The news about murder, harassment of children keep on popping up on media very frequently nowadays. Are children safe in school? Are they safe anywhere? How to keep them safe? Because of the prevalent belief systems, wrong notions are nurtured by most of us and those have immediate consequences on our children. The article reflects on their consequences on our children.
Dr. Saswati Paik is a Faculty in School of Education, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.
Are children safe in school?
This is a burning question nowadays after the brutal murder of a student in a private school in Gurgaon. Each time we face extreme issues like this, we start discussing and debating and parents start saying that they feel “helpless”. Let’s try to look at these issues along with our own practices and belief systems.
Is it true that the frequency of such incidents has increased? Probably true, but not sure. Children were not safe earlier as well. They used to experience similar incidents earlier also at home, at relative’s place, at public place, at school etc, probably those never came to the limelight due to the lack of media. We must recognise the fact that because of certain social belief systems, wrong notions are nurtured by most of us and those have immediate consequences on our children. Few are described here.
Notion 1: Girls are ‘vulnerable’, not the boys. As per the societal belief system, boys cannot be ‘raped’, and ‘rape’ is one of the fulcrums of measuring vulnerability.
Consequence: Boys are more exposed to the vulnerable environment, parents show reluctance about sons’ social safety. On the other hand, parents are over cautious about daughters’ safety and security, but hardly try to get into any discussion regarding ‘sex education’.
Notion 2: If a girl gets physically abused, especially by her relative, family friend etc, it is often projected as a ‘shame’ for the girl.
Consequence: For hiding the ‘shame’ of the girl and also for saving family’s prestige, the incident is hardly disclosed to the others within the known circle. Thus culprits get an indulgence to practice such non-sense without any repentance.
Notion 3: Most moral stories made for children project adults as ‘ideals’ whom they should abide by although reality says that adults do wrong practices from where children learn.
Consequence: A child is afraid to raise questions against any adult person even if one does wrong practices as per the child’s understanding and slowly out of the fear and also unknowingly, many such children start adopting those wrong practices in their lives.
Notion 4: Many of us learnt that teachers are ‘gurus’ and therefore we must follow them. Similar to the adults, teachers are also human beings, they can also do mistakes. But a child is not supposed to raise her voice against those.
Consequence: Most parents try to frame their child as a “teacher’s pet”. When a teacher behaves badly in the classroom or outside, a teacher punishes or bullies children, the children keep their mouth shut. If they raise their voice, it is unlikely that they will receive moral support from anyone such as school teachers, principal, their own parents and even from their friends.
Notion 5: Expensive elite English medium schools are better. They will make ‘smart’ children, fluent in English, good at western etiquettes, and fit for the larger demand of the ‘market’.
Consequence: Such elite English medium schools have started their operation completely in a business mode without knowing and understanding the aims of education. Teachers are recruited at random and many such schools often become the rehabilitation centres for home makers with grown up children, women smart in terms of attires and English speaking and wanting to work somewhere only for social status. So potential ‘teachers’ who join this noble profession only for ‘passion’ are often missing in such spaces.
Notion 6: Educated parents with better resources are good in child nurturing. The children get more exposure to many places and materials which make them smart. They start doing advanced things to make their parents ‘proud’ at their early stage of life.
Consequence: Children get addicted to materials and slowly get isolated from the emotional space. Parents may feel proud of their children playing with video games, watching movies as per their own choice and pulling others’ legs (including their siblings) for being ‘unsmart’ etc, and not ‘disturbing them in their lives full of virtual social networking through various means. It is unfortunate but true that these children slowly are getting into own shells and disconnected from a precious life full of love, affection, emotional safety and security to be provided by the parents. This gap subsequently is creating advantageous space for those who are there to abuse them, physically and verbally, in the mob of relatives, friend circles, teachers, physical trainers and so on.
We all need to accept a very crude reality that Indian society is undergoing a crisis of ‘good teachers’, ‘good parents’ and ‘good schools’ which can ensure a ‘good human being’.
Where are the ‘good’ teachers?
Teaching profession has become the profession for ‘back benchers’ mainly because of the entry of politics and malpractices into this noble profession since the entry level to promotion, transfer everywhere. A truly motivated teacher can easily become highly demotivated because of the peer pressure within the education system. Thus ‘teaching’ is often considered as the easiest job by many people in the society. Numerous teachers who necessarily need to be ‘reflective practitioners’ don’t even know and understand what are the expectations from a ‘reflective practitioner’. They can’t recognise their space as most crucial, which deals with human development at various stages of life.
Where are the ‘good’ parents?
Parents are now busy in ‘rat race’. As shown in the movie of Amir Khan, ‘3 Idiots’, parents set the professional targets for their children. The targets are limited, therefore competition is huge. Parents are busy in earning to settle their life and their next generation. They are also busy in their fast life style where virtual social networking is a big status symbol. Adults are more scared than their kids to get ‘bullied’ by their peers in terms of ‘unsmart’ behaviour without smart practices like Twitter, Facebook update, WhatsApp interaction etc. After all these, they are tired. Where is the time and energy to talk to their wards?
Where are the ‘good’ schools?
The market of school education is open to all, the situation leads to a very commercialised idea “choose your school as per your budget”. Often parents choose schools as per own ‘class’, government schools in many places, especially urban areas have become more or less “choices for poors”. Our national political leaders for last few decades have successfully converted education sector into a commercial sector, have sold our ‘Right to Education’ to multiple agencies. We can’t think of taking any immediate pragmatic action on this. Let’s look for some realistic solutions.
I am a parent and at the same time a teacher associated with an academic institution working for public school system in India. In this crisis situation, my humble request to the parents is to spend more time with their children, value their queries, suggestions, comments, if they object about anyone’s behaviour (including you), don’t become defensive, listen to them. If your child is in any of the schools which pay more attention to the outside attires rather than teachers and teaching, please be alert always. If possible, build parents’ network not to merely discuss about the availability of fancy things in school, rather to discuss about the school culture, its teachers, teacher-student relation, its support staff and overall practices of the school both within and outside the classroom. Our children are going to suffer because of bad practices by teachers and schools. Don’t wait for something to happen to your child. Every day, every moment is important.
This article is published in The New Leam, OCTOBER 2017 Issue( Vol .3 No.29 and available in print version. To buy contact us or write at firstname.lastname@example.org