Corporal punishment and other acts that humiliate children (including verbal humiliation) are accepted practice in Nepal in both schools and in homes and are used as a means to modify the behavior of children. The majority of educated people in Nepal are worried about the punishment system that prevails in the country and the negative impact it is having on the physical and mental growth of children.
Teachers need to know that children learn naturally and as a matter of course, not in a fearful situation created by harsh punishment. A child who receives corporal punishment regularly loses interest in his/her studies and this further weakens his/her performance and as a result a vicious cycle is created with more and more punishment being given.
UNICEF Nepal provided financial assistance to CVICT to enable it to carry out a study of the existing punishment systems in schools and homes. A two-member CVICT team traveled to four regions in the country and conducted focus group discussions with students, teachers and parents with the aim of finding out their opinions on corporal punishment and other such acts of humiliation.
The objectives of the study were to find out to what extent corporal punishment (and all acts that humiliate children as a form of punishment) prevails in schools and in families, and how much parents, guardians and teachers know about the consequences of such punishment and what the alternatives are. Students, teachers and parents – both male and female – from government and private schools, were invited for the discussions, which were conducted separately for each group. Primary, lower secondary and secondary level students and teachers participated.
The parents and the guardians of children who are attending school shared their feelings about how corporal and humiliating punishment is used to discipline children at home and at school. The focus groups represented a cross-section of people in terms of class, caste and ethnicity.
During the focus group study, most students, teachers and parents accepted that beating and humiliating children is very common in schools and in families. The teachers and parents confessed that they beat children because they were beaten and humiliated in school and at home when they were children and so they have learnt to use the same methods to discipline children themselves. They are not aware of the negative consequences of these methods and they have never thought of any alternatives to corporal punishment and verbal humiliation because they know very little of such alternatives.
The study has shown that primary level students are most vulnerable to corporal punishment because young primary level children cannot resist the teacher’s actions or retaliate. The study also revealed that such punishment frightens and mentally disturbs children and can result in them dropping out of school or taking to the streets to escape the home. Children also learn that the use of violence seems to the only possible response when discipline is needed.
The majority of participants asked the team to organize training workshops for teachers and for parents as well. They felt that teacher training courses alone would not be enough because acts of beating and humiliation carried out in the home would perpetuate the practice in society.