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Monday, September 25, 2017

Home Truths

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 12:46
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India celebrates teachers in the memory of our first Philosopher-Teacher President Dr. S Radhakrishnan, on September 5 annually as Teachers Day. In the first few decades of Independent India, this day was special particularly to students, who looked up to their teachers with a reverence that is rare today ~ for Indians today and Indians then were totally different people. This is mainly because of the country, indeed the world, saw changes that were unimaginable in the post-War and Independence scenarios. Today, the world and along with it, India has seen the kind of erosion of values that it would not be shocking for the word to lose meaning, significance and relevance in the years to come ~ post-truth has already heralded such a world. And so today, as we follow the motions of celebrating our teachers, what are we really celebrating by extension? Just the other day, we saw a teacher of a Delhi School slapping a student over 40 times in a video that has gone viral ~ just imagine how her students must have feted her on previous Teachers' Day. Then on September 4, we read about the Principal, no less a Nun, of a well-known school in Assam, being arrested for "abetting suicide" of a 13-year-old student. These are just a couple of instances to underscore the kind and quality of teachers we have today in India ~ not that they must be allowed to eclipse a good number of teachers, who walk on Dr. Radhakrishnan's footsteps ~ but certainly there has to be an honest assessment of teachers in the country before we turn them into a special category of martyrs on the day dedicated to them. Now let's take a look at the "teachers' scenario" in Nagaland. It probably wouldn't be amiss to aver that perhaps the largest number of backdoor appointments here is in the School Education Department ~ with probably the Home Department giving it a stiff competition. Backdoor appointment of school teachers is a huge controversy here leading to several cases being filed in courts and publication of names of such teachers, as respondents, in our local newspapers. What is now imperative is an audit of how this has impacted the minds of young students and their disillusionments and frustrations of being witnesses to double-standards and indubitably the several slips between the lip and the cup. If our students today are not too enthusiastic about Teachers' Day, we cannot blame them. Also, recollect that a few years ago there were horrid stories of students being awarded marks according to the price of gifts teachers received on Teachers' Day, which of course saw parents vying with each other to ensure that their children/wards made the "top grades". If teachers have failed their students, parents have equally failed their children, actually even more. But the erosion of values isn't perpetrated by teachers and parents alone ~ today anybody with the financial and other requisites, especially with contacts and connections and backing of the powers-that-be, can set up a school or college. There is no laid-down criteria required to fulfill the establishment of educational institutions ~ and the irony is that such owners are even called "educational entrepreneurs", worse still educationists. Education cannot be categorized as an "enterprise" and imparted on the platform of a commercial activity ~ but because this is being done, the marketization of education and educational institutions have eroded the fundamental value-systems, philosophies and ethics that mark a community, a society and a state. This then defeats the objectives and goals of character-building, the foundation on which nation building must stand. So, it isn't hard to understand why India has derailed from nation-building and now walks on the muddied service road towards merely meeting the aspiration of an economically emergent country. Actually, Teachers Day now ought to be used to tell most teachers, even parents, a few home truths without mincing words ~ not undeservedly saluted for their failure to build characters and the nation: perhaps we should start by telling them that generations of students have done very well without tuitions because the teachers of yore taught well in the classroom despite the huge number of students in each class and the meagre salaries they received ~ not to mention the infrastructure-deficit they had to deal with. Things have come to such a pass that today is a good time to tell teachers to desist from smearing the memory, reputation and example set by Dr. Radhakrishnan.

 


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