A student of Lhamoidzingkha Central School was subjected to corporal punishment. His teacher allegedly whipped him with a cane stick. Unlike in the past, there was no debate as to whether students should be subjected to physical punishments in schools. It is wrong and a mistake on the teacher’s part to beat a Class II student.

Parents knew it was wrong. Authorities have taken it up and are investigating the issue. Social media picked it up and are calling for action against the teacher. In short, that corporal punishment is not tolerated is the message. It was banned in schools and we have had incidents where teachers who whipped or boxed students were dragged to courts.

Beating students to bring them into line, and correct them, was accepted in the past. Both teachers and parents agreed it was good. In fact, some parents would call teachers to punish their children for misbehaving. It is no more a routine to discipline students with beatings. It is a crime and the awareness has made students and parents seek help. 

The awareness and social media have brought the Lhamoidzingkha issue to the mainstream. Quite often, such matters are hushed up with the school authorities quickly reaching some sort of “compromise” with the parents. The Lhamoidzingkha case is an example of advocacy and awareness of child rights creating impact. No child should be subjected to physical abuse – in school or at home. It is the right of the child.

Recognising this right, even the monk body, notoriously known for shaping young monks through beatings, has prohibited physical punishment. Not long ago, in the dratshang hierarchy a leather whip (Teycha) carried by the kudung, the disciplinarian, is a symbol of order and discipline. The Teycha is now literally only symbolic. Young monks could go and report to the Child Care and Protection office within the dratshang if they are whipped.

Even without legislation, dealing with children has changed as we develop, get exposed to international best norms and children learn, from an early age, about their rights. They know that subjecting them to physical punishment is not right if not from our laws, at least from Youtube, Tiktok, or Facebook videos.

Children when threatened with the “leather belt” are quick to say they will call 911 without knowing it is not the right number for help. They know it is wrong to beat them. 

If corporal punishment is known to cause damaging effects on the physical and mental health of the child, it is worse today with technology. The fear that corporal punishment introduces fear in students, lowers their self-esteem and sense of confidence and security, is worse with social media where other students talk, share and make fun of a student who got punished in the class. It could rob the child of his or her learning potential. In some cases, it could lead to worse things like dropping out of school.

Meanwhile, we should help teachers solve disciplinary issues, through other approaches. To be fair to teachers, managing a classroom of 35 students can be a challenge without instilling fear in them. Not to generalise, some students believe the rule is a leeway to escape unpunished.

We need to put in place good alternatives to discipline students. Teachers agree that disciplinary issues have increased after corporal punishment was banned. If corporal punishment is a cruel and cowardly weapon, we need to find more civilised ways to correct students.