In the semi-urban schools of Gurugram, children face the worse heat of corporal punishments. According to a report, 75 per cent of marginalised children are beaten by their teachers regularly, many of them every day. The students also feared to tell their parents because they might beat them too.
The survey was prepared by Agrasar group, an NGO that found marginalised children faces more punishment by teachers often in form of severe violence due to the low-income of their parents and migrant background. The social norms are also responsible behind this as it justifies certain forms of violence, especially against underprivileged children.
“Migrant background puts children at risk of corporal punishment at school. Frequent absence from school, prejudice and discrimination by teachers, and the inability of government school teachers and parents to maintain a constructive working relationship are the main contributing factors here,” mentioned the report.
“Also, government schools are a risk factor. Challenging working conditions, lack of professional conduct among teachers, absent school governance and inadequate teacher training make them an environment that fosters violence against children,” the report cited.
Why marginalised children faced corporal punishment
According to the survey, 80 to 100 per cent of underprivileged children face corporal punishment and for some, it is a daily routine in government schools. The girl students bear harassment according to their age, weight, appearance and marriage prospects.
Age – Older children are usually less likely to experience corporal punishment. However, disadvantaged children face it to a similar extent across all ages, though in different forms.
Frequency – About 80 to 100 per cent of underprivileged children are corporally punished by teachers. For many of them, it is a daily routine in government schools, even several times per day. In some schools, 88 per cent of students are regularly beaten, up to three times per week, while in others “only” around 30 per cent.
Forms – Disadvantaged children experience both “mild” and severe forms of physical punishment as well as verbal harassment referring to their “bad upbringing.”
Gender – There are gender-specific forms of punishment and girls experience sexist verbal abuse related to their appearance and marriage prospects. While in lower primary school boys and girls are beaten with similar extent and frequency, boys in upper primary school receive more physical punishment than girls.
Teachers – Most teachers use corporal punishment out of routine and in ritualised forms, for example when they hit students on their knuckles for incomplete homework. But every school appears to have one or two notorious teachers who subject children to brutal and cruel forms of violence.
There are also a few teachers who do not use corporal punishment at all.
Parents – Almost all parents (91 per cent) approve of school corporal punishment and 74 per cent admit that they use it at home. The large majority (70 per cent ) punish their children when they find out that their children were beaten by teachers at school.
Factors behind marginalised children facing corporal punishment
The study mentioned four factors of the reason behind disadvantaged children are so mercilessly harassed in schools. According to the report, Parents are mostly migrated from various states and as they are working in various informal sectors, they hardly get time to give attention to their children. Apart from it, the society and its norms also being responsible for the apathetic situation of children is NCR schools.
Low income – Parents on low income are without the financial and emotional resources to provide their children with good education. They work long hours in the informal sector, are unavailable to their children and cannot afford better schools for them. These parents are often not educated and lack the knowledge, time and emotional resources to support their children’s education. This manifests in the children’s inability to complete homework which is the number one reason to receive corporal punishment at school.
“Migrant” background – Children of rural labourers who have migrated to cities often struggle to articulate themselves through proper language and are frequently absent from school. They face social stigma and prejudice for being a “migrant” and are discriminated against by teachers and the local community. Often, teachers do not deem children from weak socio-economic background or lower castes worthy of education and humane treatment, and they are not able to maintain a constructive working relationship with the parents.
Government schools- Insufficient infrastructure and challenging working conditions lead to enormous frustration among teachers. They rarely show awareness for professional conduct which could prevent them from taking out their anger on children. Behaviour towards students largely depends on individual attitudes of teachers, not on professional ethics. Teachers also lack professional training to use alternative discipline methods and to support children in their learning process. Inadequate school governance, in particular, non-existent procedures to deal with teacher misconduct and to enforce the legal ban of school corporal punishment, allow teachers to “get away.”
Social norms- Popular myths, misperceptions about its effectiveness, and our social norms justify the physical and mental abuse of children, as long as it comes under the pretext or intent to “punish.”
Children are viewed as a property of their parents and as “mischievous” creatures who “need to be broken for their betterment.” Both parents and teachers have unrealistic expectations in children and punish them for normal child-like behaviour. Especially children from lower classes of society are considered unworthy of humane treatment and are shamed and ignored as victims of violence.
The findings are derived from research in local communities comprising of people who have migrated involving 29 children in a role play, 40 children in personal interviews, 29 parents in focus group discussions and seasonal calendar exercise, and 12 government school teachers in group interviews. The group also surveyed 500 children and 100 parents sampled randomly.