Could you forgive a teacher who bullied you as a student? That is the question many Chinese are asking themselves after a 33 year-old man from Luanchuan county in Henan attacked a teacher who allegedly abused him 20 years ago.
Chang Renyao apparently caught sight of his old teacher Zhang Qinglin on a trip home last July. He decided to approach him and beat him up as revenge for the harsh treatment he had endured as student.
Chang’s friends filmed the nine-minute encounter – part of which was later posted online – during which Chang is seen slapping, punching and kicking Zhang.
In the video Chang can be heard shouting “Do you remember me? Do you remember how you beat me in the past?”
This month Chang appeared in court, charged with “seeking trouble” – a crime that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
However, many members of the public are on Chang’s side, amid regular reports that abuse – by teachers and fellow students – is still rife in China’s education system.
In October a 12 year-old girl from Jiangxi province tried to commit suicide after being repeatedly criticised by her Chinese language teacher. The girl, who jumped off her school building, survived but was paralysed for life. In the subsequent trial the teacher was accused of hitting her students round the head with books, caning their hands and forcing them to hold squatting poses as punishment.
In August 2017 a 10 year-old girl from Shanxi wrote a heartbreaking letter describing how her teacher would beat her for minor mistakes or for not bringing her a present on the educator’s birthday.
The girl also suggested the beatings were because her parents hadn’t signed her up to the teacher’s after-hours class – for which Rmb1,000 per year was charged (see WiC401).
Corporal punishment has long been a feature of the Chinese education system, experts say. “To teach without severity, is the teacher’s laziness,” is a Confucian belief.
In 1952 the Communist Party set about reforming the traditional system and abolishing corporal punishment. However, even after the introduction of laws banning teachers from beating children – the last coming into force in 1993 – it still happens, especially in rural areas.
Experts say it will take several more years and a mindset change in the teaching profession to eradicate the practice.
Private kindergartens, which until recently were relatively free of government regulation, have also been at the centre of several abuse scandals – partly because the rapid expansion of the for-profit sector led to the hiring of unqualified staff.
In December last year a nursery teacher from the RYB education chain was found guilty of using needles to discipline pre-schoolers in her care. She was sentenced to 18 month in prison – a punishment many parents thought was too lenient (see WiC390).
Meanwhile the government is trying to crack down on student bullying by making it easier to expel perpetrators and classify severe cases as a criminal offence.
Yet parents say they often feel helpless when it comes to protecting their kids.
In a shocking case last month, a father from Jiangxi took the law into his own hands and stabbed a 10 year-old boy to death for allegedly bullying his daughter. He turned himself into the police and has been charged with murder.
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