Untouchable child is blinded by teacher

8th September 1995 at 01:00
A five-year-old schoolgirl from south India was blinded in one eye after a beating from her teacher. Dhanam, an "Untouchable", the social group with the lowest status in India's caste system, had been caught drinking water from a cup intended for higher-caste students.

As a new girl at the school, Dhanam was not aware that an Untouchable is expected to drink water from cupped hands and not allowed to touch cups or plates in case they become "contaminated".

The case has caused a public outcry. Not because it is unusual - Untouchables are often brutally punished, even beaten to death for breaching caste rules in rural areas - but because Dhanam's upper-caste teacher who punished her was not charged despite the medical evidence. He has denied beating the girl and is backed by his local teachers' union.

It is not easy to persuade India's poorest families to send their children to school: many think of education as a luxury for the privileged. With a national literacy rate of only 52 per cent, educationists have been working hard to alter this perception but now fear that Dhanam's case will set back their cause. As her labourer father said: "Why send children to school to be taught how inferior they are?"

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today