Violent expression of anger and anguish against peers, teachers and educational administrators is no longer a rare phenomenon. Unattended resentment leads to anguish, pain and behavioural maladjustment. While developed countries, particularly those with a gun culture, are facing acute problems of bullying, these are causing considerable concern in Indian schools and colleges as well. Things have deteriorated far more than what Gandhiji had recorded in his autobiography about his initial years in school: “In company with other boys, to call our teachers all kinds of names”. Now it is much more than mere calling names!
Because of the family samskara, he ignored the teacher’s indication to copy the spelling of the word ‘kettle’ during an inspection of his school. He recalls it: “Yet the incident did not in the least diminish my respect for my teacher: I was, by nature, blind to the faults of my elders. Later I came to know of many other failings of this teacher, but my regard to him remained the same. For, I had learnt to carry out the orders of elders, not to scan their actions.” The trend to discard traditional values of nurturing respect for age, experience and elders would prompt many to ignore his contention not to question the actions of the aged. Instead they would plead in favour of the freedom of expression, and highlight the school’s responsibility to enhance the skill of articulation, which would demand learners to speak out, even with defiance.
Widely contrasting learning environments in Indian schools is indeed baffling. Imagine a child of 12 years studying in a high-fee charging private school, made to board the bus at 6 am, returning home around 3 pm, rushing to tuition at 4 pm; and tennis academy at 5.30 pm; and on return, it is home work in every subject everyday. In addition, the Monday test spoils the holiday and leaves no scope for any social family visits. The fear of getting low marks in CCE tests hounds every child. However, in most of the sarkari schools, one comes across lack of teachers and basic infrastructure, little evidence of seriousness in maintaining regularity, punctuality and an empathetic learning environment. Not many children have access to playgrounds, or tuitions or coaching. As they grow up, they realise their being in serious disadvantage compared to their peers in public schools. It leads to frustration, disinterest, anxiety and anguish. They need guidance, affection, and motivation from teachers, which is generally found missing. All this prepares the ground for violence in schools.
The problem is not new. In 1934, Einstein had replied to a young girl who had written to him, complaining about her teachers. The content of the reply clearly brings out the issue, the solution and also the potential of the learner: “I have read about sixteen pages of your manuscript and it made me smile. It is clever, well-observed, and honest; it stands on its own feet up to a point, yet it is typically feminine, by which I mean derivative and steeped in personal resentment. I suffered at the hands of my teachers a similar treatment; they disliked me for my independence and passed me over when they wanted assistants (I must admit, though, I was somewhat less of a model student than you).” Explaining why he would avoid writing about his school, he advises the girl: “Therefore, pocket your temperament and keep your manuscript for your sons and daughters, in order that they may derive consolation from it—and not give a damn for what their teachers tell them or think of them.” If teachers and principals handle resentment as they do so in their homes, such problems could be resolved quietly. Parents too have a responsibility to remain in touch with the school, and never ignore even minor behavioural anomalies.
J S Rajput
Former director of the NCERT