PUCL, July 2003

PUCL Tamil Nadu& Pondicherry

Fact -finding report on the suicide of Ramu Abhinav and conditions in the Vellammal matriculation school

On 12/6/2003 and 13/6/2003 various media outlets reported the suicide of Ramu Abhinav, aged 16, student of class X of Vellammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Mogappair, Chennai. The reports alleged that he committed suicide as a result of being beaten in his school. Subsequently, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry) decided to carry out a fact finding mission on the incident.

The following individuals carried out the fact finding mission
Prof. G . Saraswathi Chennai District Unit, PUCL (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry)
Mr.T.S.S.Mani Chennai District Unit, PUCL (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry)
Ms.Sheelu Tamilnadu Women's Collective
Ms.Neelavalli Initiatives for Women in Development
Ms.Geetha Activist
Mr.Shankar Gopalakrishnan Chennai District Unit, PUCL (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry)
Ms.Mercy Tamilnadu Women's Collective
Ms.Divya Student and PUCL Volunteer
Ms.Beulah Initiatives for Women in Development

The team met the following individuals
1. Eight students of the Vellammal Matriculation School and their parents;
2. Ramu Abhinav's parents;
3. Mr. Jayaraman, Vice President of the Golden Jubilee Flats Residents Welfare Association;
4. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Annanagar;
5. The parents of the late student Thoufeeq;
6. Dr. C. Manohar, M.S., Additional Professor of Dept. of Forensic Science at Kilpauk Medical College.

The team requested appointments with the Chairman of Vellammal Matriculation School and with the Director of Matriculation Schools, Directorate of School Education. The former, after agreeing on a time with the team, never arrived. The team waited an hour and left. The latter declined to see the team in person. The statements of the management and of the Director over the phone are recorded below.

All students and parents who were visited requested anonymity, other than the parents of Ramu Abhinav and Thoufeeq. Those who requested anonymity are referred to as Case Studies below.

Meeting with Parents and Family Members of Ramu Abhinav
The team met the family of Ramu Abhinav on 17th June 2003. They stated that the following events had occurred.

Ramu Abhinav's father, Mr.P. R. Sarangapani, is employed in a Co-operative Bank. His mother, Ms.P.S. Chandrika, is working at the UCMAS mental arithmetic centre. Ramu Abhinav's only sister, Ms.Sangeetha, is working for American Express.

Ramu Abhinav joined Vellammal Matriculation School in the 7th Standard and had been studying there since then. The parents explained to the team that Ramu Abhinav celebrated his 16th birthday on the 10th of June. To celebrate his birthday, he distributed sweets to his classmates and, in order to do the same for his neighbors in Golden Jubilee Flats, requested his teacher to grant him oral permission for exemption from attending coaching class that evening.

On June 11th, Ramu returned to school in the morning. He scored 3 out of 10 points on a maths test that was held that afternoon. His Maths teacher, Mr.Kannappan, beat him for this, striking him on the face and in other places. Later on the same day, Ramu and another student, Nityachandran, were taken to the office of the Assistant Headmaster, Mr. Ponmathi. Nityachandran had also missed the coaching class the day before. Nityachandran was first beaten by the Assistant Headmaster and then sent out. Ramu was subsequently beaten by the Tamil teacher, Mr.Ponnusamy, and the Asst. Headmaster.

Ramu Abhinav came home with a bruise on his right cheek, which also appeared swollen. He explained the incidents to his parents. He also mentioned that he developed the swelling after he fell down and struck his head on a bench during the beatings.

That evening, Ramu told his parents that he had 27 graphs to do as homework. His teacher had only demonstrated how to draw two or three graphs. Ramu then tried to catch up by studying with a friend, from whom he copied the necessary graphs. When he returned home, he tried to rewrite the graphs so as to be sure he understood. He was able to complete only 7 of the graphs and said he would complete the rest in the morning.

On the morning of the 12th of June, Ramu left the house at his normal time, after rising at 5 am in order to study. His parents assumed that he had gone to school, though it later emerged that he had not. At around 9 am both his parents and his sister left the house for their respective jobs. At 9:30 am, residents of the flats saw Ramu return to the building. He appeared to have returned without his bookbag, which is still missing. He entered the flat and locked the door from the inside.

Ramu, being a scout student, knew how to tie knots. He used a nylon sari of his mother to hang himself from the ceiling fan. He left a suicide note in the handkerchief, saying that he did not like the school. He pleaded pardon for his decision and also mentioned that he would like to be born again in the same family.

When Ramu Abhinav's father returned home that evening, he was unable to open the door from the outside. He then broke open the door and found his son hanging.

Following Ramu's father's complaint, an FIR was registered under Section 174 of the CrPC in V-5 Thirumangalam Police Station and given Crime No. 1210/2003. On the basis of the said FIR, Mr. Kannappan, the Maths teacher, was arrested.

Ramu's body was subsequently taken for post-mortem autopsy at Kilpauk Medical College. The family stated that the post mortem report did not mention anything about the external injury (for more details of the postmortem report, please see below under "Meeting with Dr. Manohar"). The family gave the team a copy of the report.

The team was shown photographs of Ramu Abhinav, one taken on the 10th of June (his birthday), and one taken of his body after his death. The former photograph shows no visible external injuries or marks, but in the latter a discoloration is visible on the boy's cheek and the area appears swollen. The parents explained that this was the bruise that Ramu claimed to have sustained when he struck his head on a bench.

Mr. Sarangapani further explained that Ramu Abhinav was not a poor student. He showed the team Abhinav's other class test papers, where he had scored 15/15 in Physics, 22/25 in Chemistry and 33/50 in History. This year he had told his parents that he could not follow this particular Maths teacher, Mr. Kannappan, and thus found the subject difficult. Indeed, as proof of Ramu's dedication, the parents stated that they had checked out during holidays whether he wanted to continue in the same school, and Ramu Abhinav had agreed.

Mr.Sarangapani further stated that both physical and verbal abuse exist in Vellammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School. He stated that the teachers called a nearby school a "prostitute's school" and insulted a girl who had newly joined from that school. He alleged that students who have received low scores on tests were asked, "Why don't you hang yourself?"

The parents informed us that Ramu Abhinav was a sensitive boy, who was popular among his classmates for his optimism and general cheerfulness. Residents throughout Golden Jubilee Flats knew him (a fact that was confirmed by others whom we interviewed). The residents of the Flats mentioned that Abhinav was always joyful and playful. He was interested in sports and was seen in the playground often. He used to organize football, cricket and tennis matches.

The parents alleged that, while Ramu was being beaten in the Assistant Headmaster's office, a number of new girl students were also present. Given Ramu's sensitive nature, the resulting humiliation could have pushed Ramu to commit suicide.

The parents also informed the team that they had been visited by the parents of Thoufeeq, another Vellammal student who had committed suicide two years earlier (see below for the record of the team's meeting with Thoufeeq's parents). Thoufeeq's parents were deeply upset by Ramu's death and expressed great regret that they had not been able to expose Vellammal Matriculation School when their own son died.

The parents finally said that they were deeply hurt that, to this day, the school management has not bothered to meet the family to extend condolences.

Meeting with Mr. Jayaraman, Vice President of the Golden Jubilee Flats Residents Welfare Association
The team met Mr. Jayaraman on the 17th of June.

The Flats Association is outraged by what has occurred and is therefore planning an agitation against the school. They have made a number of efforts, including trying to meet the CM and the Education Minister, in order to ensure that action is taken against the school. Ramu Abhinav's death has been a big blow to the area.

Case Studies of Students
All these students were interviewed by the team on 17th June 2003, 18th June 2003 and 19th June 2003, also in the presence of their parents. In some cases other family members and residents were present.

Case Study I : (Xth std Student)
On the eleventh of June, it was rumoured that Ramu Abhinav was beaten up by 3 teachers: Mr.Kannappan, Mr. Ponnusamy and Mr. Ponmathi. He had supposedly said that the beatings were not limited to his hands; he was also struck on his back.

After Ramu Abhinav's demise, there was a function in the school for primary classes. The students felt hurt that the celebration was carried out as per plan even after a student's sudden demise. No mention was made of Ramu Abhinav during the function. The school management later declared that Ramu Abhinav was a student of X 'E', which was a class for weak students. In reality he was a student of X 'I", which was a class for high scoring students. The students feel that this was a deliberate effort to denigrate a deceased student. The school management had also spread rumours that Ramu was a drug addict.

In regards to the school itself, corporal punishment is used to a large extent as a disciplinary procedure. Both boys and girls are beaten, though with girls the beating is usually limited to the hands. With boys beatings often extend to other parts of the body, including the back. After a second or third 'offense', students are taken to a so-called 'dark room', which is a room where all the windows are closed. In this room, two or three teachers beat the student at the same time, and the darkness ensures that the student cannot see which teacher is striking him or her. Such punishments have occurred on a regular basis.

As another example, in one class, a girl student was verbally abused for adjusting her "dupatta". When she broke down in tears, she was made to kneel down in the hall as a punishment.

The school does not permit any communication between girl students and boy students. Even if the conversation is limited to an exchange of stationery, an enquiry procedure will be commenced. Warnings and beatings are part of the 'enquiries'. Some students who go through repeated enquiries are sent to the 'dark room.' In order to monitor this and other parts of students' behavior, the school management uses secret 'spies', who are students asked to report on other students. Other students do not know the identity of these 'spies'.

Specific teachers are worse than others. The Tamil teacher, Mr. Ponnusamy, beats up the whole class on a regular basis. The Correspondent, Mr. Velmohan, has used vulgar words to abuse girl students and has beaten students with his belt and shoes. He has also taken students to the 'dark room' for being beaten.

In the evenings, coaching classes are conducted till 8.30 p.m. There is a 'cell class' for students with poorer scores (more details on this class can be found in the statements of Case Study IV below).

Case Study II: (VIIth std Student)
Beatings and corporal punishment are common in the school and often applied arbitrarily. If a child makes a mistake, 3 rows of students are beaten. Students have been beaten for having illegible handwriting.
A geography teacher, Ms. Renukadevi, has beaten students aggressively and pinched them (in some cases breaking the skin and causing wounds). Students have returned home with welts on their cheeks, ears, and scale marks on their hands and legs. Some parents have taken up the issue with the AHM, Ms. Renukarani, and the Tamil teacher Mr. Muruganandam Ayya. The latter two individuals also at times perform counseling functions.

His parents stated that children from poor sections of the society also come to this school. Parents from economically weaker sections request the management to "discipline" the children properly and help the children to score high marks. The parents opined that this factor should not be overlooked when considering the prevalence of corporal punishment in this school.

However, the parents noted that the school charges approximately Rs. 11,500 for a student in VII Std. There are other Matriculation schools in the city that charge half this amount, so it is incorrect to say that this school is providing unusually cheap education. The parents also noted that they believed that there is a distinct difference between the attitude towards exams and marks in State Board schools, where exams are considered the end-all of the system, and in the Central Board system, which is more student and learning-oriented.

Finally, the parents showed the team a copy of the school calendar, where school officials' names are listed. They asked the team to take note of the fact that all those in the top positions - the Correspondent, Director and Secretary - appear to be the sons of the Chairman. This, they said, indicates the degree to which the school is kept within the hands of one family.

Case Study III: (Xth Std Student)
Rash and vehement beating is prevalent in every class. When the Correspondent gives out annual progress reports, he beats the children who score lower marks with a stick. Indeed, Mr. Murugandam Ayya told a parent that "only beating helps the child to grow." Asst. Headmaster Mr.Ponmathi beats the children with particular brutality. The P.T. teachers also beat up the children rashly.

"Dark rooms" are used for beating the children (please see Case Study I above for more details on these rooms). The empty rooms near the Chairman's room and one empty room in the Prinicpal's block are used as "dark rooms."

For every disciplinary issue, a warning is given on the first offence. The student is beaten on the second offence. If another offence occurs, the management suspends the students. The suspended student is made to stand on the dais of the assembly and the suspension is announced to the entire school. Parents are also called to the school when a disciplinary issue arises and asked to state in writing that their son/daughter "will not commit this mistake again."

If the parents complain about corporal punishment to the school, their child alone is exempted from corporal punishment. As a result, the student feels depressed and guilty when classmates are beaten. This particular student felt that he did not want his parents to complain about corporal punishment for this reason. Though he had cried after beatings in the school, this student did not want to raise the issue with his parents. Further, the X and XII standards are crucial years in a student's life and students do not want to raise any issue with the management.

The school does not permit any communication between girl students and boy students. Even an exchange of a single word will result in an 'enquiry'. Even brothers and sisters are not allowed to talk to each other inside the school campus.

Case Study IV: (A X std Student)
Vellammal Matriculation School has 9,500 students. Around 3000 students appear for the X std exams. This was the highest number of students sent from any school in the State. Class IX has 26 sections. The school is 'well-disciplined', and the general impression is that "as long as you are good, they are good to you." However, this student's father feels that the school is too strict and does not pay enough attention to making the school an attractive, enjoyable or fun place to be. Indeed, students refer to the school as "Chennai Central Jail."

The correspondent kicks the children with shoes; Mr. Jayashankaran (previous AHM) used to beat the children violently and there is rash beating by most of the teachers. Beating usually begins with slaps on the cheek, though some teachers also strike students on the head or on the back. This student, though, said that he had never seen Mr. Kanappan strike any student. He did however recall that on the day when Ramu Abhinav was beaten, Mr. Kanappan said "I just slapped him."

It is difficult to get leave at the school. If student takes leave, teachers either call up or visit his house to find out the reason for absence. On one occasion, when a parent could not send a leave letter before 8.00 A.M, their child's name was deleted from the attendance register. The parent had to raise this issue with the correspondent to get the name included again. At another point, when a student took three days leave due to illness, the Headmaster came to the student's house to verify that the student was actually there.

Coaching classes continue till 8.30 pm in the night. Students are divided into three sections for special coaching. They are split into the best, average, and weak students. The weak students are put in a "cell class" and are made to stay in the school. Classes continue until 10 or 11 pm and the students are made to rise at 4 am for more classes. During this period, they are allowed to return home for only one hour in the evening and one hour in the morning.

Teachers at Vellammal School also work under a lot of pressure. They are not allowed to take private tuitions. Certain teachers, particularly those hired for PT, appear to spend most of their time monitoring and disciplining students. The father of this student believes that these teachers are specially selected for this role.

There is no active Parents Teachers Association in the school. Open houses are held to distribute progress reports to the parents; these open houses are referred to as PTA meetings by the management, but in reality no discussion or exchange of views is allowed to take place. Parents, however, do not always object to the school's corporal punishment practices, and in some cases they support them.

This student confirmed that the correspondent has special student spies in each class that keep him informed about the class. These spies are expected to note down instances where boy and girl students speak to one another, where students speak in Tamil, or where students speak to one another 'excessively' during inter-class breaks. While the school is generally not strict about students speaking in Tamil, students have been beaten for doing so.

Students do have some powers at the school. Class 'leaders' are required to monitor other students, but they are also allowed to give opinions and comments on teachers and their practices. Teachers have been changed on the basis of student leaders' comments.

Case Study V: (Parents of a Kindergarten Student)
These parents stated that the quality of teaching is good. The teachers and headmistress are friendly. These parents have heard that corporal punishment takes place but their child has not experienced anything of the kind.

There is however a great deal of pressure on teachers is more to produce good exam results. If they do not produce such results, their increment is cut and they are demoted to lower classes for teaching. This results in teachers placing pressure upon students.

Case study VI (A XIIth std. Student)
This student gave us a brief idea about the structure of the XIIth standard. This class consists of 26 sections with 8 sections that offer computer science as the elective subject, 9 that offer biology and 2 that offer commerce. He also informed us that he stays in school everyday for almost 12 hours and that the school's focus for the X and the XIIth grade was on academics. There are no Games hours for these two classes. He confirmed the existence of a 'cell' for weak students and the incident with a 'dupatta' that was mentioned by Case Study I above.

Case study VII (A XII std. Student)
He spoke about the vehement beating, the existence and practice of the "dark room", the cell-class described by Case Study IV above and the practice of instituting 'enquiries' when girls and boys speak to one another. He also mentioned that the management was strict that students should not be seen with their uniforms in public places. If the students want to go anywhere in the evening, they have to go home first, change their dress and then proceed. If they do not do so and are seen in public with their uniform, they are reprimanded.

Case study VIII (ex-student of Vellammal HSS)
This student stated that the school was known for its beatings. Verbal abuse is also very severe. However, the quality of teaching is good.
The Correspondent conducts enquires on disciplinary issues. He beats the children harshly. In addition, the P.T teacher used to inspect the haircut of pupils and, if they find it slightly long, they make arrangements for barbers to do the hair cutting. This was done without the consent of parents. In addition, the students were required to pay Rs.100 as a fine.
Discipline in the school is so strict that students have had to write tests even when the lunch break was on. They were not even given time to go to the toilet.

Meeting with parents of Thoufeeq
Some press reports on Ramu Abhinav's death also mentioned that a class IX student of Vellammal School committed suicide two years earlier. When contacted over the phone, his mother Hakkiyal Begum informed the team that the student, Thoufeeq, was beaten up in the school. On 23rd June 2003, the team met with Thoufeeq's parents.

Thoufeeq's parents, Mr.Jehangir and Ms. Hakkiyal Begam, live in Padi. Mr. Jehangir is a real estate seller. They own houses and have let them out for rent. They have a daughter who is 14 years old. Thoufeeq joined Vellammal School in the IIIrd standard and used to score around 60% to 80% in all subjects. He was interested in sports and he was active in NCC.

Thoufeeq was unhappy about his class teacher, Ms.Devi, and used to complain about her to his parents. Before his quarterly exams in 2001, he came home with severe bruises all over the body. He told his parents that he was hit by a scooterist on the way home. Suspecting that this was not the case, his parents checked his cycle and could find no damage. Therefore, his parents decided that Thoufeeq must have been beaten in the school and took him to a doctor nearby. He was treated there and a bandage was put on his leg. Thoufeeq missed two of his exams, and his father took him to the school for other exams.

After exam holidays he went back to school. However, on the 30th of October, he demonstrated great reluctance about going back to school. The next morning (31.10.2001), he hanged himself with a rope that was used to fetch water in the cycle. After they found his body, Thoufeeq's parents rushed him to Sundaram Medical Foundation, where he was declared dead. A case was filed with the police and Thoufeeq's body was taken to Kilpauk Medical College hospital (KMC), where the post-mortem was conducted. The postmortem report has mentioned hanging as the cause of death, but there is no mention of external or internal injuries.

After four days, Ms. Hakkiyal Begum went to Vellammal HSS and tried to find out from Ms. Devi what went wrong in the school. The teacher and other officials, whose names she is not able to recall, told her that nothing had gone wrong in the school.

Due to nervous tension and emotional trauma, Ms. Hakkiyal Begum became a heart patient after her son's demise. There are blocks in 4 valves of her heart and she is under treatment in MMM hospital, Mogappair. Her mental health was also affected for a short while. Mr.Jehangir has also developed heart problems. Both of them are very depressed now.

Thoufeeq's parents mentioned that there are no financial or familial reasons for his decision to commit suicide. It was the school that was responsible for his decision. They also recalled their son telling them that his teacher used to undress the boy students and beat them. Subsequently, they heard from others that the school management had announced that Thoufeeq committed suicide due to beatings from the parents.

Meeting with Dr. Manohar, Department of Forensic Sciences, Kilpauk Medical College
The photo shown to the team by Ramu Abhinav's parents on 17th June 2003 showed what appeared to be a bruise on the cheek of Ramu Abhinav. However, the copy of the postmortem report given to the team by the family stated that there were no internal or external injuries on the body. Hence the team decided to meet Dr. Manohar, the postmortem examiner, to ask for his view on the matter. The team met Dr. Manohar on 19th June 2003. Dr. Manohar is an Additional Professor of the Department of Forensic Sciences at Kilpauk Medical College Hospital.

Dr. Manohar stated that, as a forensic doctor, he can only record what is seen on the body. The post mortem report mentions hanging as the cause of death.

The injury on Ramu Abhinav's face was an older scar that was unrelated to his death. As such, it was not included in the main postmortem report, but has been mentioned in a 'parent document' in the hospital's possession. .

Meeting with the Management of Vellammal

On Wednesday, 18th June, the team requested an appointment with the Chairman. The management agreed to meet us at 12:00 Pm on 20/June/2003 in the school. When the team arrived at the school, the office staff expressed ignorance of the appointment. Neither the Chairman nor the Correspondent nor the Principal turned up for the meeting. After waiting for an hour, the team left the school.

Telephone Conversation with Mr. Narayanasamy, Director of Matriculation Schools, Directorate of School Education, Government of Tamil Nadu
A team member spoke to Mr. Narayanasamy on the 23rd of June in order to seek an appointment with him to discuss this issue.

Mr. Narayanasamy vehemently denied that he or other officers of his department had anything to say on this matter. Further, he claimed, the matter is pending in court and thus he cannot comment. If the team were interested in investigating the issue, it should speak to parents of Vellammal students and the management of the school. He and other government officials have nothing to do with this incident.
He refused to grant an appointment and stated that he would not see us.

Meeting with Mr. Karuna Sagar, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Annanagar
Team members met Mr. Karuna Sagar on the evening of June 23rd.

At the outset, Mr. Karuna Sagar stated that he cannot comment on the incident itself, as it is under investigation and he would prefer to await the outcome of the investigation before making any statements on the matter. He did however note that rumours of police complaints by the management against parents or students are false.

In general, Mr. Karuna Sagar believes that corporal punishment is banned throughout the country, despite provisions in the Education Rules that may seem to allow it. He has however never till date received a complaint of corporal punishment, other than the case of Ramu Abhinav. In cases where such complaints were received, he said, the general practice would be to hold the management of the school liable if there was evidence that systematic or widespread corporal punishment was practiced in the school. However, where a complaint was received against a particular teacher, the police will initially hold only the teacher responsible. Should investigation reveal that other teachers or the management were involved, this could be introduced at a later date.

Mr. Karuna Sagar stated that, in this case (the suicide of Ramu Abhinav), he has till date seen no information to imply that the management can be held liable for what occurred. The police are treating the incident as a suicide case and Mr. Kanappan has been charged with abetment to suicide. Other teachers may be included if investigation reveals their names. When the team noted that its interviews so far had implied that many other teachers and the management are heavily involved in corporal punishment, he requested those parents and students concerned to submit complaints to the police. He stated that the police cannot act in the absence of a complaint.

Mr. Karuna Sagar further said that he believes the roots of the corporal punishment problem are in social attitudes, particularly those of parents. He does not believe that the police can have much of a role in halting this practice, though they may be able to coordinate with other agencies to help create an atmosphere that is against corporal punishment.

1. Ramu Abhinav committed suicide as a result of humiliation and torture at the hands of his teachers and authorities in the school.

2. Ramu Abhinav's death was not an isolated or disconnected incident. The very structure of the school involves violence against students.

3. Corporal punishment exists in the school to a great extent. Corporal punishment is practiced both as a form of repressive 'discipline' and as a way of breaking students' spirits. Punishment is practiced on such a frequent basis that it has essentially become a form of torture.

4. The Correspondent and the higher management, instead of checking their teachers and preventing abusive practices, have themselves engaged in corporal punishment of students.

5. The management does not seem to have any gender sensitivity and they are making a mockery of 'co-education.'

6. It is also evident that the management lacks any understanding of learning processes and the values of life, human rights of children and gender equity. The management seems to believe that turning a school into a prison camp is the best way of educating students.

7. The management places extreme pressure on the teachers to bring good results, and the teachers in turn use all forms of pressure, including torture, on students.

8. The institution is not run with philanthropic purposes. It is run with a commercial objective. Commercialisation of education had led to competition among educational institutions. This commercialization has contributed to the sense of intense pressure and competition among students and staff at Vellammal.

9. The State Board's heavy emphasis on memorization and simple repetition has contributed to an atmosphere where education is equated with 'mugging up.' This has increased pressure on students tremendously and meant that no value is given to student creativity. Instead, it is believed that if enough 'discipline' and pressure is exerted, students will do well.

10. No Parents Teachers Association seems to exist at this school and there is no mechanism for parental feedback and monitoring.

11. The government authorities have thoroughly failed to play their role in ensuring that the school has a healthy and conducive environment for students. There is clearly no effective monitoring mechanism from the Directorate of School Education to ensure that no abuses take place in schools.

12. Parents tend to tolerate corporal punishment and other such abuses to an unjustifiable extent. They either see these abuses as justified or ignore them in the 'long term' interests of the student. At most they may object to particular 'excesses' without opposing the overall pattern of violence against students. This has permitted schools such as Vellammal to continue their abuses.

13. Rather than appointing professionals or educationists to responsible positions in the management of the school, the Vellammal Trust has chosen to appoint family members as Chairman, Director, Correspondent and Secretary. This has contributed to the general lack of professionalism and understanding in the school management.

1. Stringent action should be taken against the management of Vellammal School and the teachers responsible for Ramu Abhinav's suicide and for the beating of other students. Investigations should not be limited to Mr. Kanappan alone. The school should also be required to pay suitable compensation to the family.

2. Investigations into the death of Thoufeeq two years ago should be reopened and the police should treat the matter as a potential case of abetment of suicide. Should it be proven that the school is responsible, stringent action should be taken against those responsible for this incident as well.

3. Corporal punishment in all its forms should be banned in educational institutions. This ban should be effectively enforced through a student-friendly system of enforcement rather than through police action alone.

4. Systems and mechanisms should be set in place to protect students' rights in schools. In particular, there should be frequent inspections of schools not only by government authorities but by community members and Parents Teachers Associations.

5. The Directorate of School Education should verify that Parents Teachers Associations are functioning in schools so that parents participate in the learning processes of children. Functioning PTA's will also help parents to have a forum for feedback and monitoring.

6. Periodical training programmes for teachers and management should be organized on human rights, creative learning, child rights and gender equity. These should include regular testing and sessions on child-friendly education.

7. The objective of coeducation is to bring about a proper understanding and perspective between boys and girls at a young age. Therefore, proper orientation to this effect should be given to managements that opt for coeducation.

8. Steps should be taken to ensure that education is the first priority of educational institutions. Commercial goals and profit-making should be discouraged.

9. Academicians and educationists should play a role in management of schools. This should be made a pre-requisite for licensing schools and their renewals.

10. Laws should be enacted to appoint school counselors and social workers who would help out students with emotional difficulties and also identify problems like slow-learning, reading difficulties etc. and work with teachers and parents on these issues.

11. There should be a long term effort at reforming the education system to ensure that it is learning oriented rather than performance oriented.


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