happens.
The issue has been gaining attention in recent months, particularly after NDTV, a 24-hour news network, reported in July and August on two separate student deaths from injuries sustained in beatings from teachers in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In September, another news channel, CNN-IBN, reported that a 7-year-old was forced to strip in a privately-run New Delhi school as part of her punishment.
Plan India, which also met 200 teachers and 50 community forums as part of its study, reports that corporal punishment—which literally means a form of punishment that inflicts pain—is an accepted way of life at schools as well as homes. Often, victims do not perceive it as violence. It also found that overburdened teachers use punishment as a means of crowd control.
“Even children believe that corporal punishment is necessary,” said Randeep Kaur, Plan India’s technical adviser for learning.
The survey found that a ban was of little effect. New Delhi, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have all banned corporal punishment. Plan India conducted its study in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The Delhi government, which runs 1,162 schools, has had to act on 15 or 16 cases of corporal punishment in the last four years. Very few cases are reported by parents.
“We have to throw this mentality out that students improve only after a beating,” said Arvinder Singh Lovely, education minister for Delhi.
West Bengal plans workshops for teachers detailing problems that students might face. “A student can be indisciplined because he is malnutritioned or he has a physical handicap,” said Partha De, minister for school education. “Or he has a habit of pilfering because he has not been taught at home.”