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THERE has been much discussion lately on the issue of discipline among students in schools which, regretfully, is on the decline. Thomas Kok’s “No end to issue of discipline in schools” (The Star, Jan 23) is one that I can definitely relate to.

As a teacher for nearly three decades, I have come across many cases of indiscipline among students. From my observation and experience as a former disciplinary teacher and a concerned educator, having served in both primary and secondary schools in rural as well as urban areas, I can say that instilling discipline and inculcating values MUST start from home.

Since students spend most of their time at home and in school, they must be instilled with discipline and responsibility first by parents, and teachers in school can then reinforce them.

Allow me to share some examples of my experience dealing with students and parents on this issue.

Scenario 1: A student plays truant and the parents were informed immediately by the school. We managed to track and get the student back to school after some concerted efforts by all involved. When the mother saw her child, she spoke to her in soft and humble tones, cajoling and reassuring her that she would be allowed to go anywhere, anytime after that incident and not to skip school anymore. The mother was crying while the child stood defiantly and even scolded her for coming to the school, saying it had brought her shame.

Scenario 2: There are parents who have no qualms about lying for their children in the name of love. They will march immediately to school to retrieve any confiscated items, especially mobile phones, and will blatantly claim that the items belong to them and not their child. Mind you, in the case of mobile phones, the screen saver and all information in them clearly point to the child. But parents do not see anything wrong in taking the blame for the irresponsible action of their child. We have seen parents begging, on the verge of tears, for the phone to be returned to them as the child sat beside them. When they are unsuccessful, they would then ask for the SIM card to be returned and would buy a new phone.

Scenario 3: Going on holidays is so convenient nowadays and parents do not wait for school breaks anymore. When parents take their child on vacation during school days and even during the examination period, who are we, the teachers, to question them? When the school asks for a letter of absence for our record, they say their child was attending a family emergency. Everybody – parents, the child, teachers and the school – knows that this is not the truth. Thus, what values are the parents teaching their child?

Scenario 4: When a child is constantly late to school with uniforms not ironed, shoes not washed, hair dyed and an empty bag with homework not done, and they sleep in class during lessons, what can we do if the parents’ reason is, “I have to work and I have no time to monitor my child. I am not aware of school rules.”

In all these cases, do we punish the child or the parents? How should teachers tell their students that it is not appropriate for them to use foul language, smoke, drink or watch pornography in school when it is permissible for them to do so at home?

I often tell my students that I do not just teach them to score a string of As in their examination but that as an educator, I want to educate them. However, there is nothing we can do when parents do not play their part.

Who are we to tell the students that they must be disciplined, respectful, mindful, caring and responsible when all these values are not practised at home? What can we do when parents themselves lie for their children? What does the future hold for our youths when parents do not discipline their children? And they expect us teachers to be able to perform miracles on their child.

Friday, 26 Jan 2018

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