Make schools a safer place for the young

Mustafa K. Anuar

Students deserve a safe and healthy environment that is conducive to learning. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 10, 2024.

FORMAL education is generally regarded as an important aspect of the young generation’s life as it purportedly helps to facilitate personal growth as well as prepare them to face challenges in later life.

That is why most children are sent to school at an early age where teachers are expected to help shape their minds and characters so that they can reach their full potential in their adult life and hopefully become productive citizens.

Schools should, therefore, be a safe space in which the impressionable enjoy learning and to be curious. They also learn from mistakes they make.

What is learnt and experienced in schools often leaves a lasting impact on many of these children, which indicates the vital role the teachers can play. 

Given such importance placed on formal education, what has happened in certain schools in the country in the recent past is obviously disconcerting.

While punishment may be part of a learning process, severe physical punishment meted out to young people, however, can be counterproductive and dangerous. 

It was reported recently that four Year 5 students were ordered by their teacher to stand under the sun as a form of punishment. 

Three of them were called back to the class after about 10 minutes, while the fourth was left to endure the solar heat for about three hours. 

The fact that the punishment has violated the Education Ministry’s guidelines should raise public concern. 

Subsequent to the punishment, the fourth student was medically declared a person with “intellectual disability”, which has dashed any hope for a better future for him. No parents would want that to happen to their child in school. 

At this juncture, one wonders why the different degrees of punishment were given to these students. Was the “mistake” made by the fourth student greater than that of the other three? 

In other words, what was the basis for the apparent unequal punishment? 

The punishment that results in physical damage – which appears irreversible – demands that the perpetrator(s), irrespective of his or her background, be brought to justice. 

In a political environment where the politics of race and religion rears its ugly head, we trust that the authorities would nonetheless ensure that such a controversial element would not interfere in the administration of justice. 

Similarly, a news report of an alleged attempt by a preacher to convert students under 18 to the Islamic faith is understandably disturbing to concerned non-Muslim parents or guardians. Such an act of conversion is considered illegal and unconstitutional.

Religion is an emotive thing to many people, which explains why the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism has publicly expressed its displeasure over this matter.

Parental trust in schools as a supposedly safe place for their children to study and play must not be betrayed and eroded.

Unless the problem is addressed properly and promptly, the more serious repercussion is that there would be a deep distrust in the nation’s schooling system. 

It does not make it any kosher either if religious conversions have also been attempted by certain non-Muslim preachers in certain schools. 

Schools, where such important subjects as history, literature, science, mathematics and language are taught, should not be turned into a playing field for zealous preachers to prance about. 

Equally concerning, sexist jokes or worse, sexual harassment and violence, may yield an unsavoury result in schools and beyond. It is imperative that the wrongdoers are punished while the victims are not publicly shamed. 

While such incidents may not be rampant or reflective of the entire schooling system, they’re still cause for concern as they impact on our future generation. 

With the primary aim of producing adults of calibre and moral fibre, education for these children should be underpinned by the universal values of compassion, love, justice, freedom, trust and peace. 

Students deserve a safe and healthy environment that is conducive to learning. The authorities concerned ought to see to it that such a situation prevails. – June 10, 2024.

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