Why we needed to change Apra’s School – 12 Sep 16

I just realized that during the time in which I wrote less blog entries, I missed telling you of a very important event which has brought again a big change to our lives: Apra has officially started going to school!

Maybe you remember how I told you last year that Apra had joined our school. With her three and a half years, she was still very small and we had no intention of really sending her that early. We are generally of the opinion that children need the time in that age to play and not sit in school for learning, as it is so often here. However Apra’s Ashram brothers all went to school in the morning and so she also very much wanted to go – and she enjoyed going to the classes where teachers were singing and playing with the kids!

So we let her go and encouraged her, too. Soon however we noticed that it was not as easy as we thought: Apra has her own mind and started wandering in between the classes, sometimes sitting here, sometimes there. The teachers enjoyed playing with the little one – but that was obviously not helping her learn and at the same time disturbed the other classes! And whenever she felt like, she would return back home, walk into our office and declare that she was done with school for the day!

We realized that our school, as much as we wanted her to learn here, would always present exactly this problem: she would not be one among others and home would always be too close! For a certain discipline which she would need to learn in life, she would need distance in between home and school! But what to do? We know that schools in the surrounding all use violence in their daily teaching – something which we would not be able to bear! Did we have any other option?

It was in the last summer holidays that a lady came as a guest to our restaurant who had been working in one school in Mathura that we had only heard about until that point. We had tried to find out where it was but found it difficult online. In our talk with her however, we asked very clearly whether corporal punishment was used there – and heard that it was strictly forbidden! It was music to our ears!

We immediately called and went the next day to visit the school – and were amazed! There, in Mathura, not very far away from our Ashram, we found a place that actually matched our philosophy, where children could learn in playful way, where violence was strictly banned and where there was no pressure on the little ones! Activity classes have more importance and there are lots of playgrounds, sport areas and fields for games on the huge grounds of the school. The teachers whom we met were lovely and the principal’s words explaining their philosophy so much matched our ideas, we immediately paid the advance for Apra’s admission fee!

And that’s how, on 4th July 2016, we walked into the school, Apra in between Ramona and me, in her new school uniform and incredibly proud! Apra and Ramona had made a ‘Schultüte’, which is a German tradition for the first school day, a large cornet with little presents for the child – and after a few hours at school, she was allowed to open it, finding sweets, stickers and a pencil case for the big school girl!

So now we are officially parents of a school girl – and of course I can already tell you some stories of how this has changed our and Apra’s life!

Some Children have Difficulty learning – but Violence won’t change that! – 24 Sep 15

Yesterday I told you that many people here in India don’t believe that spanking or an occasional slap in the face is something wrong or bad for your child. Neither at home, not at school. I explained why this attitude is simply wrong. What teachers don’t realize is that teaching and school is about much more than just marks, exams and a written result in figures. It is about raising children to responsible adults that will make valuable parts of our society, country and world. And you won’t succeed with that in an atmosphere of fear!

We all know that we are not all the same. We get born with different genes and everyone has different talents and abilities. This means that some of us have a predisposition to learn quickly and absorb any kind of information without problem. Others however don’t, they need a visual illustration to understand, they need repetition of this information or another context to actually remember.

You won’t be able to help them by scaring and threatening them. By treating the thirty to fifty children in your class with one stick, beating those who cannot repeat word by word what you have taught them. On the contrary, you make them afraid, nervous and focused on the negative consequence instead of what they should be learning. You bring them pain for not remembering what they tried to learn.

It is not the child’s fault! He is not being weak in learning by intention. And it is not a crime to have difficulty learning – hitting children however, is a crime! Don’t you see your failure to teach? Don’t you see that you did not fulfill your duty? It is your job to teach all the children of your class and you just try to beat information into those who don’t manage to take in information as quickly as others.

The best that you can get in this way is a mindless parroting, a senseless repetition of words but not of their meaning. Children will forget them quickly – because you didn’t teach them profoundly, you didn’t show them the value of it. You forced them to learn instead of showing them the beauty of learning. Your violence will create violence in them, aggression up to the point that they will hurt themselves or others.

Much more than anything that they will repeat in tests however, it is important to teach them how to treat another human being, how to discuss peacefully, how to solve conflicts, how to communicate one’s feelings and opinions and how to accept another person’s point of view as well. School is supposed to help children become good humans!

Every single slap breaks your Child a little bit more! – 23 Sep 15

I yesterday told you how unimaginable it was for many teachers to teach without hitting any child. Even the response to our video exposing the cruel violence in a school of Vrindavan showed that many people thought a certain amount of violence is actually good and necessary for raising a child, even if the beating with a stick for no reason at all was too much. It is a thought deeply rooted in Indian society – but it is wrong!

Yes, if students get kicked with feet in school, if they are beaten without having done anything wrong, people say it is wrong. If a student is noisy the whole day and the teacher simply slaps him to make him quiet, people believe it is alright. Our video was too much for them but on the other hand there are much worse videos making shocking news a few times a year. Even cases of serious injury and death have happened. So it is really not that big of an issue – had the teachers not had a stick, had it only been their hands, the video would probably not have even made the news. Why? Because people are just used to it and actually believe it is right.

That’s what they do with their own children as well! They will find any way to justify slapping, to justify violence.

Yes, a slap in the face or, as many parents do with their small children, on the behind, are violence. Dear Indian parents and teachers, as well as any other person in this world who thinks this violence is helpful and necessary for raising and educating children: what you are doing harms your children and students!

You are always an example for those around you, especially the young ones who learn by looking at those around themselves how they do it! This means, you are teaching this violence to them as well. You are teaching them that you, the bigger one, are allowed to hit. The strongest one is the person who can hit and beat.

Obviously, your child will beat his younger siblings. Your elder students will hit the younger ones. This is what you taught them! This means once they are bigger and stronger than you, they can hit you as well, right?

Some people ask us ‘But if two children are fighting, you have to hit them to get them apart!’ What a nonsense! You are hitting in order to show that they should not hit! So you hit the one who is hitting. This means you are the one who is now hitting – who will hit you?

Most of all, you are doing it because you think it is good for your child, right? Scientific research has shown however that it actually harms your child. Yes, if you don’t want to believe me and the argument that you will just continue violence, believe the scientists who found this out! Its development is disturbed and that is no wonder: a child looks up to you and trusts you. Each slap will break the child a bit more and hurt that relation in between you. Yes, this is proven as well.

Understand that it is wrong and act accordingly!

Starting a non-violent School means teaching the Teachers first! – 22 Sep 15

Yesterday I explained you how corporal punishment was a big reason for us to open our own school. We knew that we would only have enough influence on the teachers not to hit children if we were ourselves the administration of the school. Of course, however, there was still effort involved and it was a process to reach the point that we are at now.

So we knew that it is the administration, the principle, the manager, the top people of a school who decide how the school’s students are treated by the teachers. They are the ones who advise how to deal with students. This did not mean however that our teachers automatically followed our idea, agreed with our thoughts or knew how to teach a class without the violence they had been used to practice in their previous schools!

In fact, the general mindset of most people here, including teachers, is that an occasional slap in the face or stroke on the fingers is necessary for children to learn. This is what they learn at home, this is how parents act with their very small children already. This is what children get to know when they go to school and finally there is nobody who tells them otherwise during their studies either. How should they know that there is another way?

We told them. Oh yes, we were probably the very first people for a whole lot of teachers over the course of the years who said such a thing to them. You are not allowed to hit children. Not with a stick, not with a ruler, not with your hands. Don’t make them stand in uncomfortable positions or for extended periods of time. Don’t send them out of the classroom.

For my western readers, most of these will seem just natural because this is what they have experienced in their own school time. Here, however, teachers listen to this, then look at you and ask you ‘So what am I supposed to do if they don’t behave?’

We have actually had to fire several teachers over the course of the years, especially in the beginning, for doing exactly these things they were not supposed to do. It is not difficult to get to know about it: there are enough children who tell about it and the teachers themselves mostly did not deny what they had done – because they didn’t think it was very wrong. But it meant them having to leave from here immediately. Even one slap, which is nothing unusual in other schools, resulted in us having to search for a new teacher. Finally however, the new teachers got to know by the old ones that we were really strict about it.

We still got the questions though: ‘What should I do if a child doesn’t do his or her work?’

And so we started teaching them the basics. You have to treat children with the same respect that you want to get. Talk to them with love. Don’t scream. Focus on their achievements instead of their faults. Give them a chance to explain their bad behavior. Encourage them. Play with the children, make any lesson more interesting by showing examples out of nature or anything that they can touch, see, experience. Make experiments with them and don’t see them as ‘just children’ but as people, human beings, the next generation.

We support our teachers in every way we can to ensure they know the right way, that they have options for creating a loving atmosphere in which it is fun to learn. This is what I believe is missing, apart from a change in the mindset: trainings for teachers to do it differently. To do it right.

We are proud of what we have come and where we have reached. Today we can say for sure that in our school, no child receives any kind of corporal punishment.

Violence in School: the main Reason for us to open our own School – 21 Sep 15

In my long blog entry of Friday, in which we exposed a school in our town for cruelly hitting their students, I mentioned that non-violence was one of the reasons for us to open our school. I was asked what exactly I meant by that. Well, it’s quite simple: we wanted to support children but not in a school where they would be beaten!

We had started many years before the opening of our school with supporting the education of the poor. First of all, we had boys at the Ashram who had come from different parts of India to Vrindavan in order to study Sanskrit. We provided them food and education for free and later on, when we were asked for help, we also paid their fees. Finally, we started giving classes at the Ashram ourselves. We paid the region’s best Sanskrit teacher and my sister taught English.

I was travelling a lot in that time but once, when I was home, a local person approached me and asked whether I would like to help some children whose parents have trouble paying the fees of their primary school. My family and I were happy to help! By 2006, we sponsored up to 160 children in other schools in Vrindavan, paying their school fees, their uniforms, books and stationery. On my travels, I kept telling people about it who then also helped by becoming child sponsors!

We visited these schools from time to time, especially when we had guests at the Ashram who had donated for these children. With each visit, however, no matter how nice it was, I had one problem: the stick which I saw leaning at the wall behind the teacher. I had talks with the teachers and with the principal and heard different answers: ‘Stick? Which stick? We use that like a ruler for the blackboard…’, ‘Oh no, the stick is only there to make the children afraid, not to hit!’ and ‘We will never again hit a child, we promise!’ The last one was said after we threatened to send all children whom we support to another school – but they didn’t keep their promise.

It all didn’t help, I knew that the children whom we were supporting there, were being hit in class. It didn’t feel right: we wanted to give them a good future, we wanted to make them learn and have fun instead of going to work. The last thing we wanted was for them to be afraid and to be harmed or hurt. What good would it bring? We knew it would damage their minds, maybe more than their education would help them.

There was no way to influence the administration enough however – they would lie straight into our faces because they were convinced that corporal punishment was necessary for bringing discipline and fear. And fear, in their eyes, was necessary for children to learn. That’s how we had to start our own school if we wanted to ensure non-violence for the children we helped.

In 2007, that’s exactly what we did. We started our own school.

TV Debates, Phone Interviews and more after exposing Corporal Punishment in School – 20 Sep 15

I have told you I would use my blog entries on Sundays to tell you what is currently going on in my life. If you have read my diary entry of day before yesterday, you probably already know what has been occupying my mind a lot in the past week and weeks. Of course, corporal punishment in Indian schools, the videos Pawan brought home and the consequences, us going to the principal, the media and the response by readers and viewers.

You can imagine that it has been difficult for us to hear Pawan tell of the abuse happening in his school. He is our child, has been for so long now, we just couldn’t simply accept that he was being beaten in school. It was also hard to see all those videos – but at least we knew that we could now do something against it. We could actually bring a change for the students of this school and maybe more, by spreading awareness among teachers and parents!

After our talk with the principal in which we were denied the written assurance that no child would be beaten in school anymore, we contacted the media. Within a few hours, reporters were at our Ashram to see the video clips and to interview Pawan and me. It felt good to have taken the next step – and we were of course waiting to see what the journalists would create out of the clips and how it would impact.

When the TV channel started broadcasting, we received a phone call and the request for Pawan and me to come to their studio in Delhi. They wanted to have us there live and talk with us after showing the clips!

So Pawan and I left to Delhi, our young hero excited but handling it all very well! For a whole hour, the anchor asked Pawan and me about the incidents and our opinion and called different politicians of our area during the show as well. It was a very good program and included all the points, from the incident itself and the fear that parents and children feel to the need to give teachers a training for the right attitude towards their students.

Still while we were in the studio, Yashendu and Purnendu received phone calls from different other media houses who wanted to talk about this topic as well! In the car, on the way back, I gave a phone interview to another TV channel. Finally back at home, two further teams of local channels were at our doorstep.

Yesterday evening, Pawan and I were just exhausted from talking to reporters and journalists the whole day – but happy because we now surely believe that we have started a change! In that school at least but I am pretty sure that other schools will be careful in future as well to better stick to the rules and guidelines!

Today, the news were in the three main newspapers of our town and my blog entry as well as our video have become very popular online. It will still spread.

A step has been made and I am sure we can take it even further!

Exposing Corporal Punishment in Indian Schools with Video as Proof – 18 Sep 15

You may know Pawan, either because you have been at the Ashram already or because you have read my diary regularly and got to know that he has been living here, at the Ashram, for more than six years already. We love him like our son – and that is the reason that we were hurt, just like parents would be, when we got to know what is happening in his new school.

When the summer holidays came to an end in June, Pawan was excited: with the beginning of July, a new chapter of his life would start. Since he had come to the Ashram, he had gone to the Swami Balendu e.V. Primary School but in the new school year, he would go to another school, the Indian Public School in Vrindavan. We bought a bicycle for him to go there, all the admission fees were paid, his uniforms bought and his school books purchased as well.

It was exciting but we had asked the principal one thing for sure when we admitted him there: do your teachers hit? Do you use corporal punishment at your school? You all know that this was one reason for opening our own school: we wanted to assure that our children don’t get beaten in school. It is also one reason for my plans to build more free-of-cost schools, combined with restaurants, so that unprivileged children can learn for free and without being beaten! Non-violence and a loving environment are the heart values of our school! We were assured that in their school, no such thing took place. Only after this commitment, we admitted our boy.

Little did we know how much these people would go against their own words!

If you have met Pawan, you know that he is a rather quiet boy by nature. After a few weeks at his school, we noticed that something in his behavior was off, he was even quieter than usual. We straight-forward asked him: what is going on? Did something happen in school? That’s when the whole story spilled.

Since the first week that he had gone to this school, teachers had been hitting his classmates and him. With sticks onto their hands but sometimes even on the legs, the back, wherever the teacher could reach. He himself had been hit before and also on that day. He showed us his hands – they were red and hurt him, something that took two days to get better.

The stories he told were horrible: every teacher had a stick and whenever they found someone had not done their homework or did a mistake, they asked one child to get it for them. After that, the one who did the mistake had to stretch out his or her hands. Normally, the strokes would go on the hands but if the teacher was very angry, he or she would hit anywhere else. Often enough, there was not even a reason for this violence.

Had he told this to the principal, we asked, and got to know more: the principal herself did her rounds of the school and wherever she saw it fit, would beat students herself! How would you feel safe to complain to such a principal?

We were heartbroken, sad and angry! The boy whom we had kept safe from this for so many years in our own school had to experience such abuse! I remembered my own childhood and all the anger of that time about such brutal treatment of children.

What should we do?

We tried to find out more about other schools, wondering whether we should just take him out and put him into another one. The problem was that those who ran the schools were lying about physical punishment anyway, how could we trust it wouldn’t be the same there as well? We asked friends whose children go to those schools – and got to know what we already suspected: corporal punishment is happening in all those schools!

There is one more option: homeschooling. We decided that this could be an option for us – but what would that help all the children of that school who are daily being beaten, in every subject, by every teacher? Was it enough for us just to have our school and then homeschool our Ashram's children afterwards?

After a discussion with Pawan, we decided together to make an effort to make a change. We bought and then gave Pawan a hidden camera which he took to school for the next week or ten days. The video clips he brought back were more than enough to prove what he had told. You can watch them below and if you are anything like us, they will agitate you as much as they did us!

Pawan’s class teacher came into class one day and started hitting the complete class, simply because a few other teachers had complained to her about the class! Everybody was beaten. A few boys arrived at exactly that time and she hit them without them having any clue for what! A boy whom she had sent to fetch something arrived back – he wasn’t spared either! Finally, she promised them that she would repeat this daily for a complete week so that they would learn from it and if they didn’t, she would make them stand as a ‘cock’, with the head down, grabbing the ears from behind their legs for the complete day!

The clips go on and show brutal beating of boys and girls alike by many different teachers, without reason, for small offenses, humiliating them, beating them even on the head. ‘Leave your village attitude in your village!’, you can hear in the clip and ‘You daily get beaten but it doesn’t make a difference because you are so used to it! Even if you were kicked with legs, you wouldn’t change!’

We are proud of Pawan that he brought this proof of child abuse even though he was afraid for getting beaten himself. What would they have done, had they found the camera on him?

When we had a few clips, we decided to start acting against it. I had a long talk with the President of our state’s Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Mrs. Juhie Singh and reported the incidents to her. I was assured of her action.

The next day we went to the principal. At first, she denied everything but when Pawan insisted with our support, she called two of his teachers. They spilled the whole truth and confirmed everything we had already seen on the video. The class teacher told she had hit the whole class because she didn’t know who had been misbehaving. So she simply beat everyone – you can imagine the atmosphere in class when the teacher can just simply tell this without any hint of regret of apology! When the principal started telling them, that they should have sent any misbehaving child to her instead, we confronted her with the truth we knew: that she herself hit children as well!

We told them very clearly that corporal punishment was a criminal offence for which you could even land in jail! And we handed them the ‘Guidelines for the Elimination of Corporal Punishment’ issued by the CBSE, the Central Board of Secondary Education, which this school is affiliated to!

The answer? ‘Oh, but there are so many rules, if we followed all of them, we couldn’t do anything!’ The principal tried to justify their actions in the same way former teachers at our school had when we fired them for landing hand on a child just once: ‘But what should you do when a child gets out of hand?’ The principal, whose stick was lying just beside her, went on to say ‘Okay, the stick is wrong but you have to do SOMETHING to control these children!’

They tried to convince us to keep sending Pawan to their school, promising that he would not be hit anymore. It was not all about him, though, it was about all the other children as well! When we demanded a written commitment that no child would be beaten anymore, we were denied.

The principal sent us to the director, her husband, who owns the school together with her. This meeting was very short, as he was very disrespectful and rude. He did not even ask me to sit down, simply denied everything and told us ‘Go and do whatever you want to do’. Obviously, he didn’t know that we have proof. We simply left. It was of no value to talk further.

When we came back to the Ashram, we received a phone call by a former neighbour whom they also know. He said ‘Why do you get into trouble with them? This director’s brother has once put a pistol on someone’s head!’ Indirectly, this was a clear threat. We answered that he could try to shoot us all but we would do what had to be done.

Our next step was to contact the media. They took their interview and we handed them over our video clips. We created the video below and their program will most probably run tonight, making it all public.

For us, it is about more than just these teachers, this principal or this school. It is about the society and the children of this country! People believe, violence is necessary for children to learn! Children are afraid to raise their voice, parents afraid to complain. Parents think they have no other chance, their child’s year of learning would be wasted if they had to take him out of school.

Violence and a fearful environment don’t help learning. On the contrary, they harm children and keep them from developing in a healthy way! Children learn so much more when surrounded by positivity and love!

I want to help children who get beaten in school, I want to let them know that this is illegal, that there is a way to report it – and your name will not even become public if you do!

Dear parents, believe me, this is harmful for your child. Whenever you get to know that this is happening to your child, don’t stay quiet! Raise your voice, talk to the teachers, the school administration and other parents, bring it out in public and get active against this abuse!

Dear children, don’t be afraid to speak up! Tell your parents what is happening, get active yourself, report what has happened to you.

I am also here for you, if you need help, please feel free to contact me. I will stand with you and support you in any way I can.

We have to make a change in this country, in this society, for the sake of our children!

Non-Violence is appreciated – but it’s hard to leave a Habit – 26 Feb 14

After writing about violence against children in my letter to Indian parents and the past days, I was asked whether I really thought I would change anybody’s mind in my writing. First of all, that is not my first intention of writing, I just want to express. What you make of that is your choice. If it changes the life for some parents and children, I will be happy. I know however that it is hard to change because violence with words and actions has become a habit for many. I think you need practical help to change. I can give you the example of our Ashram where exactly that is happening right now.

One of our employees had been working here for some time while his wife was living further away in a village with his children. He went there on the weekends to visit them. He saw how we treated the children who live here at the Ashram as well as a child of other employees, a boy of about the same age as his son, approximately two years old. He heard us tell the parents that they should not hit their boy and he listened to our arguments why one should not even threaten with violence.

He understood that this was good. He wanted this atmosphere for his children as well – and so he went to get them to the Ashram. Now his wife, too, works here and his children live with us.

Nevertheless it has proven very difficult to get rid of the habit of hitting a child. He and especially his wife, who spent much more time with the children than him, have to work hard on changing their way of education. Or better said to find a way that actually teaches their children because I refuse accepting violence as ‘education’.

It took them a while to stop raising the hand as if they would slap. It took a strict ban from our side for them to stop threatening with beatings. And it took and still takes our example, explanations from us and thus our help for them to see another way. They don’t know anything else! They themselves grew up with being hit, they have seen children being raised with violence their whole lives long and only now they got to know that there is another way, too.

So we are helping them and trying to show them other ways – because they love their children and understand how good it will be to raise them without violence. They have to get used to it – and their children as well. They were hit for the first two years of their lives and not always for reasons that they could understand, not always preceded by a warning and not always with an explanation. They now need to relearn how to behave as well, following new rules, a sudden change of behavior in their parents and the amount of love that they can feel in this surrounding.

It is the best thing that could happen to both these parents and their children, I believe. And for the Ashram, because as I said yesterday, we make this the best place for my daughter that she could possible grow up in – free of violence and filled with love!

Violent Teachers teaching about non-violent Gandhi – Corporal Punishment in Indian Schools – 3 Oct 12

Yesterday, on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, I shortly mentioned his non-violent approach to make a change. He believed that a change can be made without any violent acts. Unfortunately Gandhi’s idea of change without violence has not reached Indian schools.

In fact, the opposite is the case. A recent report shows that in 99% of India’s schools physical punishment is still exercised. A very common opinion among teachers and also parents is that this is necessary for children to improve in school and most of all to get better manners and discipline. The consequence, in the theory, is that children once they are adult, thank their teachers for beating them because this is how they finally learned in school.

The real result looks different: if you just take one of last week’s newspapers, you will read that a teacher in Jammu, in North India, beat a student of 9th grade into the belly. The boy is in hospital with an injured kidney. Pick up another newspaper and you read about a 10th grade student in Haryana who did not know the answer to a question. The teacher struck him with a stick 40 times. Again, the child is now in hospital and the teacher is absconding.

In India such things happen all the time. Teachers beat children, a teacher cuts the ears of children with blades, children come home with bruises and injuries, have to go to hospital and sometimes even die. There is a law against corporal punishment – but it has obviously not been implemented.

As I have told before in my blog, I have personally experienced physical punishment in school and I remember several teachers who just enjoyed beating children and searched for an excuse to punish them. I am still today angry and I can very clearly say that I never felt thankfulness. Not then and not now.

It does not stop with beating children, though. I have seen with my own eyes how teachers use the excuse of hitting for touching girls. Today I would call it sexual harassment and maybe it gives some kind of sexual satisfaction to sick minds. Let me describe one such scene. We were sitting on the floor learning, the teacher next to a girl. When the girl made a mistake, the teacher pinched the girl so hard in her thigh that she screamed. This did not only happen once. Whenever I think of this scene now, I hate the memory, wishing I would have done something against it. But I was just a child, too.

No, corporal punishment has to stop, there is no question. It is never right to be violent towards children. They are small and weaker than you, so you hit them because they cannot hit you back. You want to make them afraid of you, the bigger one. I believe hitting children will make them less fearful. They will accept it and just think ‘What else can happen? I will just get beaten once or twice more.’ This was exactly the attitude of those children in my school who were beaten frequently!

Such old and barbaric ways are not acceptable in today’s society. That is why in many countries of the world corporal punishment is banned and there are new approaches to teach children in a non-violent atmosphere. Those countries have very good education standards without beating a single child! But in our country, the country of Mahatma Gandhi, whom the world sees as an example of non-violence, the law is of no use, it is not being implemented.

We are positive however that there will be a change and we actively do something to start this process of change! In our primary school we have implemented the law and taught our teachers how to teach without physical punishment. In the past five years we had to fire three teachers for this reason. There are other ways to show children that they are doing wrong without making them hate school. I believe children have to like their school and we have created such a place and such an atmosphere where children like to come every day. Without violence.

Social Acceptance of corporal Punishment lets Teachers hit Children – 6 Mar 12

Just two days ago we had Indian visitors from another town here at the Ashram. We told them about our school and the work that we do and of course we mentioned that in our school none of the children gets beaten. It was a family and when we said this, they looked at each other and then at their 12-year-old son. They told us that just a week ago their son had been beaten by his teacher again.

They told that it was actually quite usual and common. They never complained at the school because they thought it might be also a bit necessary for the boy to learn discipline. When the boy came home with bruises on his back however, they could not keep themselves back from going to the school and talking to the teacher.

When I hear this kind of story, I realize again how well accepted it is in society that you need to hit children in school. You need to beat children so that they learn properly. For a bit of punishment, a little bit of hitting, they don’t even think it is wrong. But they love their child and if they see him in pain, they go there and take action.

People hit their children in their homes, too, because they believe that this is necessary for their education. It is necessary for them to become good adults. It doesn’t matter how many laws the government has passed and how much they have told the schools to stop corporal punishment, it has not been implemented. It is still just too well accepted by society.

In an article I recently read, a study concluded that 99% of children in India face corporal punishment, which includes physical punishment, mental harassment and discrimination leading to any of both. According to the answers of the participants, it is very common that they are beaten with a stick or slapped by hand and it was even mentioned that some teacher used electric shocks as punishment!

In the past I have written about my experience of corporal punishment and I can just repeat that it only creates anger and fury in the child. Children get the feeling ‘Okay, now I am small, you are big, let me become big and then we will see!’

The government itself also knows that the laws until now have not helped much against the ongoing violence in schools. That is why the National Children’s Right Commission has now made another guideline. Every school should have a ‘Corporal Punishment Monitoring Cell’ consisting of two teachers, two parents, one doctor, one lawyer, one counselor, a children’s right volunteer and two children. Any complain about any kind of punishment of children will be heard by this cell and if it is serious, they have to inform the police.

There have been laws and guidelines before, too, but abuse continued nevertheless. Real change comes not only from laws or committees but when people decide to change themselves and their mentality. When parents don’t accept corporal punishment anymore as something normal and when beating is not anymore seen as necessary for a child’s development, it will change a lot. Society has to change, thinking has to change!