Every student, every school matter



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by Fr. Augustine Fernando, Diocese of Badulla


 


The School is where every child, beginning in its earliest years, goes to from home more regularly than even to a place of worship which is of no less importance. ‘The School’, whether it be a ‘pre-school’ or a ‘play school’ in the village or a bigger school in a small town or city or university or any institute of tertiary education, has an irreplaceable function and lasting impact on the life of every child or student in the particular educational institution. Just as the mother and father, brothers and sisters are the most important in the life of the child at home, the Principal, the class teacher and classmates become the most important persons in the life of any student in a school. The importance of the teachers who indeed act ‘in loco parentis’ – in place of parents – has to be in the minds of teachers and students whatever school they are in. Parents who have several children attend to the care of each of them individually while looking after all of them collectively. Teachers should do the same. Just as there shouldn’t be bad parents, there shouldn’t be bad teachers. The Central and Provincial Governments tend to give special attention to special schools and unwittingly marginalize others. It seems educationally disadvantageous for some children to be born in certain rural and plantation areas of Sri Lanka.


If the State is attentive enough, it could ensure that all teachers and parents are good enough to fulfill their respective duties quite satisfactorily. While the students need to learn well from the teachers the various subjects they are taught, they also imbibe attitudes and values of life as they begin to observe, assess, appreciate and pursue many good human qualities the teachers show in their lives. Such values as respect for authority, truthfulness, attentiveness, orderliness, organization, neatness, regularity, thoroughness, meticulousness, punctuality, care, concern, determination, industriousness, perseverance, dedication, commitment, enthusiasm, diligence, endurance, patience, silence during their school life.


It is from the teachers who create the right atmosphere in the school that the students learn to pursue knowledge, truth, justice, solidarity, righteousness, unity, forbearance, gentleness, courtesy, temperateness and self-control and peace in order to live in society with these qualities well adjusted and in right proportion in their lives. The students should not only learn not to give in to the impulses of a corrupt nature but to venture forth to act in the noblest of ways and better their environment. They should begin to learn never to deceive anyone; rather to act honourably and respectfully towards all, to collaborate and cooperate in common tasks, not to cause pain but to console those who are sorrowing. If every school is a good school, and there is no reason why every school shouldn’t be good, all students would mature into young men and women with self-respect, confidence and self-esteem and with attitudes of respect towards the human dignity of others. They become especially conscious of the consideration that should be extended to the weak, handicapped, the poor, the disadvantaged and those in need of help. Though no healthy school life will be without fun, in a good school environment, no delinquents are created nor does the school produce bullies and raggers and psychologically maladjusted individuals who cannot accommodate themselves decently with others but become a burden and a menace to society.


 


TEACHERS IN LIAISON


WITH PARENTS


It is when that the teachers are conscious of their high responsibility of preparing children and adolescents for adult life and act in tune with it and in unison as a school’s teaching staff that the students become conscious of their need to obey, submit to and respect the teachers in all that concerns their student life. The teachers in liaison with parents make their students not only grow in intelligence and knowledge but also capable of better understanding, judgement and a sense of responsibility for oneself and others and becoming increasingly human through the process of education.


There is no child called aA bad child. There may be bad parents, bad teachers, bad principals, bad university dons and VCs even, but not children. They are like good seeds that should grow to fruit bearing trees. There may be children who may find it a problem to cope with some subject/s they study or with some aspect of school life, or children who may err, be shy, take time to relate well to others, are confused, stumble and fall. Good teachers will always find ways to help, encourage, fortify and guide them.


 


STATE RESPONSIBILITY


There are 10161 schools in Sri Lanka administered by the Department of Education to accommodate all children who should necessarily attend school. Besides other pre-schools, technical schools, ‘international schools’, universities and other institutions of tertiary education, there are also Schools of Religious Education attached to temples, mosques and parish churches. Though each and every school and the groups of schools, be they under direct state control or private, religious denominational administration, with a particular physiognomy and identity, there is an element that is common to them all: they are all engaged in the mission of education and contribute in some measure to the formation of the character of the young citizens of Sri Lanka. Yet how many of them think of their engagement as a mission shaping the nation’s future?


The state, through qualified, expert and rightly motivated personnel, therefore has to exercise a directive and supervisory role in seeing that the educational institutions in the Country measure up to not only scholastic standards relevant to the varying levels of students but also have qualified teachers who teach competently the various subjects the students need to learn. It cannot be a priori presumed that the State Institutions are ipso facto capable of providing the best options available in education in every department of knowledge. Institutions not of the state may be better equipped and better motivated to provide educational services of a high standard. The important factor is that the educational institution should have the capacity and the required discipline to produce young men and women who will mature into responsible and civic minded citizens able to live and serve in dialogical relationship, in social cohesion and not social disruption and destruction. It is the responsibility of the State to see that to impart knowledge, teach and guide all its young citizens there are professionally trained and rightly motivated personnel to attend to that all important task.


 


MANAGEABLE LEVELS


A few schools in Sri Lanka have been allowed to grow too big, to the dimensions of universities, by politicians and the powerful due to their desire to be patronizing and bestow on some schools a false sense of prestige from their size! They have been allowed to become far too big to be a school community. In such schools, the head of the institution could hardly relate personally to each and every member of the staff and know well a good number of students nor could the staff be well bonded. Even a so-called big school should be of a manageable level. And every school should be well administered so that every student in the school benefits from the education that is imparted there and no student gets neglected or falls by the wayside. Extraneous vested interests should not impede the main purpose of a school which should be the wholesome education of every student in the school.


 


GUIDANCE OF ELDERS


Most of the minor staffs of schools and even universities are older than even some parents of the students in them. There was a time when the guidance of the College office peon, the driver of the school vehicle, the groundsman who cared for the playing field were accepted and adhered to without question by students, as they were the school’s loyal assistants who reflected in some way the guidance of the school authorities themselves. Disregarding their ‘comments’ on a student’s adverse behaviour would land the student in trouble. Still there are such types of employees in some schools. Some parents of children in a girls’ school in Colombo see that the woman who sees to the cleanliness of the school compound observes the children well and note the positive and negative habits and qualities they show due to the nature of their upbringing and her observations are taken as a compliment to parenting by many mothers.


A correct assessment coming from anyone is thus appreciated. But there are also frustrated teachers and principals who merely hang on to a job, uneducated and uncouth political nitwits who create problems and become the laughing stock of the people when their buffoonery is bought into the school environment; they think that their children are beyond the control and guidance of any teacher. Some pretend to assume an authority they do not have and interfere in the work of school principals and teachers. These political louts should have no power and authority at all in any sector of civilized society, and never in the sector of education. It is the responsibility of the education authorities at the national level to make every school a good educational institution also by seeing that the funds allocated are just and fair by them. A thorough and immediate reform of the system of education is imperative if Sri Lanka is to face the wind that is blowing in the world.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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