There was a time when corporal punishment was thought of as an effective means to discipline students. So teachers entered the classrooms with canes in hand to punish those who faulted on homework or who did not pay attention to the teachers. If the students failed to learn absolutely the way teachers wanted to them to learn they would be subjected to corporal punishment. But the world has realized how cruel and inhuman this practice is. Corporal punishment is inhuman and cruel not only because it inflicts bodily harms on young children but also because it causes psychological injuries on children for years. Worst of all, it does not help create a peaceful learning environment in schools. It terrorizes students, instills in them the sense of revenge against teachers and undermines the purpose of teaching and learning. Thus many countries in the world, including Nepal, have rightly criminalized corporal punishment. In September 2018, Nepal authenticated Act Relating to Children which explicitly prohibits corporal punishment of children in all settings. Section 7 of the Act mentions: “Every child shall have the right to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence and torture, neglect, inhuman behavior, gender-based or untouchability related abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation by her/his father, mother, other family member or guardian, teacher and other persons.” The Act also mentions that giving physical or mental punishment to children at home, school or any other setting is punishable act and the offender will be subject to fine of up to Rs 50,000 and imprisonment up to one year.
Despite having such strong legal provisions in place the fact remains that Nepali children in school settings are subjected to corporal punishment by teachers whom they look up to as guardians and whose love and care they seek while in school. One such cruelty was inflicted on children of Rolpa district on May 26 by a teacher of Bhanu Basic School of Runtigadhi Rural Municipality. Laxmi Pun, who is also the acting principal of the school, severely beat up the schoolchildren fracturing the forearms of five of them. A total of 14 students were injured. A third grader has suffered hearing difficulties after the beating and five students who suffered fractures are undergoing treatment in Dang. Pun is said to have hit the students with a broken leg of a wooden desk for being late to morning assembly. The scene was so disturbing other students and teachers could not bear it and rushed to their classrooms.
Laxmi Pun has been arrested by the police but this particular incident is a grim reminder of how insensitive and inhuman some of our teachers can be at school settings. Also it reflects on how parents are not much aware about the legal remedies they can seek against cruelty inflicted on their own children. Though the incident occurred on May 26, it came to light only on Sunday because the ward office was reportedly trying to settle the case without seeking legal remedy. It means even elected representatives were trying to hush it. Only strong punishment against such teachers can prevent similar incidents from recurring in the future. Besides, teachers and parents need to be educated on negative impacts of corporal punishment and the legal remedies against such cruelties. In many of the school settings, corporal punishment is considered normal even today. A clear message has to be sent that inflicting corporal punishment is a crime and the state deals with it as such.