May 5, 2012

Spare the teacher

By Lubna Jerar Naqvi We often hear of students being brutally beaten up by teachers in Pakistan and we condemn the corporal punishment that has always been a part of our education system. But with reports of teachers’ beatings at the hands of their students coming up, the adage “spare the rod, spoil the child” needs to be rephrased to “spare the rod, spoil the child – and save the teacher.” Though here we are talking of the “child” who has outgrown childhood. Recently at least two incidents have been reported in the media, in which students or their family members have turned on teachers and caused serious injury. Recently, a government teacher of Government High School at Mattod Bhaike near Gujranwala was beaten up by a class nine student and three of his accomplices. They left the teacher in such a state that he had to be hospitalised. The teacher’s crime: he had reprimanded the student for bunking class. In another incident, news appeared last month of a former MPA, Aslam Madhyana, father of present PPP MPA Awais Madhyana, being arrested for torturing an elderly schoolteacher and breaking both his legs in Sargodha. was According to reports, the former MPA told the media that PML-N leaders ‘Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif were trying to take “political revenge”’. Both cases are being dealt with by the law. Many cultures, including ours, revere the teacher and give a status higher to the “spiritual parent” than one’s own parents. It needs to be investigated why teachers are now being dealt with such brutally by their students. A look back into our recent past – the last three decades or so – will reveal that the use of force against a teacher is not today’s phenomenon in Pakistan. We have seen teachers threatened and terrorised by their students (in the 70s, 80s and 90s). Politicised “students” have been known to terrorise and threaten teachers, after bunking, or disrupting classes for political reasons. Stories of knife- or gun-wielding students blatantly cheating in exams filtered out of educational institutes in Karachi and many other parts of Sindh, while the helpless teaching staff looked on. Anyone brave enough to try and stop this was roughed up. This dealt a serious blow to the quality of education imparted in this part of the country, especially Karachi – which was once known for its educational institutions and attracted a large number of foreign students. Sadly, as students became powerful through political connections, and probably proved beneficial to their “mother political parties,” they proved to be detrimental to the quality of “professionals” comprising the workforce. The quality of work produced by these political students was zilch. They proved even more useless in the professional field for they were only good for “politics” – i.e., shutting down work, protesting, taking out rallies, etc. Once “graduating” with a degree, these “educated” professionals proved to be “useful” in different professional sectors but not in terms of quality or skill. This triggered the massive brain drain from the country, with those who were able to afford foreign education leaving the country, with the less fortunate left to wade the educational muck. This soon proved to be detrimental in many ways, as more and more degree-holders came into the professional field armed with nothing more than a paper declaring that they had “mastered” in something. It didn’t seem to matter to most Pakistanis that schools, colleges and universities were spitting out a large number of uneducated people, many with fake degrees since these people were useful to become foot soldiers of political leaders to do what they had received “education and training” in what goes for “politics” in Pakistan.

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