The parents of a five-year-old girl were shocked when she returned home from school on Tuesday with welts on her calves and ankles. The student of St Columba Girls High School in Gamdevi was allegedly caned by her class teacher Michelle.
Her offence? She wrote 31 when she was asked to write 13. “When my daughter came home from school, she was in tears. She refused to tell us anything so I called ones of her classmates who told me that their class teacher had beaten her with a wooden ruler for making a mistake. Later. she was made to stand at the classroom door,” said the girl’s mother. An FIR has been filed against the teacher and the police said she will be arrested on Friday.
The parents visited the school on Wednesday along with the girl but were taken aback by the attitude of headmistress Anette Lobo. “The teacher, who was called to the principal’s office, claimed that my daughter fell off a bench and hurt herself. The teacher also prompted the child’s friend to corroborate her,” said the mother.
The girl’s father claimed that she was taken to JJ hospital for a medical check-up on Wednesday evening. “Medical reports confirmed that she had been assaulted with a blunt object which left bruises on her left and right calf and ankles,” he said.
On Thursday, speaking to dna, the headmistress refuted the allegations. “The parents are lying. The kid is very mischievous and she fell and hit herself. When I met her parents on Wednesday, it was decided that the teacher will be given a memo even if she was innocent,” said Lobo. “The girl attended school on Thursday. If she was really hurt she wouldn’t have been jumping around happily at school today.”
Lobo denied any such incident taking place but, at the Gamdevi police station, three men representing the school management tried to convince the father to not file an FIR. “The management was unaware of the incident and the interaction between you and Lobo. We accept that the teacher has committed a mistake and we are ready to give a written apology, please do not file a complaint,” one of them told the girl’s father.
The parents, however, refused to negotiate. The Gamdevi police station has registered an FIR against class teacher Michelle under section 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons or means) of the IPC. “Since the FIR was lodged in the evening, we could not arrest the teacher. We will arrest her on Friday,” said sub-inspector, Nitin Mahadik of the Gamdevi police station.
Corporal punishment was banned by the Supreme Court in 2000 and is punishable under the Right to Education Act, 2009.
According to section 17, RTE, “No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment... whoever contravenes this, shall be liable to disciplinary action under service rules applicable to such person.”
“No teacher can subject students to such punishment. Apart from the RTE, there are penal provisions which a teacher can be tried under. A teacher can be charged under section 323, 325, 339 and 317 of the Indian Penal Code. Depending on the nature of the punishment, the teacher can also be punished under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences. Act, 2012,” said AN Tripathi, secretary, Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR).
Experts, too, condemned the move.
Dr Samir Dalwai, a paediatrician who also works with MSCPCR, said, “Of course, corporal punishment affects children mentally. They are traumatised and scared to go to school.
Teachers should be sensitive to children as some may have problems, like a learning disability. If they find that a child is not doing well they should talk to the parents and identify the problem.”
Suggesting a solution, Pratham founder-trustee Farida Lambey said, “Schools must train teachers to ensure that such things do not happen. There are various disciplinary positive reinforcement methods that can be used instead of using the cane. Another way is to create student groups which will look after general discipline.”