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Stewardship and Trusteesh
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  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Small word, big problem
  By William Grimm  
  PEOPLE who have studied English as a second language tell me that three of the biggest challenges they encount  
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Spare the rod, save the child
  By Andre Bruylants  
  PHYSICAL punishment in schools like caning, slapping or beating, even in the most moderate of forms, is now banned by the courts. Period!

Formerly, a kid who was caned in school would get another beating at home to corroborate that his parents stood by authority. No longer!

Thence the question, how to discipline the child and the teenager when they cross the Lakshman Rekha (dividing line), as they are prone to do?

How has physical beating in schools as a form of punishment become a practice in India?

I had my schooling on the "Continent." I do not remember instances of physical beating in school. Not that we were never punished.

It looks to me that caning as a form of punishment is a legacy of the British system of education.

Anyone who watched the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips or read James Hilton's novel will remember that Mr. Chipping, the much-beloved teacher and headmaster, who earned the esteem and respect of his students, practiced caning as a matter of rule to redress those found wanting.

His mandate as the head of the institution was to mold youngsters and make gentlemen out of them as expected by the British society of his time. And the system said, "Use the cane!"

But Mr. Chipping was benign compared to Dickens' Oliver Twist's world where the child had no rights, no face and no name.

Now children have rights, and a face and a name. They are persons in their own right, echoing the Lord's exhortation to "Let the children come to me."

Thanks to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, they have the right, among others, "to be protected from violence and abuse." But what is less known is that they have the right "to express themselves and give their opinion." And perhaps, it is here that for the adult, the shoe pinches.

Violence by would-be mentors falls short of their mission in accompanying their charges in their growth toward adult personhood.

It doesn't have to be physical. Emotional violence can be a severe. Think of epithets showered on youngsters in the heat of classroom demonstrations. Think of the hurts, in moments of impatience, created by hasty words or actions, by ignoring a pupil or denying the sincerity of her efforts.

Think of deliberate humiliations in front of peers (standing on the desk with hands on the earlobes) or name-calling ('good-for-nothings'), and so on, quite apart from slappings or beatings.

The effects of emotional violence is as varied as its forms. Some students respond passively, others aggressively. Some show poor academic performance, lack of self-confidence, or engage in self-injury, bullying, or other antagonistic reactions.

By constrast, where emotionally positive learning is fostered, students feel less burdened and are more cooperative and adjusted. They are more respectful toward each other in their cultural and faith differences. They tend to get the most out of school life.

The need of the hour is to put the heart back in the midst of the classroom and in the playground. We must give the same status to imagination, creativity and intuition as we do to knowing, remembering and reasoning.

A Kolkata media commentator recently encapsulated a good test for whether schools have fulfilled their task to "Discover the child, watch over him, stand by him and set him free."
Father Andre Bruylants SJ, 84, is the author of books on value education for schools and was the principal of Jesuit schools in the order's Calcutta province for 25 years. He has influenced school curriculums in Jesuit schools across eastern India.

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