Since the time we were in school, we were told to treat our teachers like near-gods. Every Teacher’s Day, we were supposed to write tributes to them for making us who we are. But for a lot of kids, teachers made them scared, under-confident young adults. If you weren’t one of the “intelligent” kids, you would be targeted every day for the most trivial reasons.
Some teachers routinely thought of physical assault as the perfect punishment for a child not doing their homework, not understanding what they were teaching, or forgetting to bring a particular book to class. Because school children were not allowed to have normal human follies like a temporary memory lapse.
I was never one of those kids who were great in every subject. I was a constant dud at mathematics and science. Back then, I thought this was a huge error on my part and there was something I could do about it by cramming numbers into my brain. A few years after leaving school, I realised that not everyone aced every subject, so why should I feel so terrible about it? But if my teachers of these subjects had their way, I would be miserable about it for the rest of my life.
On August 31, news reports showed a boy in Class 3 being mercilessly slapped and dragged by his teacher in a school in Lucknow. The reason for this physical assault was that the child had not responded to the teacher’s roll call because he was engrossed in his drawing work. A CCTV video, which later went viral, showed the teacher slapping the child with both hands and dragging him with his tie. The helpless child just stands there, suffering at the hands of a monster. The case was brought to light after the child’s parents noticed his swollen face when he went home and questioned the school principal.
But not all children are lucky enough to find timely support against their tormentors.
A 12-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu committed suicide after being shamed for a menstrual blood stain on her clothes in class. According to reports, the girl jumped from the rooftop of a neighbour’s house after her teacher yelled at her in front of the whole class when she asked for permission to go to the restroom. Apparently, the teacher scolded her asking if she couldn’t even place her pad properly.
At the age of nine, I was made to stand in front of my class and slapped hard across the face because I forgot to get my drawing book to school.
I always enjoyed drawing class so there was no other reason for me to not get the book except the fact that it slipped my mind. But for my teacher, that small lapse warranted a slap so hard that I still remember the sting on my cheek 23 years later. I’m sure she doesn’t remember it; most teachers probably don’t remember slapping kids for ridiculous reasons. But maybe if they did, an entire generation wouldn’t have grown up scarred.
We were always told to ask questions if we didn’t understand a lesson, but when we did and if the question turned out to be “stupid” according to the teacher, we were ridiculed in front of an entire class of children who would then laugh at the target just because the teacher would encourage them to do so. This was one of the two ways to win a teacher’s approval – excel in their subject and not be a pain for them or join them in breaking another child.
Perhaps it’s time for teachers to understand that children aren’t “acting out” or “being rebellious” all the time. Sometimes, they’re just lost and having teachers who mock them makes it worse for their mental health. I understand that great teachers too may lose their patience with difficult children, but if you want to hit children as young as nine for not bringing a book to class, resign and stop working with children. You’re obviously not cut out for it, and innocent kids shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of your erroneous career choice.