From threatening teacher to breaking tables to ragging classmate: Has lockdown impacted a change in students’ behavior?

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In the past few days, a series of incidents involving students from government schools in Tamil Nadu have prompted a topic of discussion among parents, teachers, and educationalists in the state. It has led to the question whether the break the students had owing to the pandemic had a psychological effect on them.

Last week, three Class XII students belonging to a government higher secondary school at Madanur near Ambur in Tirupattur district were issued notices in connection with an incident in which a student verbally abused a teacher and raised his hands to further hit him during class hours. According to the officials, a botany teacher at that school had asked the students to submit their practical works and during that time he had noticed that one of the students was sleeping. When he woke the boy up and asked if he had submitted the work, the student began to abuse him.

In another incident near Thorapadi in Vellore, ten class XII boys were suspended after they ransacked the classroom by breaking tables.

P Kumaravel Pandian, the district collector, told the media on Monday that the students had indulged in the act as their headmaster did not provide them immediate permission to conduct a farewell party on the last day of the school.

“The incident was shocking. As soon as I came across the video, I directed the chief educational officer and revenue officials to conduct an enquiry. We asked the parents of those students to visit us. Students are provided 100 per cent free education at government schools. They need to be responsible for that and earn a good name in the society and bring more laurels to their family and school. They need to focus on their studies. We have spoken to their parents and provided them necessary advice. We will initiate strict action against students who bring mobile phones to classrooms,” the collector said.

Pandian added that though the students are suspended, they will be allowed to take part in the practical exams and theory exams which commence on May 5. He said a school management committee (SMC) (comprising local authorities, parents/guardians, teachers) will be formed in May which will allow parents to interact more with the teachers and understand their children.

In the past few days, videos of students ragging a classmate, singing and dancing while the teacher was taking the class were shared widely on social media.

Speaking to Indianexpress.com, a senior official attached to the educational department in Tirupattur, said the students alone can’t be blamed for all these activities.

“The students alone can’t be blamed for these activities. We must consider their family background, the way they have been brought up, etc. If the student is grown up in an environment where there is no proper discipline he will be tempted to act in such a manner. Some of these students might have been pampered at home so they do not like anyone who questions them. In other cases, students might not have parents to look after them, there will be a guardian but he or she won’t be having any control over these kids which lead to these activities,” she added.

PK Ilamaran, state president, Tamil Nadu Teachers Association said that the teachers will bring back such students on the right path but sharing videos of such acts on social media bring a bad reputation to the government school.

“We urge the government to initiate strict action against those people who share such videos on social media. The future of the students will get affected by these videos and this will sort of increase the aversion a sector of parents have towards government schools. Are there no such incidents happening in private schools? I accept that due to the break they got from attending school owing to Covid-19, there has been a behavioral change in a few students. But, in the last two months, a large number of these reports and videos specifically targetting government students creates suspicion with the admissions around the corner. How come one video allegedly taken by a fellow student is spreading like wildfire across the state? The student definitely won’t be part of all the Whatsapp groups, so there must be an external hand that is involved in spreading these videos across the social media,” he said.

Further, Ilamaran said that this year, there have been close to 5.5 lakh new admissions in government schools and this included more than two lakh from those who had previously studied in a private school.

“We suspect that few are sharing these videos intending to defame government schools which have created numerous achievers,” he said.

Prince Gajendra Babu, educationist and general secretary, State Platform for Common School System, said there are several aspects which need to be addressed and thus cannot labelled as misconduct of students.

“Be it private or government, schools are not focusing much on students from class I to VIII. Private schools either provide a transfer certificate or detain the students before Class IX if they are not equipped for the next grade. The parents will not be provided an opportunity to question the school management about what they taught to their wards till class VIII and the entire blame will be on the students. In the last two years, all students were promoted to higher classes without any valid tests. They didn’t have the opportunity to write records or were under any pressure. Now, suddenly if the teachers ask them to do things that were never in practice for the last two years, it will create some sort of unrest among student communities. Though the government announced that it will provide counseling for students before beginning the regular classes to keep them in the right frame of mind, it was not implemented everywhere,” he said.

Babu added that schools did not analyse these issues academically but rather carried out the process more administratively.

”The students were caught in a fix in the last two years. They spent the whole day on mobile phones. Some of them were addicted to games, and some spent the whole day at their house, developed unwanted friendships, and got addicted to alcohol and drugs. They might have been abused verbally or physically. Without analysing any of these things, we cannot change their behavior pattern by providing punishments or suspension. It will agitate them further. We need to have a dialogue with them, and provide proper counseling. Before lockdown, children had the opportunity to show their talent or achieve hero status by participating in sports or cultural events, now since everything is shut for them, under compulsion to show their self-pride, they do these things,” he added.



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