A case of polluted relationship

Questions marks hit sacred teacher-student relationship so frequently now


Kashmir Magazine


Sajad Bazaz

Last week, police arrested a teacher of one of the reputed coaching centres in Jammu for allegedly making an attempt to outrage the modesty of a 15-year-old girl student, whom he had invited to a hotel on the pretext of his birthday party. A local daily newspaper, State Times, quoting the girl student’s father, reported that the girl was studying in the coaching centre for the last over one and half year and a Chemistry teacher was delivering online classes.

The teacher called his daughter and asked her to join his birthday party with her other batch mates in the hotel. Further, while reporting the incident, the newspaper claims to have a list of other tutorials also against whom such complaints are lying pending. However, lack of evidence has led to delay in dispensation of justice in many cases. However, there are innumerable incidents of this nature which remain unreported owing to the stigma attached to it.

A breed of teachers does exist in our society who has brought disrepute to the teaching community through their acts which show complete loss of their moral values when it comes to the sacred teacher-student relationship. These kinds of moral breakdown incidents on part of teachers are most disheartening and have been happening frequently around us. It has been a regular feature in the media catching unscrupulous teachers involved in scandalous affairs. There are nasty stories of immoral acts where a fatherly figure in the garb of a teacher developed inappropriate relations with a student.

This menace is not something that has developed in recent times. In fact, it has been happening here since ages. The only thing is that most of such incidents used to remain hidden as the victims feared societal backlash. It’s this fear among victims which encourages the perpetrators to remain on prowl.

To be precise, today one of the most serious issues confronting society is the kind of immoral incidents taking place at the hands of some teachers which have been surfacing across the geographies in the country. These immoral acts basically owing it to the growing unhealthy social and cultural changes in our society have genuinely shaken the trust of communities on teachers. In fact, this is the worst situation when a teacher forgets his role as a mentor and talks to his students intimately without respecting the set boundaries with them.

Now the main question. What has been driving this inappropriate trend in this sacred teacher-student relationship? There is a belief that in the past teacher – student contact was confined to the classrooms. But the emergence of new technologies and the social media platforms paved the way for teachers and students to remain in touch anywhere even after the classroom timings. Though the technology driven platforms, such as social media channels, have been instrumental in luring the children to surf the unknown territories on the World Wide Web for deriving pleasure and create their own network of people, the incidents maligning the teacher-student relationship were happening in the pre-techonology era when Internet was a remote possibility.

Even as I have raised this moral breakdown issue in the past few columns, the repeated incidents of such nature have increased alarmingly in the past few years. The issue merits to be discussed once again to raise awareness about the ills engulfing the society so that the rot is stemmed.

As I said the incidents have been happening since ages, a leaf from Kashmir's history is worth mentioning. It’s an episode of student-teacher relationship which took Kashmir by storm in 1931. A school teacher controversially claimed the husband of his teenage widowed student in the court, shocking her parents. Unsuccessfully fighting the case for a year or so, the parents of the girl student through some acquaintances engaged Mohammad Ali Jinnah to help the family to get rid of the misery. Jinnah got the case dismissed just in one hearing and the girl was respectfully relieved from the ‘clutches’ of her teacher. The girl later became a known educationist and a reformer in the school education system in our region.

Without going into the politics of this historical episode, it remains one of the most disheartening moral degradation stories of a teacher bringing disrepute to the teacher-student relationship. Now, last week’s arrest of a teacher in Jammu for allegedly attempting to outrage the modesty of a teenage student reveals that the trend still exists here and the incident can be a tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile, the situation becomes ugly when we prefer to be in a denial mode, which is not going to help but lead to further deterioration in student-teacher relationship. To stem the rot, the onus lies more on the parents. What we have observed is that today’s parents have shed their responsibility towards their teenage kids to ‘modernity’. Unfortunately they feel gladder in leaving them exposed to the countless risks in the unknown territories, especially in the world of social media. Experts on child development have rightly pointed out that parental neurosis is far more detrimental to childhood development than the ease at which the internet will corrupt the personality development of their teenagers.

So, parental responsibility is of utmost importance in a situation plagued with question marks on teacher-student relationship. As the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a shift in the teaching methodology and online classes have become inevitable, the behavior of the child while browsing the Internet demands a close monitoring of children.

There are several things you as a parent can do to protect your child from being a victim of toxic childhood and vulnerable to online evils. If your kid is on a social networking site, create an account for yourself on the site. Give clear and specific expectations on who they should add as friends and what type of personal information they can or cannot give on their profile page. Most importantly, you should know the account information like password etc. of your child’s page. This way you can periodically monitor the activities of the child on the site.

What authorities need to do is to bring in legislation that would make it a criminal offence for teachers or professional youth workers to have inappropriate relationships with a pupil or teenager in their care. Of course, it needs to be done delicately so that notion is not given that teachers are criminals. This should simply be a child protection initiative.

Last but not the least. Typically, relationships between teachers and students are usually defined within the school setting and are mostly referred to in a context that entails class management in the school. However, the relationships extend beyond the school classrooms to the private coaching centres where vulnerability of students is very high.

Thereby, the government needs to put these coaching centres under continuous surveillance and go the extra mile to map the human resources manning these centres.
And the teaching community too has a role to play. They should put their house in order and get the black sheep identified in their ranks who are bringing disrepute to the community through their moral degradation acts.

 

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)