Vipin smilingly asked his colleague in the staff room,”He is younger and weaker than you. You are more powerful than him, then why do you have to assert it on him again, like everyday?Give it a break man, you are acting like you are back in college!”
21 year old Raj enrolled at an Engineering course, came home looking flushed, thoughtful and worried for a few weeks. His course was due to be over. Though his mother thought it was usual for him to be occupied with something, it seemed intense and worrying this time. Raj’s father had been diagnosed with diabetes and the family was frequenting the hospital and the supermarket for supplies of a change of diet. Raj’s mother close to 50 years old had to shuttle the younger brother to school and back home. Clearly the family was too busy for a sit down discussion. Raj had nobody to talk to.
“You be my slave, I like you. You think you are like me, you are my slave”
Pressure of family had been crushing him. He wished to be useful. Raj had to prepare for his exams and finish his course. He had to think of his future and get set for the Masters. He could not concentrate. Why?
Problems at college.
He had accidentally picked up enmity with a Professor known for friendliness but notorious for revenge if angered. Worse, all his classmates with whom he was always friendly, were convinced he was a problem and had stopped talking to him. He had to face scornful eyes and an eerie loneliness in class everyday. He had to face embarrassments when getting bills and books signed. He tried getting help from a friendly professor, but he had thrown up hands saying nothing can be done. Friends asked him to ignore it. Obviously he was in depression. He lost appetite and shed eight kilograms of weight in a month. His stomach flushed with fear and loneliness everyday in class. Even people who knew he was innocent didn’t speak to him for they feared they would be targeted too, some even openly admitted it.
“He repeated in class through real-life examples in his lessons, he warned me indirectly and embarrassed me silently, still, only I could understand the “double-entendre” in his sentences. To everyone I was the villain. He emotionally drained me everyday, walked past me often to make me feel nervous. He said ugly things about me to professors of other departments. Everyone thought he was a nice person. Only I knew that I was the VICTIM and I was alone.”
Clearly, the victim he had become.
Another similar incident befell a girl student at a private university down south. This time, the particular “Professor” was pervert enough to give her an immodest reputation among other male professor friends of his, who stared at her with scornful looks every time she entered the canteen or passed the corridor. It was a little contradictory, given the “fatherly” image the professor had painted for himself among other students. But who could prove what? Nothing. The obvious seemed the truth. Forever.
“Every time SHE had a problem with a student SHE boldly told him, “Let me see how you finish your degree!”
The duty of a teacher was to help a student get a degree. Not work against it.
Friendly to some, terrible to others, does not paint a very civilized picture of today’s Indian teaching community. Too bad that the Masters’ Degree could not put some maturity into educated decision making of these educated people.
“They Police us. Who Polices them?. They watch us. Who watches them?”
TWO DIFFERENT TAKES
1.Ms.K, an academician says, “I teach math. I tell them what they need to know to get through the semester, where performing well is up to them.I don’t try to be friendly in class.I don’t try to be strict either. I teach, I clear doubts, I give assessments. I leave. I never let it get personal, whether favoritism or hatred. I don’t see the need. I just do my job.”
2. Another Ms D says, “We need to be strict, we need to remind them that it is us who is running the show here, or they ‘sit on our heads’, they disrespect us.We listened that way to our professors. We had fear, this generation doesn’t, not over us, not over their degree.
Yes! we have our favorites. Only if we applaud a student, the others will learn to behave and perform like them. What is the harm?”
In a student- teacher scenario the rules of respect and fear may apply, but do those rules hold well when a human rights scene sets in? Not so much.
Many may forget about a Chennai based Naval education academy incident where a particular student’s job call letter was confiscated and the student set to mental torture and blackmail by college authorities ending in his suicide. Rohit Vemula will remain a modern myth of an out-spoken student community.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTOR
Some teachers cause indignation to students because they are themselves afraid of indignation.It is the same way politics, military and governments work. Something needs to be imposed on someone to keep them weaker or keep you in power. The same pattern that “Ragging” by senior students follows.People need to keep power, hence imposing fear.
THE TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY
A friend of mine at a renowned university has a different take at this, ” We do most of our learning by ourselves and take it to the professors only when we really cannot understand something or for assessment, so there is hardly room for too much personal interaction or scrutiny or threatening.”
“Students should stick together” He says, “When the student community is tight-knit, one single student cannot suffer in silence. We never let that happen in our college.”
“IF YOU LISTEN TO ME, YOU WILL PASS”
“Power corrupts” is too blunt an explanation for this widespread behavior among the teaching community. India is mushrooming with newer and newer institutions. Statistics point out that too many of our institutions still fall short of basic level facility and standards to churn out knowledge-rich graduates. Learning therefore becomes too much Professor-dependent like it is in many Anna university affiliated institutions in Tamilnadu. We do a cat and mouse chase behind level-1 knowledge and take so many shortcuts to achieve only what is preliminary. We sit dependent on classrooms rather than libraries hence paving way for the fear and dependence factor, “GETTING NO FURTHER THAN WHERE SOME PROFESSORS WANT US TO BE”.
If “bench-mark” was transparent enough to understand, the student can himself work the standard out. But again we wait for Professors to tell us, what knowledge is “enough” and what “isn’t”. Colleges admit too many students, most with no aptitude for the particular course giving way for Professors only to set standards and rules in the classroom where the course, student and his knowledge should actually be doing the job of standard setting. Many people in the teaching profession take away two points of independence as a bribe for every point of favor run to a student for his “passing”, for his “well-being”.
Everyone keeps reporting things. Professor politics and favoritism keeps churning story after story somewhat on the likes of Police Brutality. Question is. Who is acting on them? What change of rules may help? Let us think. And more importantly,