Dead, all for a school uniform Dead, all for a school uniform
The Telegraph, July 6, 2004

Hyderabad, India, July 6: Two children have been driven to death in Andhra Pradesh because they were not wearing their school uniforms. A third is battling for life.

On June 27, eight-year-old Savara Venamma was made to do 150 sit-ups in school because she was not wearing the uniform. The Class IV student was sick with viral fever and she begged to be let off, but the teacher was firm. The girl had to go through the punishment. Her fever worsened and, two days later, Venamma died.

“My only daughter died for nothing,” grieved her father, Savara Thudum Veeranna, a tribal resident of Srikakulam district.

“It is not that we did not have money to give her a uniform. They were in short supply in the town,” he sobbed.

On June 21, a week before Venamma died, K. Lakshmaiah hanged himself from a tree at his village in Mahboobnagar district. The reason was the same. The Class VII student had not worn the uniform to school and had to suffer the teacher’s wrath. Unable to stomach the insults heaped on him, Lakshmaiah ended his life.

Both the teachers who drove the children in their care to death are absconding.

Nine-year-old Prabhavati is alive, but only just. The child went into a coma after a teacher beat her severely, hitting her on the head. Again, the reason was that she was not wearing the uniform. The girl has been admitted to the district hospital in Kurnool.

Jolted by three such incidents within two weeks of this academic session, the minister for school education, . Rajyalakshmi, has withdrawn the uniform code in government schools and ordered an inquiry.

The Teachers’ Forum for Liberation of Child Labour has also taken up the issue of corporal punishment and proposes to organise district-wise training camps for primary and middle school teachers in the state. “Punishment as part of teaching must end,” said E. Anjaiah, convener of the forum.

Rama Devi, the principal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a leading school, says: “Corporal punishment is banned in my school and teachers cannot carry any instrument to beat the children with when they go to the classrooms. Even if some punishment is given, it is with my permission only.”

In Mahboobnagar, Lakshmaiah’s death forced a closure of the school after the teacher disappeared. Local groups, however, intervened to secure compensation for the bereaved family. The panicky department of school education has also offered to pay for Prabhavati’s treatment.

Cases have been registered against all three teachers, but only one has surrendered to police so far.

As deaths of schoolchildren dealt another blow to Andhra Pradesh, already under siege over the suicides of farmers, the minister has rushed a team of educationists to the districts to promote awareness of new methods of teaching in schools.

“It is very hard to believe that our teachers are so cruel. We must motivate them against such corporal treatments,” she said.

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