Some local public schools may not yet have reached the stage of war zones, but they have become hunting grounds for skirmishing, endangering, and intimidating. In terms of the latter, that is an ongoing reality, as influenced by the first two.
The media reports were stark: one girl suspected of being poisoned; then a second in short order. In school of all places? What is going on?
To be sure, the incidents were isolated, but still troubling. When matters could reach this stage: whether negligence, or prank, or peer pressure, or a certain kind of involvement, there is reason to believe that plenty of malice is near.
And with that flourishes the great indiscipline that tempts recklessness. The blood runs thin in the veins of uncontrolled swaggering youth. It goes farther and faster.
A student bashed a head teacher. That has never been heard of before. A grudge between youngsters maybe, and as stoked by some intense degree of rivalry and jealousy. But a principal? This is hard labour. That was on the road.
In the laboratory of classroom, there are sporadic incidents that embroil junior teachers for many reasons: unruliness, proving a point, master of the class universe; showing off, gang rite, menacing rage. These are not of the old school variety quickly corrected. No!
What is happening that does not make the news? In the yard? Outside the fence? Who is dealing? Who is resisting? The sense is that dedicated ones are trapped and disadvantaged; teachers intimidated; administrators at sea, and not the requisite role models. Parents are ready to rock and roll. Peers egging on; the girls are watching. Alpha males striving to exhibit or exert dominance respond to the moment. In a tough crowd, there are always a few willing to push past the danger point to demonstrate they are the toughest around.
Teachers, to some extent, have adopted a passive protective demeanor. It is defensive and carefully distant; the wisdom of discretion. Helps to take through another day, and towards one more day. Some schools can be a semi-combat zone.
In such environments, the questions come in a rush: Any teaching going on? Any learning occurring? Who is watchful and cognizant of the interplays and dynamics at work? And which signal looming trouble that calls for intervention and nipping before matters get out of control? Who is strong enough? Cares enough?
And out there, Who is at home and concerned enough to be aware? Who being there and alert enough has the strength to take charge and take a stand against wayward offspring?
If the streets are any indication, then there just might be more than teachers can handle. The attitudes and body language are nonchalant on the least offensive end of the scale; the high volumes and higher testosterone on the other end evidence a threatening belligerence that hasten even well-intentioned adults to seek the cover of space and avoidance. Village sacked.
Problem candidates must be addressed. Remedial action embarked upon, however unwillingly. The bad weeds have to be weeded out if only for the benefit of the greater number, the more receptive minds. A child is a terrible thing to leave behind. But a parent-teacher-administrator-social worker-supervisor complex has to be proactive and get after these things. Welcomed duty free concessions granted to senior levels, they were due, now there has to be delivery.
At every step, every level: Partnership, programme and effort; the nonperforming have to be addressed practically; the disturbing and degrading more assertively; too much sugarcoating, too much white-gloved handling.
Somebody has to be bold enough, innovative enough to herd the cats and bell them. Pretending there is no issue, no problem children muddies the mix, deepens the problem. Probably incentivizes it.
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