For most of us, our childhood has been the “time of our lives”. Filled with myriad memories, an individual’s childhood is the happiest time spent. However, some childhoods have been marred irreparably, and in some extreme cases, resulting in death. This article deals with another much-debated aspect of school life: the corporal punishment. Although this practice has been discontinued on paper, corporal punishment is still followed by a considerable number of teachers and guardians. Oxford dictionary defines corporal punishment as “physical punishment, such as caning or flogging”. The history of physical punishment goes a long way back, found in Book of Proverbs that “He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes. Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”
Corporal punishment is inflicted with the purpose to discipline the offender, but of late, this practice has been condemned by the authorities and has been criminalized. A few countries have abolished all kinds of corporal punishment but there are still many supporters who do not see any harm in it. In India, numerous cases have come up where children are left severely damaged, both physically and mentally. In a few extreme cases, the child is reported to die due to the injuries. So the question is, “should children be caned to instill discipline in them?” While many of us would like to oppose it, there are some who reason out the need to land a cane or two when a child becomes too unruly. This debate puts forward another important question “if caning is necessary, how much can be called enough?”
There are ways to instill discipline in a child and it doesn’t have to extreme. Though love and reasoning are the much preferred ways to handle a child, if things go out of hand certain strict actions have to be undertaken. Unless firm rules are laid down, it is difficult to gauge the amount of physical punishment inflicted. Rule 37 of The Delhi School Education Rules, 1937 states that:
(a) Corporal punishment maybe given by the head of the school in cases of persisting impertinence or rude behaviour towards the teachers, physical violence, intemperance and serious form of misbehaviour with other students
(b) Corporal punishment shall not be inflicted on the students who are in ill health
(c) Where corporal punishment is imposed, it shall not be severe or excessive and shall be so administered as not to cause bodily injury
(d) Where cane is used for inflicting corporal punishment, such punishment shall take the form of strokes not exceeding 10 on the palm of the hand
(e) e) Every punishment inflicted on a student shall be recorded in the Conduct Register of such student.
Things that are deeply ingrained in the society are hard to erase. The debate shall go on and people will keep changing sides, sometimes in favour of it and sometimes against it. All we can continue is hoping that no child should be marred by physical punishment to the extent that it causes damage that cannot be undone.