#Opinion

Principal Hits Teacher With Shoe: When Will Workplace Abuse Of Women Stop?

principal hits teacher with shoe
 A chilling video of a male principal allegedly assaulting a female teacher is doing rounds on social media. The video shows the principal brutally beating the female teacher with a shoe, giving blows to her head, for arriving late. The incident happened at a government school in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur.

The incident happened on June 24. Reportedly, the teacher arrived late at the school and the principal marked her absent on the attendance register. When she tried to oppose it, the principal allegedly started assaulting her with a shoe. As the video shows, the principal was stopped by another man after two to three minutes and the female teacher then retaliated, although unsuccessfully, by picking up something from the table and hitting him back.

The female teacher has registered a complaint against the principal, Ajit, alleging him of incessant harassment. The teacher alleged, “Ajit Kumar asked me why I was half an hour late to the school when I reached there at 10.30 am. While I was telling him that I had left home on time but was stuck in traffic, he picked up his shoe and started hitting me with it.”

She also added that the principal never wanted her to work in the school in the first place. Three years ago when she was appointed as the part-time teacher, the principal had reportedly started misbehaving with her.

Meanwhile, the principal has alleged that it was the female teacher who slapped him first. He defended his act of violence by terming it self-defence. As of now, the principal has been suspended and a probe is underway in the case.

The harassment of female teachers at the hands of principals is often reported in India. In September 2019, a teacher from a city school in Kerala alleged the principal of mentally torturing her by cancelling her increment and behaving harshly toward her. In February 2016, a teacher at Delhi Government School alleged that the principal insulted her by using inappropriate language. He walked into her class and yelled at her. And when she tried to oppose, he raised his hand to beat her.

But what is the reason behind the frequent cases of friction between teachers in schools? Is it a matter of the difference in designation?  Or there is a gender power play lurking in our institutions?

Principal hits teacher with shoe: enraged at being questioned?

The harassment of teachers by principals is a classic example of workplace harassment that women in our country face. It is known that women in our society are rarely allowed to step out and earn a penny- the reason why female workforce participation has hit a new low in our country. Many women get this freedom after a long struggle with patriarchy in and around their houses. But little do they know that the shadow of patriarchy follows them to their workplaces too.

Working women are often harassed at workplaces because of their gender. The male colleagues or bosses take advantage of female employees’ vulnerability of not quitting jobs that they got after long social fights. The rules are made stricter for female employees. There is also a sense of entitlement that male employees feel, when it comes to implementing codes and regulations on women. The urge to keep women in place at workplace leads to verbal abuse or harassment. And when women retaliate, we know what happens. How dare she question my authority!

The aforementioned case of UP raises compelling questions like why did the principal react so harshly against the teacher for a small delay in her arrival? Did she deserve brutal assault for breaking a professional protocol? Which workplace uses violence to punish employees for their faults?

In fact, we need to question what actually enraged the principal- the teacher’s lack of punctuality or her will to question him? If we see the details of the incident, the principal had apparently punished the teacher for her late arrival by marking her absent. But the violence started when the teacher opposed the unfair treatment. So was it a case of professional rivalry only? Or yet another incident of silencing women who try to oppose or brush shoulders with men?

So the case reflects the complexity when workplace rivalry coalesces with gender discrimination. It shows how working women become targets of both workplace politics and gender discrimination. They are not only expected to obey the boss but also the man in him.

Schools Need To Create A Better Environment For Kids

But the fact that this happens in schools too is a matter of concern. Schools are the foundation of the country’s future. The school environment plays a vital role in moulding the thoughts of students. Teachers and principals must be vigilant about their actions so that they don’t end up setting wrong examples for kids. They need to keep their professional rivalries and power play aside and focus on guiding kids, giving them the right set of values. I am not saying that school staff should stop opposing what is wrong. But what does the principal think his students will learn when they see him assaulting a teacher without any fear of repercussions? How will they learn to respect their teachers, and women around them?

It is high time now that schools understand their responsibility of changing the future of our society. They need to regulate their staff, environment and activities so that kids learn to thrive together, not discriminate together.

Views expressed are the author’s own.