Is it too much to ask for for a more responsible school environment?
Alexander Pope’s mock heroic poem The Rape of the Lock satirises a trivial incident in which his friend snips off a tiny tuft of hair of his ladylove that leads to a breach between two noble families. Pope gives this incident an epical boost and elevates the humour involved.
But, unlike as in Pope’s poem, what happened recently at a school in Bangalore is not a frivolous incident; neither is it humorous.
Of all places, schools should abstain from any form of discrimination. History has recorded the struggles that the human race has gone through to make education reachable to all.
In India, we are still striving to reach this laudable goal. But, sadly, this is not maintained in most of the places where racism and casteism are still alive and kicking!
Four children were allegedly stigmatised in the private school just because they belonged to an economically disadvantaged background. Making these kids sit separately in a class, asking them to stand separately during assembly, checking their lunch boxes prior to allowing them inside the class, ignoring them in the class and not giving them assignments are all inhuman. And, cutting their hair to “differentiate them in class” is appalling. Where are we headed? Should education stoop to this level?
Of course, we have the school management pleading innocence, saying that the hair cutting was a prank played by a classmate during a crafts class. Be that as it may, is giving scissors to standard-I students safe at all? What if harm is done accidentally or due to quarrels? Will the school still maintain that this was done when the teacher was busy with some work? Is it too much to ask for for a more responsible school environment when we leave our wards in the temples of learning?
We have not yet forgotten the shocking incident that happened in a Chennai school where a student smuggled a knife into a classroom and killed his teacher out of anger. There have been instances when the media and the law accused teachers of bringing a cane or a crude bamboo stick inside a classroom. This being the case, how can scissors and knife be safe in the hands of tiny tots?
How do these things happen in a cosmopolitan city like Bangalore? Here are we in the 21st century fighting for identity in various corners of the earth wherever Indians have migrated. We crave for acclimatisation and assimilation in the outside world when in reality we fail to accept fellow Indians for what they are.
The onus is on teachers — not on first-graders. They are responsible for ensuring the right environment at the stage when a kid is in the process of forming his thoughts. It does not matter where a child comes from, what he or she wears or eats for lunch.
The real education is imparted only with a learning system that stresses that one kid is as good as the other; and the educational system is there only to take them forward, not backward.
And for this to happen, educational institutions at the elementary, middle and high school stages and policymakers should place a premium on the right teacher.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of the Faculty of Science and Humanities, SRM University in Chennai, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)