Sunday, 10 October 2010
Should these teachers face a jail term?
I was slightly disconcerted with the pictures of the La Martiniere principal and some other teachers being arrested. Sure, they were later released on bail, but the media pressure on the men is so enormous, it’s clear jail time awaits the masters.
For those who don’t know, the teachers inflicted some caning (and perhaps some other humiliations) on a boy in the school. Unable to handle it, the poor kid went ahead and killed himself. A very tragic situation, and one’s heart goes out to the bereaved family. They must be in trauma.
Now, by no means is one justifying corporal punishment (yes, it’s great that it’s deemed illegal now). But my question is: Is it fair that the school teachers be charged for instigating suicide, and be punished on that account? It is highly unlikely that the punishers either wished for or expected that the child would take his own life. All they did was to break a law… which is to indulge in corporal punishment… and at the most should face some heat on that count. But abetting suicide?? I think that’s over the top.
Here’s why: Almost all of us boys were caned and struck and insulted by our teachers and head masters in the school days. I particularly recall being caned many times over by our school principal, the tough Sir William Dias (may his soul rest in peace, he was a good man!). And it was usually because I was late to school or had forgotten to snip my hair. And many other boys in the school faced a similar fate. But I don’t think any one of us went ahead and slashed our wrists. We used to get annoyed at first, then have a good laugh, and move on. In fact, here’s a funny episode: One fine Monday morning, Sir Dias arrived in our classroom, and he wasn’t in a particularly pleasant mood. And he caned and threw out almost all the boys. Ordering that we must return only after a decent hair cut. And I recall the few of us who were left behind, also pointed out to Sir that we needed a cut too! And got caned and thrown out as well. So about 20 of us lads spent the entire day playing cricket and generally enjoying an unexpected hol! (As the girls were busy mugging away their lessons, hehe!) And no, no one died. And no, neither did we have that hair cut… barber shops used to be shut in Mumbai on Mondays in those days.
Which brings me to the main point of discussion: How can a teacher possibly tell there is an ultra sensitive boy in a school of hundreds? Should not the parents take some responsibility as well, for not being aware of their lad’s fragile temperament? Were they available to the boy when he was feeling traumatised? Had they created an environment in the house which allowed for a hurt child to freely confide in the family? In short, did they play the role of shock absorbers, which all parents are supposed to play for their young children? Some tough questions need to be asked of the parents as well. That would be fairer.
Bottom-line: Yes, one feels sad for the family. Yes, it’s difficult to ask them searching questions in their devastated frame of mind. Yes, it’s a tragic story, so the media gets tempted to get after the ‘villains’. And make sure they go into the slammer.
But, this just isn’t just. Think about it.