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Undress your student for not be able to read?

Phina So
October19/ 2015

“We will only bring back his eyes” is an old saying which Cambodian parents said to teachers or monks when they send their children for education. The metaphor means that teachers or monks can discipline their students, using various disciplinary methods as long as the students’ eyes are intact.

Recently, a male teacher punished his 11-year old female student by making her male classmate undress her skirt in front of her classmates. The punishment was made due to the fact that the girl was not able to read. He has now been punished by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. He has been asked to resigned from his teaching career, and been transferred to work at a district office of Education. In addition to the administrative sanction, according to the Ministry, he could face charges by the court according to the law. While some applaud the decision, some do not. This blog post discusses different ideas about the sanction.

This blog post does not completely generalize the fact that all monks/teachers use physical punishment to educate students. The blog intends to point out to the fact that physical punishment has been used in education system in Cambodia. The writer acknowledges that there have been significant reforms made to the education system, and that physical punishment has been considered illegal at Cambodian schools.

I have been pleased by the decision of the ministry. I wrote on my Facebook page emphasizing that the punishment is too low and the teacher should be banned for life time from being a teacher or an educator. Some friends showed their support which I list as below:

A female Facebook user wrote that:

“The Ministry said the teacher had been punished based on the applicable law. If that was the case, the said law needs to be revised, because the punishment does not reflect the severe nature of the teacher’s dirty conduct. Plus, I disagree with the practice that any staffs caught doing bad stuffs are sent to do office work within the same ministry. This is understood to be a punishment as the person wouldn’t be able to continue their previous practices and mistakes. But I think we can do better by dismissing the persons totally. Why keep them on payroll and waste the tax payer’s money, inflate the total staff number, and ruin the reputation of civil servants, many of whom work so hard for the people?”

Another Facebook user wrote “Sound so much soft” referring to the light punishment toward the teacher.

However, some expressed their disagreement. A male user indicated that the mistake committed by the teacher (by having the girl undressed her skirt by her male classmate in front of her whole classmates) was a minor mistake. He disagreed with the idea that he should be banned for life time from his education job. As a consequence, he insisted that we should respect the decision made by the ministry. Another user expressed that the punishment should be contextually investigated further. He refers to the common practice and joke (sic) made by many adults who take off children’s clothes for fun. Their intent was to make fun of the kids. Then he suggested that if the teacher is punished, many adults in Cambodia shall be punished in the same way as the teacher.

People do have different opinions. However, I still believe that the administrative sanction against the former teacher is too lenient. The ministry should not employ the person anymore, since it does not reflect his severe act on the girl. According to Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN 2015), child abuse is defined “When a perpetrator intentionally harms a minor physically, psychologically, sexually, or by acts of neglect”. Based on this definition, it is clearly and definitely a psychological abuse.

Such case can be called “sexual harassment”. According to the website of Childline, sexual harassment can make the victim feel humiliated, embarrassed, self-conscious and frightened. Sexual harassment happens at school, at home or at work. Sexual abuse includes: pinches or grabs breasts and private parts, spreading sexual rumours about someone, says inappropriate things about the way someone look, takes someone clothes off when he/she does not want them to, unwanted touch, or forces someone to kiss somebody or do something else sexually. According to the definition, the abuse the teacher did could be sexual harassment.

I call it “severe” because this happens in school where the girl is supposed to enjoy and learn and the incident was committed by her teacher whose jobs are to teach and educate the girl. He breached of trust and abused his own duty.

I think that the inhumane act on a girl child is too much for the girl to bear. I cannot imagine how this ruins the girl’s life and how she could cope with the harassment her classmate would make on her since the evidence of effective implementation against bullying or harassment in school is almost non-existent.

Photo credit: Hav Gechhong (due to the sensitivity of the issue, the feature photo does not reflect the incident)