Not so long ago, the media reported the harsh treatment of a female student by the principal of the school in which she was studying, allegedly for using her Facebook page improperly which led to her suicide. Again we heard this week of another cruelty by a teacher inflicted on a schoolgirl for wearing slippers to school instead of shoes.
The student from Kantalai had worn slippers to school on Friday as she did not have a pair of shoes and the female teacher in question is said to have hung the slippers round the neck of the girl as punishment for not wearing shoes to school. The story further says that the principal of the school had rubbed salt into the wounds by justifying the teacher’s inhuman treatment on the Year 5 girl by saying that the teacher’s motive had been to discipline the child.
When the mother of the student lodged a complaint with the Serunuwara police the sympathetic personnel of the police station bought her a pair of shoes and the mother had volunteered to withdraw the complaint in the best interest of the child, it is said. The inevitable logical questions that arise here are whether the teacher asked the child the reason for wearing slippers to school, and whether the child had a chance to say that she did not have a pair of shoes. Had the student worn slippers to school due to her stubbornness or disregard for school discipline, no doubt, she deserves to be punished. However, here the case seems to be different.
Students are sometimes stubborn and openly disregard decorum. However, what is the degree of punishment for such offences? Can a teacher act like an operator of a torture chamber and put a student in a dark room that was said to have existed in the school where the student committed suicide for the above said Facebook offence? Or can a student be garlanded with slippers as happened last Friday!
It goes without saying that discipline in a school is very important for the proper education of students as much as education in turn nurtures their discipline. However, it is unfair to gauge the discipline of a school entirely by the uniformity of footwear or the attire of the students as we sometimes witness students in rural areas who are in slippers at school but better disciplined than the students of some well-known popular urban schools. Also some fifty years ago there was no particular dress code or uniforms in most of the schools in the country and the students wore even coloured outfits to school. Some wore long trousers while others wore short trousers and students were allowed to come to school barefooted or in any kind of footwear. Discipline was never a problem then, with regard to the absence of uniformity of attire. In fact the older generation would vouch for a higher degree of discipline among students then than among the present-day students.
However, needless to say, a uniform including footwear contributes to the discipline of a school once it is accepted by the students as well as the parents, apart from its contribution to the smart look of the student community of the school. It could be considered a breach of discipline only when it is rejected due to negligence or intransigence. However, if affordability stands in a student’s way discipline cannot have a say in his or her life and the teachers’ inability to grasp the situation is certainly a punishable offence.