Breaches of discipline galore prevail in schools and wherever students are present. They look greater than life size when the media broadcasts them far and wide.
The negative impressions portend ill for the future of our students who are made scapegoats with all the blame heaped on them. Teachers, parents and the administration are presented as clean.
They can never be wrong as they can defend themselves openly in meetings and conferences of all types. They also have the means to do so. The only ones who are defenceless in front of these cohorts are the students who are without any forum to present their cases. Elders generally turn a deaf ear to their grievances when crimes are imputed to them with the pre-conceived idea that they are blameworthy. At the most, when pushed, they claim they are not understood and their needs are thwarted.
And they are right. At home they believe in their parents who are never wrong in their eyes. Love is their faith. During adolescence, they have to go their own ways. This is natural weaning. At school, they respect teachers, superiors and the non-teaching staff. They believe in everything their teachers say, even gainsaying their parents. Schools provide them with role models that can stand them in good stead in life later. They strive to stay in their good books. Words of praise, a smile, a favour and anything that shows appreciation inflate little hearts with joy and satisfaction.
Students expect to receive education that will lead them forward with all snags removed. Their perception of teachers is positive for all of us are their products. The Guru concept is still prevalent. To most youngsters, the fact that their faith can be betrayed never occurs in the wildest of their dreams. And this becomes their undoing. Quite a few become tools in the hands of their demi-gods. Their esteemed benefactors expect things in return. They fetch gifts of all sorts and also perform biddings that they never should.
Youngsters at the learning stage have curious minds and boundless guts. They are always told to differentiate between what is good and what is bad and adopt the right attitude in life. At some time in their young days, they touch upon the forbidden for the sake of experimentation. Thus, in adult life, most of them confess having tasted drugs. Even Barack Obama has revealed that he smoked marijuana. Kleptomania, drowning at sea and in rivers, lying in order to get out of a fix and many other compromising attitudes fill the lives of these beloved ones. It is not that they do all these on their own. Elders often push them on. Children do at school what they see at home or in social gatherings. For example, they see that parents take strong drinks during dance parties and assume this to be the social norm. During music day at school they put some rum in a two-litre coke bottle and share it among themselves before going on stage to perform with reddened eyes. Fearing the worst, some schools have stopped holding music days.
The most surprising observation is that, just as everything good and positive comes from teachers, in the same way, everything bad also comes from the same source. Whenever anything goes awry at school, there is the great possibility that some teachers or caretakers are behind it. What is worse is that teachers associate students with the bad things they perpetrate, like keeping watch while they are smoking in class, doing private work and what not. Just think of lecturers at our universities bartering marks for sex. Drug peddling is not excluded. Senior students are paid to serve teacher-cum-bookies at the Champs de Mars and outside during race time. They are even made to miss classes as money is in play. And this list is not exhaustive.
The fascinating world of adolescents is marred when elders poke in their noses. When caught, they suffer in silence for they will never dare to accuse their teachers and other elders of having dragged them into the mess. Fighting through their tears, they suffer the blame and punishments meted out for having let themselves be taken in. It is not surprising then that teachers and caretakers are assaulted or their properties vandalized. Such occurrences do not result out of sadism but of well thought out anger. Student solidarity does the rest.
Next time we hear of student delinquency, let us think twice before pointing accusing fingers at the flower of our youth. School matters must be addressed at school. News-mongering media and even police intervention must be held at bay for these bodies make normal and natural behaviour look as if it is the end of the world. Elders form a society apart. Their sins are silently pushed under the mat. Guilt passes muster on a student and gullible parents share the blame perceptibly. A school cannot be wrong even though it is the devil’s workshop. Understood better, let us keep our hands off our students’ backs.
* Published in print edition on 22 July 2016