Apart from many instances where children become subject to extreme violence, very rarely does one hear of children becoming instigators of cruelty. However, the incident reported from Pelwatte where a group of schoolchildren assaulted a few teachers for not allowing ragging in the school premises, goes to show that the rarity of children resorting to violence is wearing thin.
Perhaps this also busts the misconception that ragging and the hunger to rag are only inherent to the university students. In a country where people believe that the former is capable of exercising the crudest forms of violence on his/her fellow students, the Pelwatte fiasco sheds some light on its generation and evolution. Universities may account for the most horrific stories; yet the germs have been planted elsewhere.
True enough, harmless forms of ragging have not been rare nor have they come under the wrath of teachers and parents. Innocent sing-a-song sessions or demands for treats are the forgivable types of ragging that have, even up to an extent, helped students familiarise with the new environments.
Yet, ragging, be it the most risk-free type or the most horrendous, should not at any rate, be tolerated, encouraged or ignored. At a time, when legal provisions are made to eliminate ragging at higher education institutions, it is rather sad to see a re-creation of it in a school. The sentiments of the errant students might not represent those of the entire school. Yet, the manner in which they behaved leaves a serious question as to whether the values that are expected to be inculcated in students have been limited to the Teacher’s Guide Books and syllabi.
No doubt, it was no minor incident when the assault by the students left two teachers at the Buttala Hospital; one of them with head injuries. Anyone who sees the news in print will wonder as to how could a student effortlessly fist his palms at a teacher and feel no regret about it. In face of such questionable behaviour, university students may be beyond redemption. Perhaps, it is easier that way to bring in rigid laws to curb their taste for violence, rather than trying to convince them the gravity of such actions. Yet, the method used for the former may not work with the schoolchildren, who could, with proper guidance, be still corrected and showed the right way.
It is also time for the educationalists to admit that, long eleven years of religious education has failed to give the core message of every religion- live and let live. Time and again, incidents of such nature emphasise the importance of establishing a value-based education system instead of the prevailing knowledge-based system, which produces over-competitive human beings devoid of empathy.
With plenty of university tragedies flooding newsrooms, this should be first of its kind and the last; for children in this country deserve a better future than one behind bars for assaulting their teachers.