by Shah Faesal
One day I came across a teacher who had never taught in a school during past twenty years of his service. I was told that this person never attends his duties and is always on the run. I felt sad because while ‘cheater’ might be the anagram of ‘teacher’, a teacher is the last person who is expected to cheat. My father had been a teacher himself so I had immense respect for teachers at large.
A teacher who hates to teach even when he is paid to teach is a great promise-breaker. He not only betrays his employer, he betrays his students and his own conscience also. It was a moral burden for me. I could not shut my eyes after knowing about it. So I thought let me find a way out of it. I called him over to my office and next afternoon he suddenly enters my office with his retinue of three more teachers in crisp-white pathan-suits, pushing a wave of scent ahead of them. They walked with an intimidating haste.
A few days before this, I had asked my staff to ‘sir’ every teacher who visited our office. Naturally, I extended all courtesies to them so as to tell my staff that I practice also what I preach. Then I told him rather bluntly, that look, I really respect you for what you are and I would want you to focus on your duties and also ask your colleagues to go and attend to their work in their schools. I gave a rather longish speech on the rights of poor children who study in government schools and the great trust which had been placed in our hands. He looked at me with wide eyes, quiet and gloomy, perhaps shocked to hear any such advice from me. I saw a colleague of his pointing to the flashy garland kept inside a white-coloured flour-bag. But he gestured to let it be and sought permission to leave.
A few days passed and I received an abusive video on my whatsap. This teacher was standing somewhere in a rickety tea-shop along with his old retinue, rubbishing my advice and declaring that he being the son of a feudal lord and I being an underling, I was to lose this battle by default. I was saddened by the misplaced bravado and use of bad language by a teacher. Young students were accessing this video and this stunt had the potential to bring shame to entire teaching community. There was huge public outrage. I had never expected such public support as officers usually become a victim of anti-elite public sentiment. If my car is hit people will never believe that my car could be hit, they will always think that being an officer and expectedly arrogant I must have caused the accident.
Nevertheless, the teacher refused to apologise or to attend his duties. He knew our system had a very short memory and soon he would be forgiven and forgotten.
I was reminded of an incident from the life of Hazrat Ali (RA), whom beloved Prophet had called as the Gateway to City of Knowledge. One day when Ali – the Sher e Khuda – was fighting in the path of Allah, his weak but armed opponent suddenly spat at his face. With this Ali suddenly stopped fighting and while his raged friends came around to ask him what had happened, he said, till now the battle was of principles, but now after he spat at me the battle is personal; I am not going to fight this battle any more. Ali forgave him and moved on.
I had also been publicly ridiculed as a chap from a rotten village and it was a gross provocation. But I pulled myself together and told myself that it is now a personal battle, I should let go. I let go.
A few months passed, as part of the routine transfers, this teacher after getting a promotion was sent to a school in his native village with the understanding that he might change his heart. It is always an honour to mentor the children of your native village who walk the same streets that you have walked as a child. But this teacher refused to join there and instead went to court against us. He made all excuses saying that I was victimising him by sending him to teach and that it was not me but my boss who was extracting a political revenge from him. He tried very hard to bluff the public opinion. But as Allah says in Quran:
And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].
It happened exactly like that. I had faith that Courts could not be misled and after fighting a very long legal battle and spending the entire money that he had earned, he lost at all steps. It was a shameful defeat at every step. In the meanwhile, he even planted stories against my team, one day even inventing a sexual harassment scandal in collaboration with a few discredited journalists, but he couldn’t win it.
Whenever my father led prayers in our village mosque, this was his favourite line from Quran:
‘Wa Qul Ja’al Haq wa zahaqal batil- inal batil ka’ana zahuqha:”
(Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.)
So again the teacher was asked to go to school and this time he sent a leave by courier saying that he was suffering from an ailment that didn’t allow him to even move. But next day I saw his press-note regarding his next planned agitation in the city square. What a liar, I realised. It was the last day when I saw him as a teacher. He had lost that place now.
And now that the matter had already been adjudicated and there was no personal business remaining between us, we took action and put him under suspension. He deserved much more than that but in a system as large as ours, even this much was exemplary. This teacher has still not agreed to go to a school and maybe he shall never go there in this lifetime. But he has strengthened my faith in the inherent power of truth. The most important message has been that howsoever voiceless those children of lesser god might seem who study in our government schools, this faulty, imperfect system still has the capacity to take care of them. There is great hope from hundreds and thousands of those teachers who have an immense sense of duty and who quietly work in the farthest schools of the state.
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While we may ask questions why it takes so much time to act against such people, or where is that teacher at the moment, we must realise that it needs a bit of patience to see the truth triumph. It is a very difficult path but sweet are the fruits of labour. We must keep faith and remain steadfast. God is the best planner and He will never let us down
(Formerly Director Education, Feasal is an IAS officer who now heads state’s Power Development Corporation. This copy was lifted from his facebook.)