A lesson in good behaviour

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A lesson in good behaviour
By Mohsen Rashid and Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporters)KHALEEJ TIMES
25 April 2008

The recent incident of a private school’s Grade III student allegedly slapping the library teacher after she prevented him from running inside the library had raised disturbing questions on the upbringing of children.

Even as the parents of the child were summoned, the student’s mother, grandparent and the housemaid walked into the library and beat up the teacher.

Neeta Metra, the principal of the school, said, “What happened was far from proper conduct and behaviour which we are all familiar with. The problem is not only the assault on a teacher by a student, but also the reaction by the student’s family, who behaved in an indecent way instead of minding the conduct of the son. This manner is thoroughly unacceptable.”

She added that the student was suspended for seven days by the administration of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). As for the student’s mother, grandparent and the housemaid, a case was registered by the police based on the medical report and the statements recorded by the police.

She said she could not dismiss the student and deprive him of a year. “We see cases where teachers beat students and stringent action is taken against those teachers, but what about students who assault teachers? Who will protect the teachers’ dignity?” demanded the principal.

The Grade VI students were seen weeping when they watched the teacher being attacked, she pointed out.

Meanwhile, a similar incident in another private school was equally shocking. A Grade XI student of a school, located near the Ministry of Education, verbally abused his teacher. When the teacher called the supervisor, both the teacher and the supervisor were subject to verbal abuse by the student and his father. The student was, however, suspended for 10 days.

Mahasen Sa’d, principal of the school, said, “Students and their parents have dared to assault the teachers verbally because of the wrong policy and approach adopted by the MoE years back, where the ministry insisted that the client always has the power, implying that the students’ parents are always on the right side.”

She pointed out that when the student’s father was summoned by the school authorities, he came dressed in army suit as he was working for the Armed Forces and tried to assault the supervisor.

Even the Grade III student’s father worked in the police department and was reportedly always threatening the school management and teachers.

An official with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, who preferred not to be named, observed these problems were not new, but were the result of poor upbringing and a clear absence of the role the family played in rectifying the flaws of their children.

“Since the regulations governing the students’ conduct did not include any penalty for the parents in both cases, the two cases were reported to the police on the insistence of the management of the schools,” the source added.

Senior officials at the Ministry of Education have strongly condemned the incidents and insisted that the ‘miscreants’ should not go unpunished.

Corporal punishment was an old way to discipline unruly students but does not exist any more, observed Abdullah Mousabbah, Director-General in the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The rights, prestige and dignity of the teachers are supreme, and no one, be it the ministry, school management or parents should be allowed to undermine them, he noted. The problem could not be dubbed as a phenomenon since it was reported in one or two private schools, because every school is keen on preserving its name and reputation.

The physical punishment of students by some teachers is unacceptable, said Obaid Al Qawood, Director of Umm Al Quwain Education Zone. But any attempt by a student to beat up his teacher should also be regarded as a crime, which should not be ignored and allowed to go unpunished. The ministry, however, will not tolerate such acts, he pointed out. The student who is found guilty of physical assault on a teacher will be expelled from school.

The director of Sharjah Education Zone, Fawziyya Hassan, emphasised that a policy of disciplinary action should be drafted.

Parents often defended the mistakes of their children. They should rather keep an eye on their children and hold them accountable for their offences, she suggested. The role of the school is being confined to education while its responsibility of raising and educating students on discipline and conduct is fading away, she added.

KHDA officials said they were keen on working with the school which had been unfortunate to witness an act of violence and would set up mechanisms to help victims of such incidents.

A statement from KHDA said, “The Knowledge and Human Development Authority will not tolerate violence in schools. They should be an environment in which everyone feels safe and protected. Incidents of violence are, of course, logged in the schools’ records. As an authority we will be working on the best way to collate this material so that we can identify problem areas or any trends that may emerge.

“We are also keen to set up a mechanism for following up on such incidents, so that victims and everyone else who has been involved can feel they are being supported for as long as they need.”

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