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‘I couldn’t believe a boy I had taught for seven years was abusing me’

A veteran schoolteacher has given voice to the maelstrom of conflicting emotions coursing through the teaching community since Tuesday, their anger at being abused and assaulted by students they had mentored for years contrasting with concern over their future.

“I couldn’t believe that a boy I had taught for seven years was showering me with expletives and threatening to kill his headmaster if he dared to step out of the office,” 55-year-old Mrinal Chaudhuri, who didn’t want to name the student for fear of “ruining his future”, told Metro.

He was recounting Tuesday’s violence at Jagatpur Rukmini Vidyamandir for Boys, a Behala school where 37 students who had failed to clear their HS and Madhyamik selection tests assaulted three of their teachers.

Chaudhuri, who teaches English, colleague Dipen Roy and headmaster Sujit Hazra were slapped and abused by the students, many of whom had come for the protest with their guardians.

Chaudhuri said he had never felt more humiliated and hurt. But he refused to name those behind the incident, including the student whose despicable behaviour had left him gutted.

“I won’t name them….They are like my children. I have known them from their first day in this school. They have committed a mistake but it is my duty to forgive them, protect them,” the teacher said.

Across the four institutions that witnessed rowdy student behaviour over exam results on Tuesday, the teachers felt more disillusioned than angry.

At Kasturba Kanya Vidyapeeth in Sinthee More, where a similar protest erupted on Wednesday, teachers said it felt strange to be escorted out of the premises by the police.

Even in schools where there has been no such violence, teachers suddenly seemed wary of trusting the impulses of students they have known for years.

An afternoon protest by Trinamul at Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth in Santoshpur, where the headmistress and most of her colleagues had been held hostage for almost 24 hours since Monday, reminded everyone of the turbulence in the past 48 hours.

In Behala, some of Chaudhuri’s colleagues said it was a “scary” feeling coming to school on Wednesday. A lady teacher had her husband do a detour to drop her at school and pick her up in the afternoon.

Some teachers admitted they would have skipped school if they didn’t have to work pertaining to the examination results of classes other than X and XII.

The results are to be declared on December 28.

Mita Mukherjee of Kasturba Kanya Vidyapeeth said she was struggling to keep her mind from going back to the events of the past two days.

“Imagine being abused by students you have taught and loved for the past 12 years. When one of the students was taken ill during the siege, a teacher tried to help her but the other students threatened to break her limbs if she dared touch her,” Mukherjee recalled, wincing at the thought.

The headmaster of a north Calcutta school said the virulent spread of protests over examination results had triggered alarm bells in every educational institution.

“What if we are targeted next? Teachers could be scared to fairly evaluate a student lest they face reprisal. How do I convince my teachers to do what they have been doing all along?” he demanded.

The headmistress of Annadasundari Hindu Balika Vidyapeeth in Baguiati decided not to detain 19 students who had failed the test to avert a protest in the making.

“I know I have set a bad example but I had little option but to do so. Some of the girls and their parents were threatening to get violent. We could not take a chance,” headmistress Pritha Bose said.

But headmistress Sreemati Ghosh of Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth stood her ground about not reviewing the results. “We will be happy if all of them score good marks in next year’s exam. For now, some of the girls must accept that they fared poorly in the selection test. We couldn’t have ignored that.”