B & B

B and B. In this case it is not Bold and Beautiful or Button and Bows. I am talking of Beating and  Bullying: two ills found in most schools in India and accepted as a norm rather than an exception. Beating is also the norm in many homes, particularly in the lower and middle strata of our society. I cannot begin to count the number of parents who have come to project why and asked us to 'beat' their children if they did not study. And how can I forget the secondary school principal I met way back in 2001 who told me with great pride that: beating was his birth right! In that school all teachers carried sticks all the time. What adults do not understand is that these apparently innocuous occurrences leave life long scars on children.

Popples revealed to his counsellor almost a year after the sessions began that he was bullied at school and that made him aggressive and angry. Not knowing how to handle the situation he has even auto mutilated himself by trying to cut his wrists with a metal ruler. Thank God nothing happened, or actually did is I was informed of the same. Popples is physically scarred with scars on his head, upper body and both his arms. He is 'different' and anyone who is different easily becomes a target for bullies. More so he is also emotionally scarred as his early childhood was marred with violence both physical and emotional. To day his emotional immunity is very low and it will take time for this repeatedly uprooted child to find roots. The place he has lived in longest is his school that he entered 7 years ago. Imagine my sadness when I found that even after 7 years the child had not been understood by both adults and peers. I was shocked and angry when I was told that he was consistently called : burned banana skin or charred KFC leg! The few attempts we made to try and explain the magnitude of the problem to the school authorities were futile as child abuse seems to be accepted and even necessary to fulfil the mission of schools: good marks in examinations! No one wanted to even understand that bullying and beating can leave life long scars and that both the ones who bullies and the one who is beaten have long lasting effects.

As I was no heard and it seemed no one is prepared to hear me, I decided to take recourse to my writing and hope that someone will read this and at least ponder over it. I do not blame anyone. This is perhaps the only way they know. It is for law makers and those who design curricula for education courses and teacher training to rethink their approach.

A child who is bullied can become depressive, feel lonely, and lose interest in activities they enjoy. This may persist when they become adults. Their academic performance may decline, they may drop out of school and become violent adults. A frightening statistic: In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

The one who bullies fares no better. They are the ones who may abuse alcohol or drugs, engage in early sexual activity, be abusive in their relationships. The net is replete with articles on the ills of bullying. It also gives a list of early signs which caretakers and teachers should be sensitive to. There are many things parents and schools can do: from classroom activities to encouraging peer support but for that they must accept the fact that bullying is a serious problem that can scar a child for life. The problem is that schools do not accept this reality and have a tendency to play down bullying. Bullying has to be taken seriously, very seriously.

Beating in schools and boarding schools  is also prevalent. Here again beating can have a detrimental effect on the child receiving corporal punishment. First it is against the law and in violation of children's rightsCorporal punishment interferes with the learning process and with children’s cognitive, sensory, and social emotional development.  Studies in Europe have shown that corporal punishment was the strongest predictor of current depression among children. This practice needs to be stopped and the reasons are multiple. Some of them are highlighted in this article. In India, 2 out of 3 school going children are physically abused

Adults often forget that children have self esteem and are individuals, even if they are tiny. Talking negatively of a child in front of his class is prevalent as I have sadly experienced and is according to me one of the worst things you can do to a child. What is needed is positive discipline. Much has been written about this approach and it should be included in every teacher training curricula.

In a country like ours were power seems to be an undeniable right change will be slow in coming. Yet it is incumbent upon each one of us to raise our voices against these B and B!