Corporal punishment, a colonial form of instilling discipline in schools by inflicting pain on offenders albeit banned is still practised here even for minor offences, with reports of students being admitted to hospital after sustaining injury. With another school year just ending, the most recent incidents were reported during the last term where students were [...]


Stop this barbaric act!

Corporal punishment still prevails especially in rural areas,

Corporal punishment, a colonial form of instilling discipline in schools by inflicting pain on offenders albeit banned is still practised here even for minor offences, with reports of students being admitted to hospital after sustaining injury.

With another school year just ending, the most recent incidents were reported during the last term where students were admitted to Marawila and Bandarawela hospitals.

Does splashing each other with ink warrant severe punishment? Pic by Mangala Weerasekera

Nine students of Welimada Galedanda Elbedegala were hospitalised after they were reportedly beaten by the deputy principal for stealing kevum (oil cakes) that were prepared for the end of term party.

In another incident two students were admitted to the Marawila Hospital after sustaining injuries when the school principal had beaten them for splashing ink at each other.

Hospital sources said the students who suffered injuries caused by severe blows from a club were treated for about three days.

H.M. Ratnatilake, Marawila Police Officer in Charge, said the principal who was arrested after the parents lodged a complaint was produced in court and released on personal bail of Rs.100, 000.

The Welimada deputy principal was arrested following a complaint lodged by the parents at the Diyatalwa police. He was released on bail after being produced before the Bandarawela Magistrate.
According to police similar cases of corporal punishment were reported even earlier during the year.
In March a grade three student of a Balangoda primary school sustained severe injuries following a caning by the principal and a grade eight student was severely caned by a maths teacher in school in Thotalanga.
In May several students from Sri Newen School in Horana, Pokunuwita were allegedly threatened with death by the principal, while in Gampola two students were admitted to hospital after being assaulted by the Principal.

The victims were mainly boys between the ages of 12 and 14, police said, adding that within a nine-month period for this year 124 reported cases came under the category of cruelty to children.
Meanwhile, Save the Children’s Director (Advocacy) Menaca Calyanaratne said she believes that educationists who fail to command respect from children have failed in their profession.
“Respect does not come out of fear but through admiration and acceptance. There are teachers who have come in to this profession without any passion or commitment but just because it is a job with a pension and long vacations,”

She said the country lacked a clear policy regarding the recruitment of teachers. Neither were individuals who become teachers screened to see whether they were even suitable to work with children, she added.
“Just because one specialises in a subject or has a degree it does not make one a good teacher. Unfortunately most teachers today have no time to get to know their students. They do not consider that as important as the need is to ‘cover the syllabus’,” Ms. Calyaratne said.

“I think giving teaching appointments to individuals without a basic training in child psychology should be avoided. There is a circular about school discipline which specifically states the ill effects of physical and humiliating punishment. But many teachers are unaware of it,” she added.

She also said there should be a mechanism within the education sector to hear grievances of this nature other than parents and students finding redress in courts.

“Past pupils associations and school development societies that are very active in fund raising and developing the physical infrastructure of the school need to take more interest in this area to make their school safe for children at the same time maintaining discipline,” Ms.Calyaratne said.

Meanwhile Ceylon Teacher Services Union General Secretary, Mahinda Jayasinghe pointed out that teachers should be given practical training in child psychology at teacher training colleges while those who go against the ban on corporal punishment should face disciplinary action.

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) the main state body for the protection of children holds the view that despite awareness programmes in child protection being conducted in communities and schools island-wide there are still cases of brutality against children being reported.

NCPA chairman Anoma Dissanayake said it was doubly unfortunate when students who are victims of verbal and physical assault are further victimised by teachers who hold a grudge against them when complaints are made against them.

“Recently in Homagama, a teacher had hit a child and when the parents had complained to school heads the teachers caused so much mental pain that the student had to leave the school,” she said.
When the Sunday Times spoke to some education directors they said many cases of corporal punishment were reported from rural areas where teachers and schools lacked basic facilities.

Galle district education director K. A. Susil Premanath said many teachers in remote schools were unaware about the ban on corporal punishment and often resorted to it as there was parental approval.
Moneragala district education director Sarath Bandu Gunasekara said teachers and principals that come within his zone have been educated on the ban and told to follow humane methods of punishment.
An education psychologist Tamara Handy said corporal punishment was an uncalled for approach to correct a child, especially those in adolescent ages.

“The problem with corporal punishment is that it does not match the bad deed the child has committed. There is no learning in corporal punishment because the child won’t repeat the act only out of fear but doesn’t know the reason why the action was inappropriate or bad,” she explained.

She said teachers should resort to other corrective methods that included making the student work during the internal or give him/her additional homework.

“The school is not a place where the teacher shows his or her anger or power but a place where children are taught and groomed. This will result in an unnatural fear of education,” she further elaborated.
Ms. Handy said teachers should also observe students’ behaviour as every child goes through mental and physical changes.

“The ages 12-14 is considered the growing years of a child. It is during this time, the child; especially a boy wants to be independent, beginning to understand life, experience hormonal changes and is under a lot of tension. Therefore parents and teachers should be more understanding,” she said.

Meanwhile Education Minister Bandula Gunewardena told the Sunday Times that disciplinary action would be taken against teachers who still practise corporal punishment while moves are afoot to eliminate this form of punishment in schools.

Outlining the measures that would be taken he said provincial education officers would be instructed to increase awareness programmes regarding the ban on corporal punishment, while teachers will be given a training in child psychology and more would be trained as teacher counsellors.

A child rights legal expert said in 1995 an amendment was introduced under the Penal Code on child cruelty. According to this physically abusing or willfully ill-treating, neglecting, abandoning a child by a guardian or custodians or care givers including teachers was a punishable offence.

The punishment entailed a minimum two years and a maximum of ten year rigorous imprisonment and compensation decided by court.

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