Karachi:Zaid Ansari is fifteen years old now, but he still remembers his teacher at kindergarten who ignored him as a child. He often remained unwell in childhood, and thus was not able to excel academically.
“She deprived me of the attention I needed at that age,” he laments.
As a result, Zaid began hating school. He would seek refuge in weekends. Each day he would wait anxiously for the home bell to ring. “I became like a prisoner who waits for his sentence to end.”
This was not the end. He hates his chemistry teacher. “I may not be great at the subject, but it’s not right to pull faces or belittle me in front of the whole class when I ask questions,” he complains. Zaid wants to be a doctor in future, and for that chemistry is an important subject. The fact that he cannot do well in chemistry depresses him to the extent that he fears “the subject will become the biggest hurdle” in his career.
Abeera Soomro, who has just finished school, had a similar problem with her English teacher who labelled her as a ‘duffer’. She kept telling her that she could not do English and “never write good essays”.
“When I asked questions she ignored me,” she recalls. The girl became so scared of that particular teacher that she began bunking school. Her absence from class made her progress even more difficult.
When she took up Accounting as her ‘O’ level subject, her teacher kept forcing her to drop the subject as she thought she could not do well. On the other hand, while she was weak at Economics too her teacher appreciated her when she worked hard, and motivated her to do well. “You know when someone appreciates you, you want to work hard,” she says.
A psychiatrist, Dr Syed Ali Wasif, blames the attitude of teachers on the overall conditions of the country. “There is poverty, terrorism and frustration in society. We live in a war zone, and all these factors give birth to cruelty, which in turn breed violence,” he says.
And any sort of violence whether physical, verbal or sexual will leave an “emotional scar on the child”, he maintains.
He believes that the measly salaries that most schools pay teachers play a role in their behaviour towards students. “In the world today everyone is caught up with the worries of paying bills and making both ends meet. When you do not pay a teacher well, she will vent out her pent up emotions on students eventually,” he explains.
Dr Syed Ali Wasif also believes that the high achievers of a society seldom choose teaching as a profession. “Such people fail to deliver. They are at sea when they go to class,” he says.
On the other hand, while the teacher may victimise, certain psychological disorders in children may amount to such emotional scars too. He maintains that teachers’ attitude towards students may eventually lead to an “anti-social personality” and juvenile delinquency. “A child who is a school truant is more prone to drug abuse, pick pocketing, and similar crimes,” he says. However, in a nutshell, he claims that it is not the teachers or the students to be blamed, but the social inequality that exists in society throughout.
Seema Khurram, academic coordinator for Social Sciences at the Aga Khan Secondary School, provides a solution for teachers to deal with weak students. “Remedial classes can be held for students on alternative Saturdays or summer breaks. Physical training periods can be utilised too. The management should take teachers on board, and set individual targets for each weak student,” she says.
She believes that in order to avoid rude behaviour from teachers, the school should mention clear guidelines condemning such an attitude.
Labelling a child as a ‘bad student or failure’ is clearly not a solution. “When you label a child it will gradually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He will act according to that label,” she says.
However, despite behaviour guidelines that exist in school policies she maintains that unintentional or intentional misbehaviour towards the weak student in the classroom is a reality that she cannot deny.The news.