The Child's Dignity and Indian Education

by Serguei Badaev

It is said that the maturity of a society can be seen from what place and respect children and women gain in it. Many Sathya Sai Baba's followers (especially those from overseas) believe that an educational programme (Education in Human Values = EHV) promoted by SSB and his world-wide organisation is bound to change the social climate in India and the world. Education as a primary formative force for transformation of a society is considered to be a crucial factor. The EHV programme is believed to be a remedy for moral and spiritual decline of our time. Sathya Sai Baba declared several times that India was going to be a dharmic example for the whole world.

If it were true, we would expect to notice a sort of revival in Indian education or at least some significant trend. As one can see from the article excerpts below, corporal punishment is a real problem in India. Indian education can hardly be an example for the rest of the world in this respect. It is noteworthy that SSB has never said anything against corporal punishment at schools in his discourses, as if there is no problem here. He has said in one discourse that sparing the rod is spoiling the child. These words of his are fully backed up by action, as anyone who reads the popular book by Smt. Vijayamma will find. The author reveals how SSB literally gave her baby boy relentless, hard beatings week after week over a long period. Also, his physical abuses like pinching, twisting ears and so forth, which were reportedly very painful, are liberally documented there. (Antyatha Saranam Nasthi 'Other than you refuge there is none' Private publ. 1999: Vijamma  W/o K.S. HemChand, Opp. Brooke Bond, Main Road, Whitefield, PH #8452553  Bangalore, 560066. India. e-mail: [1].

Here is an excerpt from the book (p.222) which shows what a treatment a Vijaya Kumari's little son got from Sathya Sai Baba.

“Everyone used to call him “Chota Baba” (little Baba). He had a full head of crinkled hair. Swami made the boy sit in His lap and asked him, “What is your name?” “Have you drunk milk?” “Would you like to eat rice?” “Do you want to be naughty?”. The boy gave replies in a cute way. Everyone was laughing. The boy was then three years old. Suddenly, Swami made him lie face down in His lap and began beating him hard on the back. None of us knew what to make of it. We were all stunned, and staring at Swami. Who among us had the courage to go near Swami and question Him? The boy´s face looked jaded. He was yelling and crying. “Go, go away from here.” Saying so, Swami pushed the boy away from Him. The poor little boy! He came running to me sobbing. The sobs did not subside even after one hour. Every week, Swami would treat the boy like this, three or four times. The minute I took him out of the cradle my son would say pathetically, “Don´t take me to Swami, mother”, and break into tears. I would feel very pained. But when Swami ordered me to bring the boy, how could I say no? Further I had full faith and confidence in Swami... On the days when Venkamma garu happened to be with us, she would take my son from Swamis lap, saying “That is enough, Swami”, My son was by no means mischievous. He was so quiet that none was aware of his presence in a room. But we do not know which “evil power” Swami had to drive away from him. “

There is a similar sort of silence in regard to a question of coeducation. As it is well known SSB's primary and secondary schools follow a model of separate schools for boys and for girls. Though it is thought by Sathya Sai Baba's followers as an important aspect of the whole educational approach, it has never been explained or clarified. Indian society as a whole demonstrates a sort of resistance to coeducation. Quite probably, it is a result of patriarchal tradition and British colonial practices.

Terrorizing students is part of a flawed education system   By G. Babu Jayakumar

In the Indian social milieu, treatment meted out to children anywhere is far from desirable - be it homes, schools or any public place - and brutality, both physical and psychological, is never frowned upon. ...

But then we know that in the event of the long arm of the law catching up with every teacher who beats students, there would be no room in our jails and there would hardly be any teacher left in classrooms. That indeed is the real failure of our civil society - to prevent corporal punishment gain acceptability. And the blame should be shared by parents, teachers, school managements, educationists and policy-makers. ...

This social acceptance to causing pain to children - be it with a view to sharpening their academic skills or disciplining them - gives a free hand to teachers to manhandle their charges and those landing the profession as the last resort to go a bit overboard, mostly to cover up their inadequacies and lack of commitment.
News Today, Chennai, 21 June 2003 (

Editorial:    Spare the rod

It took the hanging of a X Standard student of a private school in Chennai to scrap corporal punishment. That corporal punishment in one form or another has been around in schools for centuries is common knowledge. It has been an accepted disciplinary method in homes as well as schools. The 16-year-old by was allegedly hit on his cheek by one of his teachers in such a way that it left a tell-tale mark. Ashamed to face his fellow-students, the boy committed suicide. The Convention on Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly to which India was a party, asks governments to take all measures to ensure that school discipline is maintained in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity, but Tamil Nadu Education Rules 51 authorised corporal punishment. A committee set up by the state government to revise the outdated rules has recommended that every child be given an opportunity to learn from error of his/her ways through corrective measures. "The school shall not cause mental and physical pain to the child", it said.

Along with revising Education Rules, government should also review the entire education system. Dominated by grades and competition, students are forced to cram for examinations. Not only schools, even some colleges in Tamil Nadu indulge in corporal punishment. Teaching is not exactly the best paid profession in the country. Often it attracts people who fail to find other jobs and they tend to take out their frustrations on hapless students. Coeducation is frowned upon in higher secondary schools. Researchers say rigid separation of sexes is not the best way to develop personality. It is about time government finds better, more effective ways of charting students' progress.
The Statesman, Calcutta, 3 July 2003 (

Beat it: Schools still believe in thrashing out the problem

HYDERABAD: Despite a ban on corporal punishment in schools, most educational institutions continue to practice this outdated means to discipline their wards. Sometimes, the punishment transcends all limits and kids land up in hospitals.

The Education Department in fact issued a GO No 16 (Dated Feb 18, 2002) omitting corporal punishment from the list of disciplinary actions at schools.

However, 74 complaints of corporal punishment and abuse have been registered with the Director of School Education's State Child Rights Cell.
Saturday August 23 2003 11:50 IST (


Online edition of India's National Newspaper --- Tuesday, Jun 17, 2003

Ban corporal punishment

VIOLENCE AGAINST A child is an unpardonable act. It needs to be condemned outright. Nothing can be more cruel than beating a child, which is often helpless in the face of adult might. And to spank it or cane it in a way that it feels ashamed to face the world is nothing short of barbarism. The case of a 16-year-old boy in Chennai who committed suicide after being thrashed by his schoolmaster underlines a sadistic tendency among a class of people entrusted with the wellbeing and welfare of children. If acts of teachers were to drive their students to death, it merely indicates a serious malaise in our society. It is unfortunate that many schools still have rules permitting corporal punishment. Obviously, many rules in India are misinterpreted to suit personal convenience and prejudice, and the guilty master probably went overboard in trying to discipline a boy. What is even more disturbing is the fact that the school concerned had reportedly pushed at least one more teenager to the precipice some time ago, besides regularly resorting to ugly forms of "detention". All these forms of retribution contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, and acceded to by India in 1992. Article 28 of the Convention provides: "State parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity".

Decried by psychologists and social scientists, these incidents of corporal punishment come at a time when India's school system is under severe strain. The syllabus is dominated by a textbook culture, which forces a child to cram for examination grades, rather than help him or her develop as rounded human beings with a fine sense of intelligence and a mind sensitive to the common good of the community and the suffering of a fellow being. In an increasingly fierce global scenario, where competition and consumerism blind men and women to rationality and reason, India's education structure refuses to incorporate imagination and pragmatism. It remains oblivious to the strides education has taken not only in the West but even in relatively newer regions, such as Australia or New Zealand, where course content is largely tailored to suit the interest and aspiration of a youngster.

India's education is handicapped in yet another way: an inadequate number of dedicated teachers. It is true that school-teachers continue to be ill-paid, and, obviously, the profession often attracts the mediocre or those who fail to find other jobs. Even those who are talented and are capable of moulding tomorrow's India soon fall into a rut of poverty and disrespect. The rod comes in handy for them to deal with their own resentment and anger against a society that is callously indifferent to their interests and betterment. The weak and helpless student is thus reduced to a punching bag. Such bodily abuse can affect a boy or a girl for life. Research has revealed that corporal punishment is not merely ineffective, but also makes children defiant, rebellious and hostile. They can develop a warped personality; they can become spouse beaters, molesters, rapists. What is more, they begin to believe that might is right, and that violence is the answer to most problems.

 September 1, 2003

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