It took a Class 8 student’s suicide and the intense media scrutiny that followed to change a practice that La Martiniere for Boys had been following from the time the East India Company ruled India.
Four months after 13-year-old Rouvanjit Rawla committed suicide after being allegedly caned by his principal and humiliated in school, the prestigious Kolkata school has banned caning and other forms of corporal punishment.
The change in the 174-year-old school’s service rules was announced on Friday by two members of the school’s board of governors, J.R. Mukherjee and David Howard, who claimed the modification had nothing to do with recent events.
City educationists and sociologists, however, said the decision had come too late — the school had continued the form of punishment even 10 years after the Supreme Court banned it.
“Gone are the days when schools could wield the stick to discipline children,” said Pradip Narayan Ghosh, vice chancellor of Jadavpur University. “I wonder how a school can practise it even after the Supreme Court banned the practice a decade ago.”
Ghosh said if colleges “can tackle young adults and teenagers without hitting them”, schools too should find ways to manage without corporal punishment.
“The way in which so many schools still practise corporal punishment and go unnoticed is appalling,” said Bula Bhadra, sociology professor at Calcutta University. “And if the schools flout norms what are they going to teach the children?”
Following a public uproar, La Martiniere principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi announced on June 15 that the school would discontinue corporal punishment.