Most teachers today, even in remote schools would think twice before they raise the cane or hand on a student. It could land them in trouble.
And it has in the recent past. Teachers were taken to court and penalised. Most students or their parents are aware of the ban on corporal punishment and are quick to point it out when students are caned or whipped or boxed.
The Chamgang school principal who is alleged to have battered a student in front of the entire school and teaching faculty for miss-pronouncing a word in his assembly speech, if true, has made a mistake. The student is now complaining of hearing problems. If it is related to the alleged box to the ear, it will complicate matters. A student can be punished for many reasons but causing bodily injury will be looked at from a different level. And the degree of the student’s mistake will have to be considered.
Gone are the days when students are disciplined using the whip or the cane. In this case, it was not even a disciplinary issue. Much of our schooling system has changed. Beating students into shape has almost disappeared, especially in urban schools. Teachers using the stick are often reminded by parents and school authorities to be extra cautious.
The use of corporal punishment is often cited as against the rights of children. It is even considered violence against children. With parents and children becoming aware of laws, they are more vocal, and school authorities are challenged when they resort to the cane. Some even approach the media thinking that authorities would take action if the issue were made public.
Not many will leave disciplining their children to the teachers, especially if they are beaten. Some even cannot stand their children being scolded in front of others, as they believe it could affect the child morally and psychologically. For parents, the school is a considered a safe place for their children to learn and grow. They cannot take when their children are emotionally hurt; forget beating, from people entrusted to care for them.
While the Chamgang incident is an unfortunate incident it provides anther opportunity to look into the issue. Educationists and teachers always complain of disciplinary issues, including students coming under the influence of alcohol to school. Not to generalise, some students believe the rule as a leeway to escape unpunished.
They also feel that unless misbehaving students are dealt with firmly and seriously, schools would become unmanageable. This will not be the last incident reaching media or authorities. Unless good alternatives to discipline students are in put place, we will see them happening. In the past, students feared the discipline master, usually the Dzongkha lopon carrying a taycha (whip).
Teachers are of the view that disciplinary issues have increased after corporal punishment was banned. Without alternatives, like professional counsellors or students and parents mature enough to understand this form of alternatives, the problem will remain.
But it has become imperative that we find a more civilised way to correct students. Corporal punishment is a cruel and cowardly weapon.