Reprimand: A double-edged sword

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Jan 2018 11:33:37


By Aasawari Shenolikar,










There is a lot of hustle-bustle in the school corridor. Suddenly the staccato beats of stiletto cuts through the chaos. A pin drop silence, in a minute, descends. The class rooms, a hub of activity, become deathly still. The principal is on her rounds. The sound of footsteps stop before a classroom and she enters. Mrs H Baxi, the warmest of persons otherwise, is the strictest of principals where discipline is concerned.

She calls out two names. Both the girls studying in class VIII step out gingerly. After reprimanding them severely for gross indiscipline of sitting inside the school bus during recess, she ends her admonishment with two tight slaps. The girls hang their head in shame. A lesson has been learnt, a mistake that will never be repeated, not only by those two, but by the entire middle school. A rule, to not sit in the classroom during recess but to be on the playground and nowhere else, will never be broken.

Mrs Baxi should thank her stars it happened in 1977. Had this incident occurred during present times, the duo or their parents, would have picked up cudgels against the school and the principal. Had it been boys receiving the reprimand in today’s times, they would just have whipped out a revolver and shot dead the principal or lashed at her with a knife. Who knows?

Now we know. For the incident that happened yesterday where a Std XII student gunned down Ritu Chhabra, Principal of Swami Vivekanand School for she had reprimanded him throws light on the severe degradation of the ethics and morals and how both the school and parents are to be blamed.

The two sculptors that fashion a young child’s mind are the teachers and the parents. The teacher toils hard using tools of education to help him teach and learn, read and write, and the parents, at home, polish these teachings, in the process adding bits of their own wisdom. Both have but one aim - to help him become a better person. In a touching poem Ray Lingenfelter outlines how both the school and home complement the blossoming of a child. Sadly, the poem deosn’t reflect the state of affairs in today’s times.

The teachers, not too long ago, were considered secondary mothers and the schools, a home away from home. Unfortunately, this doesn't hold true today. For, the many rules laid down by the respective boards ensure that the connect, in schools, between the child and the teacher is minimum. And at home parents are at fault as they pamper their kids too much.

This is happening because the busy parents do not have any time for their offsprings and to compensate for their own shortcomings - of spending time with the kids - they ensure that the kids are not deprived of anything, any time. “It is most unfortunate that children are getting everything way too early. Some have never heard the word ‘NO’. Nobody tries to curb their behaviour, parents have no time to observe their children at close quarters and sometimes have no clue of the attitude of their own children. Two-way communication is lacking. Children categorically do not want any interference in their lives and the parents comply meekly.

Circumstances like these feed the negative personality of a child,” says Neeru Kapai, Founder and Director of Modern School, who was initially shocked on reading the news. Seething with anger, she vents her emotions and adds that it is not parents alone who are to blame. “Schools are under a lot of pressure. Laws framed by the Boards are not helping the teachers in moulding the personality of a child in a better way. The think tank needs to sit down and reframe the laws, keeping in mind the betterment of the child. Else the teaching profession will gravely suffer,” she states.

Kapai is not wrong in her assessment. Like her, there are thousands, who, when you talk to them on an individual level, strongly favour the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ policy. But collectively, they want to play safe. Why should a child not get a rap on his palm if he has erred? People in my generation grew up getting beaten blue and black by parents when we did something wrong. We didn’t retaliate by picking up stones and pelting our parents and teachers.
Reprimands by teachers in schools helped us become better, ensuring that we never repeated the same mistake. We grew up good! So what is wrong with the students and parents of today who do not want even to scold the child verbally, let alone rap him?

The sad part is that nobody wants to take any responsibility, nobody wants accountability, feels Kapai. “I alone cannot manage the entire generation.

The entire country has to stand up and fight this growing menace that is shaping our children in an adverse way.” She cites examples of parents putting the entire blame on the schools. If a child’s behaviour is in question, the counselor or the doctor immediately says that ‘teacher ne daant diya hoga.’ “Please do not presume or assume,” pleads Kapai, “Please do not pass the buck. I have heard parents say ‘we have paid the fees and now the entire responsibility of how to bring up my child lies on the school.’”

Even I am privy to such conjectures and the situation saddens me immensely. Ignoring a child’s personality traits, giving the child too much freedom, not questioning him at any time and being scared of him rather than it being the other way around increases the overconfidence of a child in a negative way. This is on the rise and definitely a cause of concern.

Noted psychotherapist Rita Aggarwal, who handles scores of cases of children with behavioural problems is of the opinion that incidents like these are going to increase. “If we do not revamp the formal education system, the coming generations will suffer,” she states emphatically. She read about the case in question in detail and pointed out that the boy was a poor performer and he was constantly harangued by teachers for his poor performance. “Something must have snapped and he acted in a most condemnable way. Teachers are arrogant, do not understand the problems of the students, each child needs to be handled on an individual basis.”

Her perspective takes into account both the sides. She doesn’t absolve the teachers and the parents of their duties and responsibilities. But she lays a lot of stress on the working of our education system where only excellence is rewarded and mediocrity condemned. “Only 12 to 17% students go for higher education in reputed institutions and these are the A graders. What about the rest of students? That is why India needs to focus on and promote vocational education.

Dignity to vocational education is a must. China has over three lakh vocational schools, India not even 5000. 95% of Chinese youth goes for vocational education and that is why they excel. Parents, teachers, and society in general treats these mediocre students like marginalized people.

A child’s perspective, his proficiency or aptitude is not taken into question and he is forced into streams that he might not be interested in,” says Aggarwal, who is pained when she notices teachers not being able to understand and solve a problem dogging a particular student. She is also greatly distressed by the fact that the boy’s father was not aware of the poor performance of his child. She strongly advocates that excellence in education should not be related to excellent grades.

Anju Bhutani, Principal Bhavan’s Bhagwandas Purohit Vidya Mandir, Civil Lines, is euqally vociferous in her views regarding the shooting down of a Principal by a student. “This is a wake-up call for all of us,” she feels. “This incident bears testimony to the fact that schools and society stand disconnected with each side blaming the other whenever something untoward happens to a student.” She feels aggrieved when parents attack school and are intolerant towards the system.

In the same vein she is pained at the confusion added by the Government authorities shifting responsibilities on schools in the form of compliances with imprisonment of the Principal in freak incidents. If parents are strict, the child becomes frustrated and vents out his frustration in actions that can sometimes be extremely violent or illegal. “The shooting incident is a symptom of the malaise that has set in the education system. Let us save the hallowed portals of learning as schools are the last frontiers of upholding and inculcating life skills,” she adds.

The ball is now in a parent’s court. Father to a High School student, Aniruddha Mayee, Advocate Supreme Court, is of the view that schools are no more ‘Vidyalayas’ these days.
“Most are commercial establishments where the comfort zone between teacher and student is missing leading to less respect for the teachers,” he says. Mayee also echoes sentiments of Bhutani and Kapai when he opines that children are emotionally starved due to working parents and no proper connect with their teachers.

With lesser outdoor activities and more of violent video games and serials, the psyche of the student is changing towards being aggressive and increase in intolerance. Over indulgence by parents is also a major factor.

“Parents and children do not realise the repercussion of their actions leading either to adamancy or depression. When parents blindly support the actions of children and come down heavily on schools, it does not bode well for the education system,” he says.

Agreed that the boy might have been right on so many counts that led to a breakdown - but how could he have easy access to a revolver? Did he carry it to school with the intention of shooting the Principal, making it a premeditated act? Or if it was a spur of the moment act, then did he have the revolver all the time in his school satchel? In which case, it is a dangerous scenario.

All are unanimous in their opinion that to address such issues, schools and parents must have a dialogue and government and schools need to evolve consensus on burning issues.

Such incidents cannot be brushed aside as aberrations and remedial measures are required. Else the ‘Hey mom, Dad and Teacher take a Chill Pill’ attitude will, at any given time, turn to It’s all right to Kill!’