Cruelty in schools – 23 Feb 2010

To treat the news of a teacher in Orissa who has beaten to death her student for not doing his homework as ‘shocking’ would be an apology for a sentiment which is complex for me to define with one single word. That human attitudes and human behaviour can be bizarre is explicit in the numerous examples that we keep reading about and hearing of. If we only take the schools as the work area for the moment we would realise how much needs to be done to improve the work atmosphere of schools and the work behaviour of the staff that handles all types of normally healthy and deficient and disabled creatures of God of very young ages.

Unfortunately the schools have been in the limelight for wrong reasons as the rate of students’ suicides goes up and so do the incidences of teacher harassment of students. Of course ‘beaten to death’ is not just harassment- it’s homicide. A child is murdered for not doing his homework sounds horrendous. My senses just went numb. This was also not the first time we had heard of such an incidence. All the other seeming cruelties paled in front of this. My small psychological clinic acts as a window for me to see the outside world and it’s inside hidden cruelties. Since I see a lot many children from all types of schools with various learning disabilities and behaviour problems I hear of the subtle and silent and gross and loud cruelties that teachers inflict upon such poor innocent souls. Some day when I am in a mood I would narrate some of them for all of you to make your own judgments about them.

A bad worker blames his tools it is said. A bad management blames his teachers. And in turn a bad teacher blames her students. Frankly the onus lies with the management ultimately. The buck has to stop there. Employee feedback is generally a regular feature for most organizations or should be at least. In schools a student who is victimised may hesitate to complain to higher authorities for he/ she may be denied access to the principal or /and live in fear of being further exploited by the specific teacher if he complained. There has to be a method for collecting feedback from students about teacher performance and behaviour/conduct.

As professional organisations engaged in the serious business of educating young minds, how serious are schools about continuously improving themselves in terms of psycho-spiritual development. How serious are schools about conducting regular staff development programs is an open question to everyone who is concerned about the current prevailing situation of most schools across the country. There could be some suggestions like this. Firstly it would be important to screen the job seeking teachers for their personality traits and their teaching aptitude besides their honourable degrees. There is a possibility for mental illness or aberrations in the teacher’s personality. Secondly they should be oriented for some months towards the schools philosophy and mission statements if they are at all clearly defined and implemented by the management.  Thirdly teachers should be put through awareness programs of child psychology and specific disabilities and their management. Fourthly teachers should also be put through programs such as anger, stress management and self development. Obviously whatever is being done in the name of teachers training on the job does not seem to be adequate enough otherwise we would not hear of such casualties so often.

The parents lobbies should also get stronger to raise their voice against atrocities against their children whenever noticed for ultimately they are the worst sufferers if a child is hurt, harassed, victimized, maimed or killed at school. For parents the damage is permanent.   

Besides the philosophical question of the very purpose of having schools and its long term goals, we also need to define many more aspects of schooling such as the personality of the teachers, their specific competencies, their attitudes towards children and their attitudes towards their job, to name a few. There is a lot of talk about teacher stress due to work overload which is again due to many factors, such as bad student teacher ratio, curriculum overload etc.

Published in Hitavada Future – 23 Feb 2010


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