OVER 20 million students have reportedly enrolled this school year all over the country. Of these, 1.7 million are in kindergarten, 13.3 million in elementary, and 5.7 million in high school.

If enrollment versus drop-out patterns continue, the Philippine Human Development Report findings will still hold--that of every 1,000 children who enter grade 1, a total of 580 will have dropped out any time before high school graduation.

This, because despite free education in public schools, poverty continues to be the prevailing reason for student drop-outs.

Wouldn’t we also want to know how much to this drop-out figure is caused by a hostile environment in the school?

Remember that nine-year-old grade 2 pupil in Taguig who died of acute tonsillitis? This, because her teacher made her swallow pencil shavings.

Another grade 2 teacher, this time in Madridejos, Cebu, hit her pupil on the head with a broomstick. Another pupil, grade 1 this time, had to suffer six stitches. Yes, another broomstick!

If not the broomstick, then the meter stick! Such hit a grade 4 pupil in Langtad Elementary School in Argao. The stick got broken and the child’s left shoulder and back were bruised. The teacher’s excuse? The child refused to listen to the class discussion.

Then there was this math teacher at Paknaan National High School in Mandaue City forcing her 30 students to swallow scraps of paper. Reasons: Rowdiness and refusal to do the seatwork.

Of course, there were more incidents of corporal punishment in schools. But parents and teachers agreed to settle among themselves.

Such is true about a teacher in Talisay City who had chained her grade 2 pupil.

Also, of another teacher in Danao City who poked the back of the ear of a grade 1 pupil. Her lame excuse: The child could not read and write properly. Excuse me, but isn’t learning to do these properly exactly why young ones go to school?

Students also fear bullying from peers and older students. True, the fear continues about threats, stalking, taking away of belongings, physical violence, restraining of liberty or freedom, demanding sexual or monetary favors, and public humiliation.

Still, a study’s findings showed 74 percent of high school students pointing to bullying as a bigger concern. This includes psychological bullying and even cyber bullying through social networking sites, electronic mail, and mobile phone text messages.

It’s relieving to know that organizations have joined hands with national agencies and local governments to address these challenges. Plan International, a children’s organization, inked a MOA with the Cebu City Government to promote positive and non-violent discipline of children in Cebu.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has also made its Child Protection Policy requiring all schools to set up and convene their own Child Protection Committees.

Activities should be on preventing and ending violence against children.

And, of course, there’s Republic Act (RA) 7610, the Anti-Corporal Punishment Law of 2007, which punishes any parent, guardian or teacher who subjects a child to verbal, physical, mental or psychological punishment.

Still, a father I know has been giving regular boxing lessons to his 13-year-old daughter. They’re giving a hand to the MOA, DepEd’s policy and RA 7610 in case their hands prove weak; you know how it is.