Desperate Times

Tufail Mehraj

It always intrigues me: why our educational institutes have failed to mitigate a mounting pessimistic outlook adorned by our student community. Mine might be a highly subjective assumption. Or, for that matter: a sweeping statement. But the other day my cousin studying at Srinagar’s Women College returned home, masking up a miffed face. Why? Because, some teacher had uttered personnel remarks to her with a motto to maintain a status quo: the boss is always right!

At first, my cousin communicated her pent up feelings in bits and pieces. But after regaining her calm and composure, she made a startling revelation: she feels, her “little abilities” are invoking an envious pulse in her teachers (at college). What? God damn it! My cousin is no Einstein in abilities.

Being a communication student, she frequently writes those reflective pieces on feelings, life struggles and dreams. Her write ups often find a space in popular print and web. But the content she generates has lately created a sense of discontentment among her mentors. Now, that is ironic! It is akin to envy your own children.

But here’s the kicker: Most of her teachers engaged as college lecturers are young. They were appointed soon after finishing their post graduation. With hardly five years of age difference (with students), an uncertain contractual assignment and social stress derail the interaction (maybe, unconsciously) of these young teachers with their students inside classroom. And the result: often an awkward one!

What the teacher is, says Karl Menninger, is more important than what he teaches. But perhaps while struggling to secure stable salary, better life and permanent job, these freshly appointed teachers often cut a sorry figure for themselves in student community. But hang on. This isn’t an attempt to paint everybody with the same brush. We have exceptions; hence, we don’t have an entire picture gloomy.

But the day she returned home fuming, my cousin recalls, how her teacher had taunted her in front of the entire class. Her newbie teacher was perhaps looking for the right occasion to vent her venom. Sounds cheesy, isn’t it? But then, any experience is worth an experience to quote. But anyways, we don’t send our young ones to educational institutes to bear the frustrations of certain misfit teachers. We know, we are legendary in blame game and master of “let it go” attitude. But kidding with the tender morale of our young is no kidding!

And mind you, these instances (where teachers resort to make personal remarks) aren’t confined to colleges only. Such examples exist very much in our universities as well. I remember an instance quoted by a friend whose stay in one of the departments of university was literally turned hell by her teachers. Why? Because of her ability to call spade a spade. To break her resolve, one of her teacher threatened her to dismiss her admission; while other vowed to devour her job.

Again, these examples might not exist in plenty. But we can’t deny how some of our esteemed teachers resort to such malicious wordplays to downplay their students’ stand on particular subjects. “Sir, I don’t think this is correct definition,” my friend once interrupted his teacher in university. “Look kid, I understand what your problem is. The fact is: you are the part of this class only to create chaos here. Either shut up or leave?” The poor fellow couldn’t raise anymore queries in his life thereafter!

But humour apart, such instances do bring bad name to our educational institutes. Mere word analysis won’t heal our educational institutes and liberate our mindsets. But yes, checking and cross-checking the code of conduct of those who serve in theses institutes will certainly bring a much needed change. Perhaps then, my cousin won’t have another reason to feel bad and dejected about her teachers. These are desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures.

(The writer is pursuing Masters in literature and hails from Srinagar)

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