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Sunday, June 12, 2016, Jaistha 29, 1423 BS, Ramadan 6, 1437 Hijri

'Spare the rod and spoil the child'!
Mahbubar Rahman
Published :Sunday, 12 June, 2016,  Time : 3:56 AM  View Count : 22
An old adage says 'Spare the rod and spoil the child'. Here, in the sub-continental context, rod does not refer to an iron rod used in construction work. It refers to beth --- slim bamboo or cane stick used by the conventional teachers of by-gone days to mind their students bullying around the school premises without giving any heeds to their studies. Slim cane sticks were used in Bengali households too, to straighten the spoiled children menacing to the peace of family and society. Teacher of by-gone days were fully committed to their profession and dedicated to the cause to mould the intellect and character of their students in such a manner so that they become good human beings and worthy citizens with educational enlightenment in their long journey of life and contribute their worth and intellect to the society and the nation as a whole.
Teaching as a profession was so prized and rewarding in those golden eras that the teachers were revered and respected more than parents. In some cases teachers were found to foster education free of cost to the needy students or helping the poor and marginalized students financially. In most cases teacher-student relations were very sweet and heavenly. In case of spoiled students who were called school bully, teachers would not hesitate to take resort to beating by beth with a view to bringing those bully or unmindful students to the right track even in most adverse situation. Some committed and dedicated teachers would boastfully say that they have transformed the cattle to human by proper use of cane. Therefore, spoiled students are bound to be straightened by proper application of cane therapy.
With heaving a long sigh of dismay I recall from my memory those scenario of teacher-student relations of 1950s and 1960s when the values of life was so prized unlike than that of to-day's. With the passage of time cane and bamboo sticks have taken refuge these days either in the furniture shops or groves of their motherland in wilderness. With the gusts and gales of changes, mobile phones have replaced the sticks and canes from the hands of teachers and the students have been equally turned fashionable boy in the school with mobile phones in hands for Face Booking relentlessly. Boys coming from rich families remain busy in vulgar display of slick car or SUV and wealth of their parents without giving any importance to pursuing studies they are designated for. Some guardians are often seen boasting of skills of their wards in driving the SUV in acrobatic feat in the busy street tantamount to staging an asinine comedy in public view. Teachers no longer dare to use beth to discipline their students in the fear of such venture being back lashed and boomeranged.
I remember, in late 50s, I attended the class wearing innocently a newly bought fashionable jacket with zipper which immediately drew the attention of my class teacher. Teacher became so angry; he pulled the jacket down from my body and gave some lashes with cane on my back. That was not enough, in the following day, despite the fact that my father was unaware of his son's breaking dress code, teacher called my father and gave a cautionary note, not to indulge the boy in wearing fashionable and expensive dresses in the school. My father appreciated the sentiment and thanked the teacher for his counsel and later scolded me profusely for breaking school discipline. My father neither reported the incidence of beating his ward to the managing committee of the school or a journalist for making a breaking news of child abuse nor had he invited the local MP or political goons to punish the teacher to do sit-ups by holding his ear-lobes in public view similar to that what happened, to much horror, in Narayanganj in the recent past. Even as a final year university student in late 60s, because of my attending class with wearing a newly stitched suit portraying a dandy man, I was asked to rise in the class room and was bombarded with all the difficult and nerve breaking questions relating to my academic discipline which fortunately I could successfully answer thus saving my prestige from further humiliation in presence of class full of fellow students including males and females in giggles and laughter. My teacher's admonition on flimsy offence embarrassed me no doubt but that did not lead me to call a muscleman to brandish a gun at teacher.
Where have all those heavenly student - teacher relations gone? Have they gone with winds leaving still a few vestiges of golden era who are dedicated to their unflinching conviction of staying back as the architect of making good human or in the words of Bertrand Russell, 'the guardians of civilization'? Students of the dedicated teachers still do not fail to answer the date of our Independence Day or who Pythagoras was, no matter whether they had made their highest achievements with feathers of GPA-5 or not, in the SSC exam. Recent television clipping portraying utter ignorance of a few GPA-5 holders, for whom I feel pity, is our collective shame which is equally much disturbing in deed. This undoubtedly reflects how the quality of our education dwindled over the years. We often raise hick-ups of complacence immersed in national euphoria boasting quantitative achievements in public examination results flooded with GPA-5 with virtually turning a blind eye to situation in ground reality to investigate whether there are any qualitative achievements in our total educational system. A couple of years back, there was a news in record that out of few hundred GPA-5 holders seeking admission in the English department of the Dhaka University, only two aspirants were qualified in written test.
As stated, the quality of education is so much so diminished to a level; it is now high time we looked into it seriously. Students achieving highest university degree, except a handful few, are not compatible to world class education. Who are responsible for the catastrophe in the educational system? Is it the students, teachers, guardians, government or the system in entirety? Apparently, the students who do not care to learn or only cram their syllabus beyond which their world is dark and the teachers who are with poor skill to impart right education to their students either because of their apathy or of their own ignorance are responsible. Apparently, because of the fact that the students mostly remain busy with cell phone and purposeless face booking exercise and the teachers run after personal gains and status without giving any emphasize on the core value of education where both students and teachers are required to acquire and deliver right knowledge respectively in equal pace. Staying nearest to cell phones and furthest from books and other reading materials widens the gap between knowledge and ignorance.
Only the teachers whose repertory of knowledge is in full brim can disseminate and impart knowledge to their students in right earnest. A teacher without cravings for knowledge miserably fails to create cravings for knowledge among his students. It is a simple equation, one need not to be a Pythagoras or Euclid to understand this simple equation.
Our University of Dhaka which was once regarded as Oxford of the east, does not carry on the proud legacy of the past anymore. Once a fore-runner, this university now has to struggle hard to find its suitable place in the World University ranking. It is sad to note that the University of Dhaka once rated high in the world ranking and produced gem of students worthy of mention in the global context is now reduced to find ranking in 2510 position in the World University ranking (Source: Internet). It is equally shocking to note that a few universities in the African countries rank in higher position than our universities. To investigate into the cause of such devastation and regression in ranking, one may come up with an argument that the universities are not adequately patronized and funded for their academic and research activities. The argument has its partial merit indeed. But unfortunately no one points his finger at how a segment of the university teachers are under the banners of green, yellow, blue and blah blah parties in the campus giving more time and labor in such activities than their academic work for which they are crowned with laurels as architects of making good human and enlightened citizens.
It is said that respects are not earned, they are commanded. A real teacher who commands respect is not supposed to bother about his rank and status whether it is below or above the rank and status of a secretary or senior secretary or a minister. As regards status of teachers I recall with deep appreciation a valued observation of our Prime Minister saying that her teachers like Professor Anisuzzman and Professor Rafiqul Islam command more respects form her than anyone else despite she is the Prime Minister of the country. With due apology to few respected teachers who still uphold the spirit of
nobleness of their professions, it is observed with great concern that a large segment of teachers with phenomenal aberration from a teacher's ethics with moral turpitude have turned their noble profession into commercial venture and unduly get themselves involved in party politics for paltry gain and fame. These sections of teachers deprive their students of their due rights to acquiring knowledge in due process of time and at the end of the day produce only a load of bad products neither saleable in good price nor worthy of contributing anything to the society and the country as a whole. As stated, very poor rating of our highest seat of learning---the universities in the global context reflects only how dangerously we are in the brink of being sunk in the morass of stagnation in building a prosperous and enlightened nation.
Failing to answer correctly who Pythagoras was on the part of GPA-5 achievers is not an isolated incidence. It is just a tip of ice-berg which is visible in naked eyes. In many cases, the names of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle unfortunately sound Greek to university graduates or masters who earn only pieces of paper called 'Certificate' without basic knowledge and become incompatible to world class basic education and eventually become burden to the society.
Gone are those days, you find teachers with beth (cane stick) in their hands strolling inside the school premises in minding their beloved students and impart real education including basic lessons of life with utmost dedication. The scenarios have changed; the actors have changed who acted in the revolving stage in the drama of life toward making good human with the light of eminence. Idea of minding children with canes and sticks by the dedicated noble teachers of by-gone days is now a distant cacophony lost once for all in the waves of time. In lieu, our social scientists, respected academics and government machinery must vent a serious thought on how to improve the quality of our education with all available modern facilities brimming around us and make our students to world class with bringing them more closed to books before time runs out fast and eventually we are thrown collectively into the blind alley of ignorance.
Mahbubar Rahman is a former civil servant

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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