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In defense of Ms Tyagi

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In today’s times an outrageous news not only make headlines, but it also goes viral. And, if has the bearing of a ‘Hindu’ teacher getting a ‘Muslim’ pupil slapped by peers, then, it gets editorialized left, right and centre.

The teacher in question Ms Tripta Tyagi at Neha Public School in Khubbapur (Muzzafarnagar), Uttar Pradesh, who made students of her class slap a fellow student and also passed a comment on his religious identity, has obviously violated law, morality and professional integrity. And those who are voicing appropriate action against her are justified in their demand once the video of the incident went viral on social media and got angry reactions.

But then, there is a version by her as well. It is not uncommon by generations of parents to get their children pulled up by their teachers. In fact, the threat of reporting a bad behavior to class teacher by mothers to make them behave, is a cultural norm in our society. Before corporal punishment was banned by law in India and elsewhere, the adage ‘spare the rod spoil a child’ was a universal wisdom practiced commonly in classrooms.

In Ms Tyagi’s case, as per her version and that of child’s father, the mother had wanted the class teacher to admonish the boy and teach him a lesson for not taking studies seriously. This teacher’s biggest mistake has been involving boy’s classmates in the act. Else, in most schools across India even today, some teachers do lose their cool at times with consequences. This is to say, the corporal punishment culture has not yet gone extinct.

Bullying is a malaise in school education systems, and it happens most of the time though the incidents actually reported are very less in count for obvious reasons. Students beating student, teasing him or her, passing on comments, shaming and naming in this pretext or that is a dark reality of our schools. So, likes of Ms Tyagi till this incident, knew, it is not a big deal.

The school in question in a village like Khubbapur also represents the rising aspirations of rural population for education and such budget private schools actually dot almost every habitation in India. These schools are outside the ambit of Right to Education Act and therefore the teacher qualifications and training remain suspect and inadequate. In absence of professional development opportunities and mentorships, teachers at these schools tend to work through their own wisdom and experience. And often, lack applications of mind and knowledge on existing laws.

The big churning of what a teacher-child relationship should be, and how children should be excited into ‘learning to learn’ though innovative pedagogical practices is one positive fall out of this incident. In a way, lakhs of teachers out there must actually analyze this wrong and listen to important commentaries on this. However, those who are hell bent on raising a political capital out of it by turning into a communal issue, must be stopped.

It is now an established fact that enemies of India are watching out for the tinniest opportunity to fan out social unrest and division. And their sympathizers and apologists by raking up unfounded fears and connecting imaginary dots help to amplify such issues to build on the existing narratives and faultiness. This incident, no doubt has exposed several limitations in our teacher training and how to engage with the community, and therefore is an awakening call. The concerned stakeholders and officials, therefore, must set an example by their actions so that outrageous incidents don’t happen again.

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