Tuesday, 10 May 2011

What goes around in the classroom

Almost all forms of Abuse have been identified , singled out and publicized by Abuse Activists around the globe- be it Sexual, Domestic, Psychological, or even Emotional. . However activists, have yet to face the strangest facet of Abuse, that has hitherto been categorized as a less damaging form, and has therefore been sidelined- we are talking about Abuse in the classroom.

Every parent, is aware about the “Bullying” phenomenon. All though conventionally it is associated with terrorizing a child, within the peer group, recently it has come to the fore- that bullying may be possible through an adult proprietor too .

We forget that within the school environment, there are other important characters that interact with our children- Teachers. We put a lot of faith in teachers, judging the School Authority to be righteous, pedantic, and fairly moral. What we don’t realize is that a school, is like any other business that thrives on reputation, success and money- and that Teachers are like any other employees, who need to work for these very same things. And that teachers, like all other abusers, are human.

Recently it has been noted, that more and more complaints have been registered against teachers. I’m obviously, not talking about American schools because their laws are incredibly harsh with teachers accused of abuse. this was an event that was anticipated, and promptly dealt with, long before other countries even became aware of education. In India however, despite having laws that strictly forbid teachers from physically harming the children, there is absolutely no executive authority, upholding these laws in educational facilities. In fact, there is not one school in India, that does not have teachers causing some sort of irreversible damage to the children.

Teachers hold a very important status in our country. Probably not at the professional level, because they mostly resent the low income strata, but morally, parents tend to be very servile towards teachers. Whether the teacher choses to simply educate, or expand their role and forcibly become a mentor and monitor, depends completely on the character of the teacher. With the low income and scarcity of perks in such a job however, there is not much that inspires teacher to be non-abusive.

How is this kind of abuse, enabled ?

Well firstly, like I said, parents very rarely take up issue with anything that the teacher says. If you were to visit a parent-teacher meeting in India, you would find, the parents simply nodding along, agreeing and insulting their own children for being stupid. The over-enthusiastic ones, will go as far as to encourage the teachers to beat their child up, if that is what it takes to make them score well. You need to understand this, that performance is what drives parents and teachers alike, and in the absence of good performance- they will do anything, anything at all to save face. They will be ready to even psychologically scar their students, to ensure that performance in the national exams is satisfactory and all in all, contributes to a glowing repertoire of the school. The Schooling system in India is harsh not only because of the pressure on the students to always ‘get good marks’, but to also get admitted in the best colleges. Due the expanding population, unemployment is very high, and the educated youth is always competing in a rat race. This is how our children are brought up, in moral fist fights and fierce competition to achieve more and more. This is what is taught in schools. This is what is expected of every student.

Which means that this same pressure, forces teachers to push harder. All though a plausible reason, I really don’t think that’s a valid excuse for damaging young minds in any way.

What kind of Abuse can teachers commit?

From personal experience, I can say that teachers primarily, are the number one source of bullying in India. Child to child bullying is not very often reported, as the parents tend to sort out the issues between themselves, and the children are reprimanded immediately. In most of the Indian households, children are very afraid of parental authority, so no kid gets away with bullying . However, in complete contrast to that, teachers bullying children is perfectly normal- almost expected, and welcomed by parents.

Teachers not only resort to regular insulting, name calling, humiliating the kid in front of the entire class or school even, but they are also very fond of physical violence. Teachers are notorious for hitting, screaming, beating up children frequently, with rulers, bare hands, belts etc. Most of the time, as I saw in my school, parents are so intimidated by the evidently impressive school building, that they don’t even know how to complain about physical abuse. Not one of them, will threaten teachers with filing a suit against them, for abusing a minor. Not one of them, will have the gumption to humiliate or admonish the teachers, for unabashedly rebuking their children constantly. Not one of them will think, “this is ruining my kid’s life”.

Even if, the parents wish to report a teacher, they have to do so knowing that their kid will have to return to the same school, to the same oppressive environment. Teachers, if taken to task, for not being civil enough, will only take out all the resentment on the child in question. So the parents, in foresight, decide to forgo any visits to the school authority, to complain about a rogue teacher’s behavior, and simply tell the child to ‘bear with it’ till the end of the year. After completing a year filled with snide remarks, and sarcastic hits below the belt by the teachers, the child is finally pulled out of the school and sent to another one.

Sadly the chances are that the new school is not likely to be any better.

What happens to the child in cases of abuse at school?

Well usually, children tend to work harder in order to perform better, which is the kind of effect that teachers want to have. What they don’t anticipate is that slowly, the child starts losing confidence despite doing well, and most of them will not do well because they lack the positive incentive in the first place. This is followed by another round of parent teacher meetings, scoldings, hitting, embarrassment etc etc. Now the child fails, consistently, and begins to grow sweatier and sweatier at the thought of not passing the finals. You may have heard your child complaining of a nightmare, right before an exam, in which they somehow flunked or missed the paper. Well believe me, that is nothing to be proud about, because your child is becoming a stress-absorbent personality, unable to sustain without a healthy dose of fear, anxiety and low self-concept. These are the very children, the diligent, result-oriented students, afraid of ever failing at anything in their life, that commit suicide in sheer agony of awaiting results that may, or may not be worth the wait. They’re not afraid of dealing with those results on their own, but they’re petrified at the thought of the reaction their parents, their more ambitious and irresponsible parents will give, along with the teachers that have done nothing but diminish their self worth. You have to imagine, what courage it takes that child, to hang himself or consume poison, in order to avoid the worst.

Physically of course the damage can have major repercussions- Delhi even reported of a case where a young 7 year old girl was punished by her teacher- by being placed on the school grounds, and made to kneel for several hours in the hot sun, until she started complaining of fever and thirst, and until she ultimately collapsed and died of dehydration. In a milder form, children are regularly beaten up, and often punished in cruel ways, to shame them into working harder. What teachers don’t realize that they are working harder, only their fear of failing, fear of being humiliated in front of the class, fear of being expelled, has thwarted them.

In terms of long-term effects, children develop phobias related to educational environment, lectures, classrooms, peer group activities, public speaking, etc. Memories of past experiences with humiliation will regularly assail the children from time to time. As they grow up, none of the ill effects of classroom phobia are resolved, making the children retentive, reserved, usually unable to manage social events, limited to one on one interactions with people and not group interactions, consistent low levels of self esteem, fractured and unrealistic self concept, stress taking and nervousness tendencies, amongst many other restrictions.

Abuse at school has manifested itself very clearly now, in both private and government schools, and it is probably the most severe, most brutal and corrosive form of abuse, that can cause immeasurable harm to a child’s mind and personality.

It is with the preceding facts in hand, that I plead the School authorities, to see to it that no teacher is caught, hurting, molesting, or harming a child in any way- irrespective of whether their shoes are polished, their medals gleaming or their notebooks covered. Because the government has bigger problems than policing rogue elements of a school, but we as parents and teachers, have the sole responsibility of ensuring our children not only have a glowing future, but also a happy, wholesome heart.

A contribution post by: abha thapliyal

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