Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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The institutional child abuse: What is the panacea?

There is so much written and talked about the abuse of children by individuals. But very less has been discussed about the institutional child abuses. It is worthwhile to mention about two types of abuses on innocent children by institutions: first, about the direct exploitation of children by the institutions and second, about how institutions nurture conditions and circumstances that are favourable for abusers.

Institutional abuses

Just like the misconception of many parents that, since they own their children they have every right to use and control their children as per their wishes, there are certain institutions too who justify their exercise of control over the children. These institutions claim absolute rights over the children enroll with them and rationalize their actions as necessary tools in shaping the personality of children.

An ordeal called ‘Assembly’

In many countries including India, the only institution that holds the exclusive rights over the children during the entire period from dawn to dusk is the School. The abuse does not limit just with the extraordinary academic burden on the students. Starting from the ’school assembly’ under the hot sun to late evening practices for cultural programs, students are held captive by a handful of teaching staff.

When it comes to long morning assemblies, government schools are the most ‘patriotic’ institutions. These schools want their children to stand for a lengthy assembly almost every morning, without even realizing that there are many children among them who are not privileged to get a proper breakfast at their homes. You can watch a large gathering of school children in front of the government schools on most of the mornings. You could keep counting the number of children who faint during such long assemblies. Why can’t these institutions limit their public assembly to once a week and have their prayer, national anthem, and announcements done through public address system in the respective class rooms? Not only morning assembly, many other public functions are done under hot sun, allowing only the teachers and guests to sit under a specially erected shamiana (a temporary ceremonial tent typical in India). Once, I abruptly cut-short my inaugural speech on one of such public functions in an educational institution feeling sympathy towards the hapless children.

Receiving the dignitaries

Children are tortured the most when there is a visit by dignitaries. They are asked to stand in line to receive the dignitary, hours before their actual arrival. Most of these dignitaries are known for their belief that the later one arrives, the more important one would become! In the state of Kerala in Southern India, and also wherever there are Keralites in the world, it is customary for them to parade the children to do ‘thaalapoli’ in honour of the guests (Thaalapoli is a practice of making girls stand in line in traditional attire, carrying a plate containing flowers, sometimes with a lighted lamp, and they are expected to pour flowers on the dignitaries and on the entire stretch they walk from their car to the meeting hall). It is sad to see how the dignitaries, including those religious leaders relish such reception.
 Plays and Carnivals to make money through children

I was told about a private school in the capital city of India that literally uses their students for commercial activities. Every year the children are made to showcase plays for the public to whom tickets are sold at very high prices. The intention is not to develop the cultural talents of the students, but to make maximum profits from the venture. The school also conducts what they call a carnival for about three days in a year, where any hooligan from anywhere can get inside paying the entry fee and enjoy the fun showcased by the staff, including the principal. Most of these stalls are put up with the support of unscrupulous elements from outside and they teach the children the arts and science of gambling and cheating. Children are let out freely within the campus amidst criminals giving an opportunity to the latter to abuse them.  The parents report that not a single penny received from these activities is utilized for improving the infrastructure of the school.

At the service of teachers

In village schools, especially in the government run schools, the tall and hefty children among the generally impoverished students are made to do all menial jobs for the teachers. Some class teachers and head masters ask the students to help them in their domestic chores and also make them work in their farms. I know a boy whose attendance is marked in school based on attendance every day at the Headmaster’s house. If he doesn’t finish the cleaning work in the master’s house he won’t get attendance even if he has attended all the periods in the school. He has to stand in queue during the class hours in the fair price shop to get the kerosene, sugar, and wheat for the master’s house.

Child sex abuse by School van drivers

There are several instances of child sex abuse by school van drivers reported from various parts of the world. The primary responsibility for this heinous act is on the institutions. School drivers are selected either on contract or on permanent basis, without any proper verification of their past. There is no proper supervision over the staff in these buses. I know about a convent school run by a Christian congregation of nuns where even the principal is scared to control the drunken driver of the school van who happens to be a relative of a former mother superior!

Religious institutions and other agencies

Apart from schools, other institutions that abuse the children by exercising excessive control over them and by infringing their rights are some of the religious institutions, government agencies and public service institutions. Some religious institutions claim absolute responsibility for the entire behavioural conduct of children who belong to that particular community, and criticize, threaten and reprimand the innocent children without giving any convincing reason for their judgments. However the harm is minor and largely inconsequential as compared to the emotional and physical injuries meted out by the schools.

Indirect partners in child abuse

Schools are also indirect partners in child abuse by various other institutions. There are hundreds of commercial ventures vying to get a share of the funds pumped by the anxious parents to make their children globally competitive. They partner with reputed schools and notices and brochures are sent by the school teachers. Parents are lured by the seal of approval of the institution and send the children to those courses, ventures, and competitions. Most of the children are emotionally harassed due to over exploitation of their energy and time, in the name of ensuring a bright future for them.

Is regulation a panacea?

If I mention the word ‘regulation’ or ‘regulatory authority’, there will be many eyebrows raised. Once I was mentioning this idea to a principal of a private school and he instantly protested with anger. ‘No authority should interfere in the affairs of a private school’. Of course, we have too many rules and laws to curb abuses. As we have so many different categories of educational institutions and curriculums, we have so many departments and agencies working crisscross in the area of education. But institutional abuses like those I have mentioned can be tackled only through a proper, independent, and transparent institution which can prepare appropriate uniform guidelines for all educational institutions. A statutory body with representatives of all stake holders (educationists, doctors, social workers, lawyers, and representatives from the government) can be formed where the children, parents and public can report their grievances. Representatives from this body can be involved with the institutions or can be consulted while decisions which are likely to affect the rights of the children are taken. Informality, easy accessibility (by creating cells in every town) and credibility of such regulatory body would certainly ensure fairness and justice for both institutions and children. 

                                                                                               Sibichen K Mathew
Click comments section  below to read the comments

Click the links below to read articles in cyber diary on related topics. Comments are welcome. 

My son! Don't watch the news


  1. I received a feedback from Joshua Gordon about his interview with Maia Szalavitz. There is a discussion on the shocking incidents of institutional child abuses. Those who would like to see the interview can click

  2. Child abuse consists of any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health and development. Child abuse includes any damage done to a child which cannot be reasonably explained and which is often represented by an injury or series of injuries appearing to be non-accidental in nature.
    finds and rescues

  3. Following are some of the comments in Facebook on the above post:

    Prithvish Rajamani: Read your Blog, I feel the increase in this sort of thing should be attributed to the parents who look for ways to reduce their responsiblities by relying on outside help. I know that many people will go hammer and tongs at me for this point of view, but I stand by it.

    Sibichen Mathew: Yes Prithvish, primary responsibility, indisputably rests with parents. But many times they are helpless for various compelling reasons.
    October 24 at 9:27pm

    Prithvish Rajamani What can be more compelling than your own childs safety Sir?
    October 24 at 9:29pm ·

    Sibichen Mathew It is sheer trust reposed on the school authorities. And most school managements do not allow any interference or questioning. Unlike in earlier days, there is not even a proper PTA meeting in most private schools. They are scared to convene such meetings on a regular basis.
    October 24 at 9:35pm

    Prithvish Rajamani Many parents today look at their own convenience rather than look at the safety of their children, and then find someone to blame for any untoward mishap that happens. How about accepting the fact that you made the choice that your child is paying the price for? Parents look at the next door school, because it has the International word attached to it and they pay lakhs for admission. Whay not spend a few more thousands to send your kid to a school further away but is better known to you? I know parents who prefer Call Taxis to pick up and drop their children because its cheaper and because the driver picks your kid up in front of your house...... I mean, the parents are putting their own kids at risk by looking at whats easier rather than whats in the best interest of their kids
    October 24 at 9:38pm

    Prithvish Rajamani How do one trust their child to a stranger in todays world without doing the due diligence?
    October 24 at 9:39pm

    Prithvish Rajamani I know life is tough, and it takes a lot of sacrifice if one has a child in todays world, but if one chooses to have a child, then responsibility follows.....No matter what
    October 24 at 9:40pm ·

    Sibichen Mathew I agree with you Prithvish. There should be a perfect balance between parents' career and time for children
    October 24 at 9:54pm

    Prithvish Rajamani Yes and with the child being the priority....not the careers of a mother or father...Its only about the life of a child that they both introduced to this world
    October 24 at 9:56pm ·

  4. Sindhu Xavier I agree with your views Sibi and also Mr. Prithvish Rajamani. Sure, schools have responsibility and they fail. But if any child has a good support system at home nothing can harm the child, though feel hurt for a while. Houses won't turn their homes as long as there are ambitious parents are there to check the mark and comment. Neighbours, friends and relatives get access to the kid to abuse them the way they want. Our schools and educational system would've changed if there were parents who cared to take action against its uselessness. So many ministers and Govt officials and VVIPs had their kids in school. But there is no law against making children carry such a heavy bag on their shoulder. Children's world is surely in parents' hands..they should stand together to make better homes and schools instead of playing the blame game. I'm a teacher as well as a parent. I feel guilty as a parent for not doing the best I could..not as a teacher...And I never meet the parents of my students as I feel that their interference could only make the child feel pressurized.
    October 24 at 11:40pm ·

    Prithvish Rajamani Well Said Ma'am
    October 24 at 11:42pm ·

    Prithvish Rajamani People are so happily willing to pass on the guilt for their own failings instead of taking responsibility for it....Sad but true
    October 24 at 11:46pm ·

    Joy C. Raphael Here in Muscat, the scene is similar.
    October 24 at 11:46pm ·

    Sibichen Mathew You are right Sindhu. A good partnership between parents and teachers will be an ideal support system for the children.
    Yesterday at 9:43am ·

    Sibichen Mathew Whether such abuses (as narrated in the blog post) of children happen there in Muscat Joy C.?
    Yesterday at 9:44am ·

    Joy C. Raphael Never heard of abuses but even if there is, the news would not come out. But generally in most Gulf schools ( have been to Saudi, UAE), the standard of education is bad and the purpose of the owners of the schools is to amass money. And most of the teachers are housewives come to make money during their spare time. Intelligent parents send their children to India to study.

    Sibichen Mathew Thanks Joy for the information.


  5. Biswabandhu Chattaraj While I would agree with most of the points made out there in the blog I would like to add that these abuses are more rampant in the urban areas than those in rural areas. The nomenclature of regulatory authority may be changed to "ADVISORY COMMITTEE" AND STUDENTS of all the classes should be included to ventilate their responses. Easy flow of communications between teachers taught and the guardians may bring in some sort of solutions. But non teaching stuff must be under strict supervision

    Sibichen Mathew Yes, Chattarajji, I agree with your view. Advisory committee would be a better nomenclature.

    Sindhu Xavier I'm not surprised to see the comment by Mr. Joy C. Raphael. True..Jobless house wives work in schools to make money during their spare time and intelligent parents send their children to India to study. This exactly is the problem. It is almost like making the maid do the cooking when you cannot find time for that. Teachers, I would say, is considered these days as Idiots who must teach the intelligent students obeying the commands of the parents. And who else will go for this job which offers no satisfaction or money, except those who have nothing else to do? Parents cannot make the children do their homework; where as they never bother to know how teachers do it. Why the intelligent parents aren't taking up this profession? Why aren't the parents never let their intelligent students to opt for teaching profession? If so many good candidates were there to do this job, why would managements recruit someone less competitive? Yes, the society has made schools to work like a factory with incompetent workers..of course the production will not be qualitative. I would rather encourage the parents rather to look for a solution for their children than stoning the teaching community, which is an utter waste of time. At least the educated parents who aren't working must take up jobs in schools and make a little change in the educational field. But sadly, who wants to be with kids for 10 hours? Who wants to stand the whole day and correct papers? Sad..always truth is sad..

    Sibichen Mathew Sindhu has raised a very serious and thought provoking issue in the above comment. I think both parents and the teachers and also the authorities need to incisively analyze the subject. Most teachers are doing wonderful job and they need accolades they deserve. But the problem is deep-rooted. Thanks Sindhu.

    Sindhu Xavier Back to basics..cook your own food...grow your own child...

    Anney Sam I grew up in a convent school. We had only bus drivers and the gardner as male. I feel we should eliminate mwn out of this equation.

    Anney Sam None of these men had any access. Bus had a teacher conductor.

    Anney Sam The debate is not abt teachers? I do not know. Admin must do due diligence. And tolerate no criminals in schools

    Anney Sam Also wen a pedophile has been discovered he must be quarantined. May be we should use them to do product testing instead of hurting animals?

    Sibichen Mathew Yes Anney, due diligence by management is absolutely necessary.


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