India

The child's maths lesson video that is outraging India

numbers Image copyright iStock

A few days ago a school friend sent me a very disturbing video on WhatsApp of a three-year-old being taught maths at home.

The tutor, whose face cannot be seen, appears to be a family member - she's either the child's mother or aunt or another relative.

She's teaching the child to recognise numbers from one to five.

Tears streaming down her face, the little girl is seen begging with her tutor to spare her, show a bit of leniency, "teach with a bit of love".

At one point, frustration takes over, she says her head is aching. Put under more pressure, she's angry, and continues to sob as she repeats the numbers through clenched teeth.

The video ends with her getting slapped across the face.

In many countries, if a video surfaced of parents treating their children with such cruelty, it would be treated as a serious case of child abuse and she would possibly be removed from the parents' custody.

Abusing and hitting children is a crime in many parts of the world and corporal punishment in schools is banned in India too. But it's still an accepted way of disciplining children within homes.

Many middle class Indian parents believe education is the key that opens the door to a better life and put tremendous importance on education of their children.

Image copyright iStock
Image caption Middle class Indian parents put a lot of emphasis on their children's education

In India, where WhatsApp has 200 million monthly active users, the video of the three-year-old spread within hours and soon went viral on social media sites. Watching a three-year-old being treated so badly made many people angry.

Virat Kohli, the captain of India's cricket team, and several of his team-mates were among those who took to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to express their outrage.

"The fact that the pain and anger of the child is ignored and one's own ego to make the child learn is so massive that compassion has totally gone out of the window. This is shocking and saddening to another dimension. A child can never learn if intimidated. This is hurtful," Kohli posted on Instagram.

Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan wrote that it was "one of the most disturbing videos" he had seen.

Many others too said they were distressed by the video.

"When I saw this video on Whatsapp it was heart wrenching... And no matter how many excuses the parents or family give in support of their behaviour it cannot be justified," commented Nidhi (nid048).

"This is pretty sad, I mean that kid at that age shouldn't be taught that way," commented egadwiprasetya.

"Can anyone in India help to save this little girl's life from her lunatic Mum please ? Media, police please? I am broke," Sudhi Pooniyil wrote on Twitter.

For several days, the identity of the little girl remained a mystery, but on Wednesday, it was reported that she was Bollywood singer-composer Toshi Sabri's niece.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times newspaper, Sabri said the video was made for their family's WhatsApp group and defended the family's treatment of the child.

Image copyright iStock
Image caption Many believe teaching should be a joyous affair

"Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan don't know about us. We know about our child better," he said. "Her nature is such that after being scolded, the next minute she runs off to play. But, because of her nature if we don't push her, she won't study."

He said the video was made by the child's mother, who wanted to show her brother and husband that the child had become very stubborn. "But she is very dear to us," he added.

Experts, however, insist this is "abusive behaviour" and in many countries, it would be "treated as a crime against a child".

Psychiatrist Achal Bhagat says he cannot comment on this particular case because he hasn't examined the child, but warns that treated in such a way, a child can be "harmed permanently".

"It can result in the child developing a mistrust of people because those who are supposed to be loving her are mistreating her. It can either make her too cautious or too impulsive in forming relationships later in life. She can also start developing self-harm behaviour."

Also, he says, focusing on a child's limitations are not going to help her learn anything.

"This is likely to be very damaging. The child is crying for help. She needs immediate help. And so do her parents," he adds.