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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Tamil Nadu minister faces flak for saying ‘misbehaving school students will be dismissed’

A series of incidents involving 'misbehaving' students from government schools in Tamil Nadu have sparked debate in the state. Here is what experts say.

Written by Varsha Sriram | Chennai |
Updated: May 12, 2022 10:13:28 am
Several educationalists and child rights activists criticised Poyyamozhi's remark. (Express/File)

After a series of incidents involving students from government schools in Tamil Nadu verbally and physically assaulting teachers became a topic of discussion in the state, School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi Monday told the State Assembly that “misbehaving students will be expelled from school” and their “transfer certificates or TCs and conduct certificates will carry the cause of expulsion”.

Over the past few weeks, videos of students misbehaving with teachers and vandalising school property have been doing the rounds. Speaking about the same, the minister said that the students’ phones will be confiscated if they bring the phones to school and use them. During his speech in the Assembly, he also said that parents had a crucial role to play in building the personality of their children, and that they must work with the teachers to ensure good behaviour among students.

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Several educationalists and child rights activists came out and criticised Poyyamozhi’s remarks, calling them “unjust”.

In a statement, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch (TNCRW), pointed out that dismissing students will destroy their future.

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“The state has made a slew of initiatives and schemes for the welfare of students. However, the recent announcement is one that has caused huge disappointment,” read the letter. The letter also added that dismissing misbehaving students will not bring any real-time changes among children. “If misbehaving students are removed from school, with TC and conduct certificate mentioning the reason, the future of the ward will be sabotaged,” it said.

Speaking to the, TNCRW convenor and child rights activist Andrew Sesuraj said, “I’ll admit that that there are students who have been misbehaving with the teachers. But, punishing them this way is not going to solve the problem. In fact, it will just make things worse.”

Sesuraj said that school was a place where students are mentored and empowered. “We must guide the students as these years are the most crucial and determine their entire life. By dismissing them, we are pushing them away, making them more rebellious.”

In the letter too, the educationalists pointed said, “These children lack mentorship and guidance. What the government is suggesting now is an exclusion approach, which will affect students from marginalised communities.”

Prince Gajendra Babu, an educationalist from Tamil Nadu too believes that dismissing a student and putting a black mark on the Transfer Certificate (TC) would ruin the future of the student.

“Strict action such as this will never work on an adolescent child. A transfer certificate is an important document of a student’s academic performance to secure admissions to schools, and is used as a certificate in the future, and can also be the basis for processing passports and visas. By putting a black mark on the TC you are writing off the student. This can have disastrous effects and has the potential to ruin scores of children’s lives,” Gajendra Babu said.

Gajendra Babu also said that the announcement made was generalised due to the mistakes of a few students, which he believed was unfair. “There are easily over one to two crore students in higher secondary schools in Tamil Nadu. Out of this, sbout 10 videos of such incidents have come to light. Due to a few of them, how can we generalise and make a huge announcement impacting the lives of all children?” he asked.

Both Andrew Sesuraj and Gajendra Babu believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has a huge impact on the behaviour of a child now.

“Students have been inside for over two years and they did not have much contact with the teachers. There was a huge disconnect,” Sesuraj acknowledged. He also believed that at present, the main issue is the fact that there was no engagement between students and teachers since the ratio was very high due to vacancies.

Gajendra Babu said, “This behaviour cannot be viewed separately but must be seen as a cumulative effect of the pandemic.” He said that during the lockdown, a child must have suffered emotional, physical or some kind of abuse or social oppression that we may not be aware of which has a psychological impact on them.

“Usually, a child usually plays after school time and and then settles at home. But the Covid-19 pandemic confined these kids inside their houses, thereby restricting and blocking their activities.”

What’s the way forward?

According to Sesuraj, students should be provided opportunities to prove their talent and leadership instead of restricting them.

The best way to tackle the misbehaving students is to understand why they are being unruly, and to counsel them and correct their behaviour, instead of just throwing them away, he explained. Sesuraj believes that providing counselling, mentoring, and alternate therapies would work. “In the longer run, government schools need clubs and initiatives in schools so we create such spaces to channelise the child’s energy.”

Gajendra Babu said, “Instead of isolating the child, we must find out what is bothering him or her. If a student is egoistic, a teacher must not be egoistic too. We must train the teachers better to learn how to handle the child.”

“Even if there are children in conflict with the law, schools and teachers have to make them understand the law and act according to the law,” Babu added.

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