The symptoms: unruliness, restlessness and mischief. The victims: school students. The ailment: lack of physical exercise and open spaces needed to play outdoors.
Breaking furniture, smashing windowpanes, classroom fights and generally disruptive behaviour are problems on the rise in city schools, warn educators.
But, just as the problem is as serious at home as it is in class, the solution, believe the schools, will have to involve parents of problem children.
The alarmed authorities of South Point School, which has a record number of students in the country, issued a notice to guardians on Thursday, asking them to help inculcate a positive attitude among students.
“We have been noting with grave concern a deterioration in the conduct of the pupils… in the classroom, during their entry to school, the time of dismissal or during the break and while waiting for the bus,” reads the notice from principal Madhu Kohli. “Parents, thus, may involve the pupils in a physical sport (to release their unspent energy).”
The school has seen restlessness mostly among students who live in apartments and do not get an opportunity to play.
“Children have energy that they must burn through play,” agrees Terrence Ireland, principal, St James School. “They tend to indulge in undesirable activities when they do not find an outlet for their energy… Schools and parents must work together to ensure students strike a balance,” he adds.
Psychologists, however, feel that the pressures of academics can aggravate the problem. “Not only does it physically force them off the playing fields and into tutorial homes, children are also compelled to do something which they are averse to,” says psychologist Mahua Ghosh. “They may develop a tendency to break rules when they feel physically restricted.”
There is an increasing number of accidents occurring on campus, warn teachers, some of them dangerous. At one school, a bunch of boys was recently caught in an attempt to start a fire under the stairs.
In Patha Bhavan’s primary section, the authorities have enlisted the support of a counsellor who meets parents every Saturday to help sort out problems. “Even if the child is not having serious issues, early intervention makes sense,” explains principal Pradipta Kanungo.
Watching TV can add to restlessness. “Hobbies have changed. Now, kids collect wrestling cards and bring them to school,” observes Kanungo.
St Lawrence High School has appointed four extra gardeners to watch out for trouble. A common concern at the Ballygunge institution is students pelting stones at neighbouring windows. Perhaps, the problem is a lack of nurturing, suggests principal Anil Mitra.
“These are growing problems in a fast-changing world. Parents, caught up in their careers, can’t afford to spend much time with their children,” he adds.