THE video footage of young children being beaten in a madressah in Hyderabad has justifiably drawn condemnation. The perpetrator, a religious studies teacher who is also a police employee, has been arrested since the circulation of the video on social media. He was discovered beating his young charges for skipping classes by a citizen with a camera. The severity of the punishment can be gauged by the anguish writ large on the face of one of the young students who was lashed by his teacher. The apparent calmness with which the teacher in the video is beating his young charges and his curt response to the admonishing calls for him to stop are nothing short of chilling; they indicate that for him it is perhaps a routine exercise in disciplining children. Is it any wonder that the young boys sent to such a place of learning would want to stay away?
The teacher’s sense of security is eerie — it is the kind that is often on display when those accused of administering corporal punishment are confronted. The ultimate responsibility lies with the law enforcers. But, whereas the police and other members of the prosecution team must play their due role in curbing such punishment, others must also do their bit. Quite often, cruel teachers have the permission of the parents of young students to use methods that would be unacceptable in any civilised society. This is perhaps one of the reasons why society is hardly bothered about giving the issue much thought, let alone trying to address it. Such attitudes weaken the case for reform after the initial flurry of emotional statements. This recorded instance in the Hyderabad madressah must not be allowed to fade from memory. It should mark the start of a campaign for rooting out punishment in schools by giving perpetrators the message that the state will not tolerate their brutality towards young children under any circumstances, and that they, and not their young charges, will be severely dealt with for their actions.
Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2018