A little girl died yesterday. She was 11 year old. She died because she was not able to recite her alphabet. She died because her teacher hit her head against the table and then made her stand in the sun for two hours. She died because her frail body could not withstand the brutal punishment.
My heart goes out to little Shanno yet another innocent victim of the beast called corporal punishment. The question I ask is how many more such deaths will it take for us to wake up and do something? This is not the first case and sadly this will not be the last. Corporal punishment is too deeply ingrained in our system. Once again the same drama will enfold: outrage and anger, some cosmetic dismissals and suspensions, some platitudes mouthed by people in power and then as always little Shanno will be laid to rest in more ways than one.
We too at project why had tried long ago to take on the hydra headed monster called corporal punishment. I remember the case of a child who had been mercilessly beaten by his school teacher and how we had taken up the cudgels on his behalf. I recall the innumerable visits to the education department, the endless petitions to one and all. The end result had simply been a cosmetic transfer of the teacher to another school. But that was not all. From that day onwards pwhy children were singled out in the school and beaten for no apparent reason.
Wonder what punishment will be meted out to the teacher whose cruel action resulted in little Shanno's death. The whitewashing act has already begun. The blame game has started. As always in all cases of child abuse the victim is made the offender. The teacher has given her defense and the system will undoubtedly protect her.
But there are deeper questions that arise from the present situation. This is not an isolated incident. Children are beaten every day in schools in India. One wonders why? What is it that turns an apparent sane human being into a monster? What gives the right to a teacher to physically abuse a child? And why does it happen over and over in spite of laws and court directives. Questions that need answers.
Little Shanno may have been a child with a learning disability. Maybe she just was not able to cope with her studies. But the existing system has no place for children like her. And in all probability teachers are not sensitized towards such children. The disturbing yet inevitable reality is that even if the teacher is brought to book there will be many other Shannos unless the whole education system is reviewed and altered. But who will bell the cat?