Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

The “Gurukul” was a sanctuary for nurturing and teaching, a young seeker (shishya) of knowledge, who came to the Guru (Acharya) with blind devotion to learn and be enlightened, at his feet, in what is called the “Guru-Shishya Parampara” in a commitment to impart knowledge and values which had a sanctity and reverence to it. It was the privilege of the few fortunate, mostly the upper class. The ‘pathshala’ concept evolved much later in the last two hundred years or so, where the emphasis was on education to children of different ages, social and financial backgrounds. In today’s modern world, education is mandatory for all. Therefore the exclusivity has given way to volumes and pressures for more schools, teachers, infrastructure, administration and management, all mostly creaking at the seams due to poor infrastructure, inadequate and poor quality teachers, but mostly Govt indifference and politicians greed (after all who wants an educated electorate, who will question their motives). Add to this the huge diversity across the country of language, customs, and food habits in a fairly fragmented linguistic, societal and cultural milieu. Imparting of education and Knowledge has therefore acquired new dimensions.

The teacher as a provider of knowledge and values of yore has today been relegated to the role of a minder, enforcer of discipline at the expense of teaching, and a Devil’s Advocate between the failing responsibility of home and family as the nurturers, providers of emotional parental support of love, affection, values, time and sharing; a breach in communication is the outfall. This lack of attention and thereby the growing unchecked influence of peer groups, unmonitored usage of internet, television and easy access to pornography, are creating a trauma for most children, who do not get the nurturing and attention in their formative growing up years from their parents. The material compensation to offset the lack of quality time and affection actually, empowers the child to learn to manipulate and suppress the parents, even sometimes through threats of violence.

The human touch, the warmth and caring has been replaced by the mobile phone, internet and video games leading to frustration and suppressed anger, further aggravated by parental pressure to excel, leading to depression and suicides. At the other level, due to joblessness and frustration of economic depravity, stilted sex ratios and extremely conservative and suppressive society including caste prejudices; adults take out their frustrations and anger on a defenceless child or women at large. The school is a microcosm of a city with all these integrated structures, managing which with all the support structure and teachers, staff and students, require a school to not merely impart education but also run an administrative establishment.

An unfair escapist attitude over time, of abdicating responsibility to schools by parents who do not have the time because both parents work, or the housewife being busy with social engagements or even bad abusive and violent marriages, denies the child the right environment to evolve as a positive and confident child in the absence of love and attention at home. This child is then virtually abandoned at the gates of the school thrusting the responsibility of fostering the child on them, the teacher thereby is now distracted from her/his task of imparting knowledge to mentoring and disciplining the child.

We are perhaps the only country where any incident inside or outside the school has the Principal and teacher accountable. If a child is hit by a cricket ball in a game, if a child falls into a water tank, or commits suicide because she has failed, is surely not a reflection on the Principal or the teacher’s ineptitude. Children get into a fight which might lead to fatality or rapes another student or the staff manhandles or rapes a child is a serious matter and requires the school, in the first place to have adequate means of electronic surveillance and security staff to ensure such incidents are averted or if they do occur, immediate action is taken to apprehend the culprits and inform the police and the parents, with an immediate investigation, to unearth lapses leading to the incident.

Despite all active measures of security, incidents will unfortunately still occur. But the need is an effective response system. The dereliction of responsibility lies in inaction and trying to suppress the incident by the Principal and Management, also in the failure to ensure adequate security and checks. This is a cognisable offence, and defaulters must be  punished.  Parents,  teachersand students must be educated to be observant and notice behavioural changes in any child and report the matter to enable investigation and counselling where required. All schools must have Student  Counsellors. Prevention is always better than cure.

Today the “Guru Shishya Parampara” has been shattered and the teacher/educator stands at a crossroad, vilified and trampled upon by  combination of irresponsible and unaccountable parents abetted by a “pass the buck” education bureaucracy and an undiscerning and retributive judiciary taking the easy way out of “shooting the messenger”(the principal/teacher). In an unfortunate and flippant triangulation of a conspiracy between the three, the losers are going to be the children, as good and committed principals and teachers already rare, will soonbecome extinct and schools shut down; logically why should they take the rap for parental failure, abetted by an uncaring educational bureaucracy and an incompetent and uncaring judiciary. “Hang ‘em High they say” instead. Shame!

A good start to breaking barriers of caste, creed, financial status and haughtiness, all learnt in the first temple of learning—the home, would be to create an environment at school, starting the day with cleaning up the entire school, including the garbage which ought to instil a sense of humbleness, pride in team work, the dignity of labour, and the sheer joy of contributing to the cleanliness of the environment, which would help blunt any prejudices. The children in Japan do it with great pride. I perceive it as a major first step in character building and a force multiplier in the

This Teachers Day has already lost its lustre and will hardly be a day of celebrations and thanksgiving to teachers. Don’t we all, as responsible citizenry and society need to worry about the future of the child, teachers, education per se and the nation!

A first generation soldier and an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College, Col Sanjiv Wattal was commissioned from the IMA in March 1972, into the Parachute Regiment. He has had tenures in J&K including the Glacier, and commanded his unit in Manipur/ Nagaland. He has served in assignments in Maldives and in China and post retirement, is an active commentator on defence and security issues.

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