Schools’ punitive methods decried

ABU DHABI — Even when the country has banned corporal punishment in schools, many teachers are allegedly adopting crude forms of punitive action to discipline erring students.

By Anjana Sankar

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Published: Fri 15 Apr 2005, 11:42 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:04 PM

These punitive measures sometimes amount to physical torture and harassment, adversely affecting the students’ mental development and academic performance, some parents have told Khaleej Times.

The punishments vary from making students clean classrooms to asking them to walk on all fours. Sometimes they are denied permission to go to toilet or dumped with homework.

Though the Education Ministry has evolved the procedures to look into complaints of student abuse, an official said, parents desist from complaining against schools fearing retribution.

A national parent, who requested anonymity, said that his three children studying in an upscale private school in Abu Dhabi had to undergo severe punishments for minor errors on several occasions. “More than a couple of times, my eighth grade son had been asked to go to school on Thursdays and clean the classroom. My two other children were also asked to write an entire English chapter 25 times for not being attentive in the class,” said A.M.

According to him, despite his complaining to the school principal, the same methods were used to discipline students. “I am not justifying my kids. They are boys and are very naughty. But teachers are trained in child psychology and they should know how to control students. Misbehaving children should be punished but not in such mean ways,” he emphasised.

Another Arab parent of three children said that one of his boys was made to stand facing the wall for more than one hour in school. “He came back with an eyesore and we did not send him to school for the next two days. I complained to the principal as these punishments can lead to sight disorders and constant headaches. The school’s explanation was that the teacher forgot that she had asked him to stand facing the wall,” said the parent.

Narrating yet another incident, he added that it is very common for teachers to abuse children in foul language. “They call them stupid, wild beasts and so on, which is not acceptable. Teachers are supposed to be role models. If they themselves resort to such unacceptable language, how can they demand better behaviour from children?”

A private school teacher from Pakistan, who admitted to having used some unconventional methods, said that they are forced to resort to such means to tame rouge or aggressive students. “I feel that authorities should not ban corporal punishment. It is when you don’t have the right to strike unruly children, teachers take to unconventional methods, which can be more dangerous,” she opined.

A ministry of education official said that parents are reluctant to complain for fear of inviting retaliatory measures from the school management. “If any parent complains, a committee comprising of officials from the ministry and educational zone will investigate into the matter and strict action would be taken,” she added.

As per the ‘Regulation of Behavioural Direction for Private School Students’ drawn out by the Ministry of Education, schools should not resort to non-pedagogic methods for modifying student behaviour.

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