A government school in Thiruvallur is now at the centre of an awful controversy. A widely circulated video revealed that the headmistress of RM Jain Government Girls Higher Secondary School forced girl students to clean the school toilets. The video shows the girls weeping as they clean the toilet floors by hand. DNA India reports that the students were forced to kneel on the floor and were beaten over the head if they refused.
This report is even more worrying when placed against the backdrop of another story seen earlier this month from Tamil Nadu, where four girl students from Vellore seemed to have formed a suicide pact. They were found dead in a well after they were humiliated by a teacher for their bad grades.
Stories of abuse in schools are, of course, extremely common. It feels like a month doesn’t go by where we don’t see viral videos of schoolmasters viciously assaulting young children with sticks or, as we saw in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year, humiliating young girls in bizarre ways like making them strip to prove they weren’t menstruating.
Schools everywhere, but in India in particular, are spaces rife with drastic power imbalances, and students are actively taught, from the minute they enter the institutions, to hold their tongues and respect and obey their teachers. This puts teachers in a position of unique power over students, which is exactly the kind of dynamic that opens the door up to sexual and physical abuse.