mid-day editorial: Why should the child be made to pay?

A nine-year-old girl was left traumatised after she was forced to stand outside her class in school in Navi Mumbai as punishment for failing to pay a school term fee. A report in this paper said that the next day she started crying, reluctant to go to school again. On being gently prodded by her parents as to why she wanted to avoid going to school, it was revealed that the girl felt humiliated by the punishment.

Unfortunately, this is not the sole incident of children being targeted by school authorities, especially teachers, for late payment of fees. Last month, another such incident had come to light. It’s high time school authorities consider the trauma they are inflicting upon the young minds. The nine-year-old had no clue if the school fees were paid or why the same was delayed. It is strange that at a time when many schools have hired counsellors to work with kids, children are being subjected to such mental torture.

The nature of the punishment was such that it may bring about a feeling of isolation in the child and make her lose her self-esteem. It may also make the child question her parents’ actions and lead to trust issues. The child may be forced to live a scarred life at school, as well as at home.

Schools have access to parents and they need to interact with them directly to discuss payment or non-payment of fees. A note for parents in the child’s school diary should be the first option, after which the school may contact the parents. If that does not work, meeting the parents should be considered.

There are so many ways to tackle non-payment of dues, but punishing a child is unthinkable. Let schools foster a sense of fairness and empathy among children. Such unwarranted penalties and punishments must end.

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