The immediate reason for writing this is that several schools and many from the teaching fraternity wish to express their solidarity against vandalism in the wake of the horrifying incident at Christ Church Girls’ High School, Dum Dum.
However, I wish we could protest in some form other than closing school. As it is we have a poor reputation with regard to our work culture and our schools are closed far too often — to mark birth and death anniversaries of eminent people, on “rainy days”, to celebrate school successes (good examination results, winning a prestigious award or at the conclusion of a glittering event). I don’t think closing school is the right way to register protest but protest we must.
It is crucial now for all of us to present a united front without making a distinction between Christian and “other” schools or ICSE and “other” schools.
In fact it is important that the entire city should protest against the way a mob was allowed to take the law into its own hands — a mob that was screaming for the head of a person in authority. Clearly the people making up the mob were not in their senses and had collectively taken on the character of an unrecognisable, monstrous beast.
We have no idea how this mob materialised and whether at all there was a demagogue of sorts in the picture. But we do know that people in our city have been of late, hasty in their judgment and quick to mete out punishment themselves instead of waiting for the law to take its course.
Crowd management is a difficult task at all times but crowd appeasement is a dangerous way to carry it out. Everyone knows that when a crowd bays for blood nobody is safe. People in Calcutta should be well-versed in mob psychology by now.
As teachers we know that there are multiple causes for bullying in school. If the problem of bullying is not addressed in school it goes on to take the shape of inhuman ragging later on in college.
In a way I was quite surprised to see the front page headline in The Telegraph on Friday, September 13. It said, ‘What we do to our teachers and the kind of students we are producing’.
I was surprised because I thought that as usual media and the public would lay the blame at the teacher’s door or accuse the school itself. It is after a very long time that people are showing their disgust at the way teachers are being treated.
We teachers are used to tackling hundreds of students in a hall or playground. But then we also know that young people, who are known to be responsible on their own, can lose their individuality completely when they join a volatile group. Several students have confessed that after some prank or the other they have wondered at a saner moment how they could have possibly done the deed.
We know about child-centric education and we are aware of the consequences of harsh punishment. But how is the teacher expected to discipline her students if she has to live in fear?
On the evening of September 12, I received a telephone call from this newspaper and was asked to switch on the TV. The scene that met my eyes when I did so was — to put it mildly — horrifying.
The principal of a school was pleading with an unruly crowd and was asking for forgiveness with folded hands. I could see slippers being brandished and I was just hoping and praying that the principal would just stop what she was doing and leave the scene. And I desperately wished that the police would act quickly and disperse the ugly crowd.
Guardians must not forget that teachers are engaged in the task of nurturing their children and only if they work in tandem can any learning goal be achieved.
The words from our Governor were lauded by all those who were anguished to see parents and guardians behaving like barbarians and children (sadly they were girls) following their role models of the moment. Governor M.K. Narayanan did not mince his words — “If parents don’t have discipline, what can you expect of the children?”
Thank you, Governor.