Chennai, Feb. 9: A reclusive 15-year-old repeatedly stabbed his science and Hindi teacher as she sat stunned in her chair in front of her class in Chennai this morning.
Uma Maheswari, a 39-year-old mother of two and a well-liked teacher who rarely raised her voice, was declared dead on arrival in hospital.
She had been teaching at the 160-year-old St. Mary's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School for six years.
Father Bosco Periyaynayagam, a board member of the north Chennai school, said: "She is an excellent teacher who did not even raise her voice against the children. She has two school-going daughters. It is a real tragedy and this school will miss a good teacher."
Remarks that Uma had made in the Class IX student's school diary that he was not concentrating on his studies could be the reason for the attack, he said. Uma had already taken her seat for the third period at 10.50am as students were returning to class after a break. The teenager, described by his classmates as reclusive and a below average student, pulled out a pen-knife and stabbed the teacher again and again. His shocked classmates raised an alarm, bringing other teachers running to the class, and a bleeding Uma was taken to a nearby hospital.
Assistant commissioner of police K. Murali said there were five stab wounds on the teacher's body and one injury to the chest had proved fatal. Since the boy is only 15 he will be detained at a juvenile home, the officer said. "So far, he has not explained why he did this mindless act but we expect him to open up soon," Murali added.
A classmate said the boy, who was tall and well-built for his age, would usually be among the last to come into class. "But today he ran in ahead of others as we were returning from a break," the classmate said.
Other students said the teacher was well liked though she would occasionally reprimand anyone not showing interest in studies.
The boy was found hiding in the school toilet, from where a police team took him to the police station. He lives in the middle-class Seven Wells area, 5km from the school, and his father runs an export business.
"He used to come by car and kept a low profile and there had been no complaints about his behaviour before," Periyanayagam said.
Most students at the school, run by missionaries, belong to middle class and lower middle class families. A staff member said demand for seats was high because of good teaching standards at the school, located on Armenian Street, one of Chennai's oldest areas. The 6km road, which runs from Madras High Court to Mannadi, is a trading hub dealing in pumps, electrical equipment etc, and is also dotted by many old churches.
Uma used to commute to the school from Mandaveli, a middle class south Chennai neighbourhood, 10km away. Her husband Ravishankar works with Samsung Electronics. They have two daughters, Sangeetha (8) and Janani (6).
The school will remain closed till Monday.