While teachers’ aggressive attitude towards students led to the ban of corporal punishment in Indian schools in 2010, violence in schools continues as students’ behaviour towards their classmates and teachers has led to some shocking incidents that have made headlines in the country over the last one year.
Among the most recent case of violence in schools is the murder of a school principal in the school premises by a class 12 student who shot four rounds of fire in her chest because she had scolded him. The incident that took place in Yamunanagar, Haryana, brought into question the safety of not just children, but the psychology of an 18-year-old school boy that led to pulling the trigger.Earlier this month, there was another shocking case of a class 9 student being found dead inside the Jeevan Jyoti Senior Secondary School’s washroom in North-east Delhi. The student was allegedly beaten to death by some of his seniors.
Among other recent cases that made it to national headlines are murder cases of 7-year-old Pradyuman Thakur who was found with his throat slit in the toilet of Ryan International School, Gurugram; a video of a Lucknow teacher of St. John Vianney School who slapped a student 40 times because he did not answer his roll-call; a slap-bet in Pathways School, Noida, among students of class 10 left one of the participants deaf for life. In Uttar Pradesh’s Stepping Stone Intermediate College, a teacher fractured the hand of a student after thrashing him with a duster; a class 5 student of Sharadan Public School on Meerut Road, Uttar Pradesh, lost sight in one eye after a teacher allegedly hit him; an eight-year-old student named Bindu of Government Primary School, Phullanwal, died after being mercilessly thrashed by his teacher.
Several of these cases were recorded on camera and went viral on social media. Nonetheless, action in these cases has not led to discouragement for such acts in schools. However, there is no collated data with any organisation or with the government on the number of violent cases that have been reported from schools in the country or from the national capital.
However, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has taken cognisance of the rising number of cases of violence among school children within the school premises in the past few years, for which the Commission is going to launch an awareness drive about safety and security in schools across the nation in the next few days.
Sumit Vohra, an education activist based in New Delhi, told The Sunday Guardian, “The situation used to be notoriously severe in government schools, which it still is, but recent cases of murders in private schools have left parents in fear because private schools were considered better and safer. The UN Convention on Child rights makes it a child’s right to stay under the guidance of an adult and be protected. So irrespective of whether it is school or home, children are meant to be looked after. All the adults collectively share this responsibility, parents and teachers alike.”
As a member of the committee that sent a proposal to Manish Sisodia, Delhi Education Minister, on usage of surveillance cameras in schools, Vohra said, “I do not see the use of CCTVs as an invasion of privacy. Surveillance is important and parents should be allowed access to the live footage. I do not suggest giving parents complete access to every CCTV in school, but live footage of the class in which your child sits should be made accessible to parents.”
Further, Vohra suggested that schools can form a voluntary committee of parents that will appoint members on a rotation basis and act as a bridge between the school management and parents of all the children studying in that school. “This committee should be given the right to demand any information that concerns the safety of their child while in school. This way, a healthy balance of accountability can be maintained,” Vohra said.
The NCPCR has also recently launched a manual on the Safety and Security of Children in Schools and this manual has consolidated and elaborate guidelines that schools need to follow while keeping in mind the safety of children in their schools.
According to a senior official in the NCPCR, the Commission has launched a survey across the country where 75,000 schools from across the country will be surveyed keeping in mind the infrastructure, safety, security and other parameters.
“The survey has been launched and is being carried out across the country and 5% of schools are being taken from every state, which is being further broken down to district and block levels. From each school, 10 students will be given a questionnaire to be filled. The students are being selected from class 6 to class 8. Not just students, even teachers who are currently under training would be part of the survey so that they get to know what is required in the school,” a senior NCPCR official told The Sunday Guardian.
Listing challenges that a school faces on a day-to-day basis, Priya Dhall, principal, Dehradun Public School, Ghaziabad, said, “We understand that recent cases have left parents distrusting school management. But parents cannot shift the blame. If our teachers violate guidelines, then we can punish them, but when students act in an extreme manner, then some part of the responsibility should be taken by the parents as well. We banned use to bikes and scooties in school long back, but still some students drive their two-wheelers and four wheelers and park at a distance outside school. Parents need to understand that they cannot give gadgets to their children without making them understand the power and responsibility that comes with it.”
In an effort to create awareness against any sort of sexual harassment, Dhall said, “We annually screen the CBSE documentary on good touch and bad touch for both girls and boys. As far as the question of counsellors is concerned, there is nothing wrong with it; however, teachers spend so much time with students that they are no less of a counsellor either. For high school students, teachers often end up taking separate classes for girls and boys on issues related to puberty.”
Amod Kant, former IPS officer from Delhi Police and director of Prayas, an NGO for children, said: “In India, around 35,000-40,000 crimes are committed by children out of which around 5,000 are of serious nature. These are the recorded ones. But these numbers are not a big deal when put against the national crime rate. Nonetheless, these figures are alarming because the perpetrators are children in these cases. Crime has witnessed 400% increase in the last few years, but comparatively violence by children has not seen a proportionate rise. We are addressing the issue with the intention of not exasperating the circumstances and parents, teachers, law makers collectively need to work on this.” Kant, who was also the first chairperson of the Child Rights Commission, added, “Children under 18 need to be monitored. They must be guided and guarded. School authorities tend to get defensive instead of acknowledging their failures. Parents want schools to take all responsibility instead of admitting that their bonds with their children are not as strong as it should be. Most of all, teachers and parents alike should educate themselves about child psychology and what goes on in a child’s mind to justify using violence as a solution to their problems.” Kant also suggested that private schools should also incorporate school management committees just like government schools have established under the RTI Act.