Think about your favourite teacher, first best friend, first crush, sharing tiffin boxes, the class getting up and chanting “good morning teacher”, bells ringing and copies closing in unison. Nostalgic, right? 

School inevitably leads one to “memory avenue” where one cannot help but wander. With the Semester-End Examination bidding farewell, the WhatsApp groups flood with reunion plans. But there exists a bitter side, a side that is an underlying decay, decay that cannot be ignored.

School instils fear in the hearts of students. The adrenalin rush at the fear of not knowing an answer turns out to be a baseless tremor, as one looks back at past. Eventually, this fear becomes a part of one’s system and the default setting of thinking more and speaking fewer sets in. How many times did you know the answer, had a doubt or an opinion but could not raise your hand? Did this resurface in your adulthood? Let that thought sink in…..

“I remember I was in seventh when our teachers segregated us on the basis of the length of our kurtas. We were very young hence, we actually started feeling guilty.”

The length of a kurta, the length of a skirt, the magnitude of the narrowness of one’s pants, the crime of rolling up one’s sleeves seem to be the only parameters which exist to judge students and categorize them into “good” and “undisciplined”. This plight continues like the not-so-famous process of “unnatural selection”, we assume that Darwin hangs his head down at the thought of it. The stages of categorization continue till an alpha being is found who is used as the ideal specimen to which others are advised to “look up to”. “Look at him, try to be like him” they say. Eventually, one tries to follow, as a result, the coping mechanism changes to copying mechanism and a school changes into a mass production unit.

The garden never claimed the roses to be the most beautiful. The flowerpots never told the periwinkles to be like lilies, the soil never told the weed to act like grass.

Students learn to follow, follow their teachers, follow elders, and follow what the book says. No one teaches the act of resistance, the act of questioning is a forbidden fact because apparently, questions do not come as six markers in papers. They never let one ask why but expect an explanation in your diary note.

Schools hollow out the capacity to have opinions. The glass is always half full and schools half-heartedly open horizons to fit in critical thinking. Agitation and resistance are Greek words until one enters college, where every voice matters, where every act of dissent is not reduced to rootless rebellion. 

“I’d be concerned about a behaviour policy that focuses on punishing students for what they are getting wrong rather than asking the broader question of why they are behaving in a particular way. Our school’s motto is “live adventurously”…… we encourage individuals to think for themselves and explore and question- that’s fundamental to education”, Iain Kilpatrick, head-teacher, Sidcot School, Somerset.

A democratic classroom is a farfetched dream which only some seem to savour. A place where questions are asked, opinions are accepted and sticks are spared is much due. The existing training for slavery should be replaced by the empowerment of future leaders. Dawn is yet to come.

Feature Image Credits: Gyanarjun Saroj for DU Beat

Priyanshi Banerjee

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The past week has seen turmoil over the matter of attendance and the issuance of admit cards to the students of the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee College for Women, and Hindu College.

Affiliated to the University of Delhi and located in Punjabi Bagh, the college boasts of a rich legacy of more than fifty years in serving quality education to young women.

According to a series of posts on social media, as well as first-hand student accounts, the administration and Principal of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee College refused to give admit cards ahead of the University semester exams scheduled in November and December months, to the students who had been irregular in classes during the past semester. This move by the college administration has been taken on account of their attendance being less than the minimum mark of sixty-seven percent (67%), as specified by the University. 

Moreover, as per the students, the Principal is not willing to accept any medical certificates or submission of leave applications. The students have also said that the college authorities have made it clear to the students that they will have to spend four years (i.e. 3+1 years) to complete their degree, in light of this decision. 

In response to these decisions, the students of the college, led by Tushar Baisla, the Chief Executive Councillor (EC) of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU), raised their voices and organised a sit-in at the college gate to demand for their admit cards. The ABVP-backed student leader’s posts on social media regarding this matter read ‘…she (the Principal) said in front of all the students that she will charge a case of molestation to me and rusticate students who are asking for the admit card. I request upper authorities to have a look at this matter so that students of the college do not face any problem.”

A final year Economics Honours student of the college, who chose to be anonymous, said, “They (the college administration) should have warned us, they cannot take arbitrary decisions.”

A final word from the college is awaited on this matter. 

A similar situation was also faced by the students of Hindu College, where those having less than forty percent (40%) attendance during the semester, were denied admit cards. However, the admit cards were given to the students by November 25th, 2019, after the ‘Collective – Hindu College’ planned to address the college authorities, on this matter. 

As per the message that had been circulated on WhatsApp groups by the Collective, ‘withholding of admit cards by the Hindu College administration, has happened for the first time, no prior information was given to the students about this intention of the administration in the beginning of the semester. Thus, no due process of issuing a warning to students was followed by the administration, as mandated by the University.”

Notably, students active in the performing arts society were targeted by the administration, to much agitation and revulsion. The nation-wide representation of the college, made possible by dramatics, dance, and music societies was levelled down as the parents and concerned guardians of these students were alerted via unsolicited calls. The administration went to the extent of suggesting the parents to remove their wards from the respective societies and instead enforce academic aspirations. It was only after this performative disciplinarian action that the students were given their admit cards, however, not without signing an undertaking first.

While on the one hand, the issue seems to be resolved by the Hindu College administration, uncertainty still looms over the decision in Shyama Prasad Mukherjee College. 

Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express

Bhavya Pandey 

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