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Positive Pak sentence examples get teacher suspended

Parents complain about Gorakhpur instructor 'brainwashing' children

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 24.05.20, 4:21 AM
  • Updated 24.05.20, 6:30 AM
  • 2 mins read
GN National Public School, Gorakhpur (Pic: Facebook/gnnps)

A private English-medium school in Gorakhpur has suspended an English teacher because she had used sentence examples with positive references to Pakistan during an online grammar class.

Shadab Khanam faced the axe on Friday, within hours of a few parents complaining to the G.N. National Public School management that she was “glorifying Pakistan” in the online classroom, conducted over WhatsApp.

Khanam, who is in her mid-40s, has been teaching for 11 years at the school, located in the hometown of chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

While teaching English grammar and sentence formation to Class IV students on Friday, Khanam had posted “I will join Pak army” on their WhatsApp group as an example of a sentence in the future tense.

The parents objected to this and two other sentences she wrote during the one-hour class: “Pakistan is our dear homeland” and “Rashid Minhas was a brave soldier”.

Minhas was a trainee Pakistan air force pilot who had died in 1971 while trying to seize command of his jet trainer from his commanding officer, Matiur Rahman, who had allegedly planned to defect to India to join the Bangladesh Liberation War. The plane crashed, killing both.

While Pakistan honoured Minhas with the Nishan-e-Haider, the country’s highest military award, Bangladesh too bestowed on Rahman its topmost military honour, Bir Sreshtho.

Khanam said she had apologised immediately to the school and the parents — via the WhatsApp group — when told the parents had complained she was “brainwashing” the children instead of “inculcating nationalism in them”.

But the management decided her actions were “unpardonable”.

Khanam was the administrator of the WhatsApp group, formed for 50 pupils.

“I had to teach a lot of grammar in a short time. So I was gathering examples from Google and copy-pasting them for the students. It was a human error — I posted many sentences mechanically, without carefully reading them,” Khanam told reporters in Gorakhpur on Saturday.

“I didn’t write those sentences with any motive. I cannot ever imagine that I would provoke my students against the country. I was born in this country and love it.”

School director Gorakh Singh said: “We had appointed Khanam as a teacher because she was qualified. She posted objectionable sentences while teaching students. We immediately served her with a notice and then suspended her after an inquiry. It (her act) was unpardonable.”

Gyanendra Pratap Singh, the district inspector of schools, hinted at further action against the teacher.

“We have sought an explanation from the school management. We can take legal action against the teacher after an inquiry,” he said.

Singh did not say what criminal charges may be brought against Khanam but local BJP leaders are demanding she be prosecuted for sedition.

A person from Gorakhpur who knows Khanam personally told The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity: “We should have the kindness to pardon a teacher if she has apologised for her mistake. She has a spotless career and is very popular among the students.”

He said: “In the last two or three years even five or six-year-old children have begun treating their Hindu and Muslim teachers differently. Would they (the parents) have treated the matter in the same way if her name was, for example, Sudha Khanna?”

He added: “If it’s a crime to mention Pakistan, why are our television channels showing Friday’s plane crash in Karachi and why are we (the government) offering condolences over the 100 deaths?”