Public Schools at a Cross Roads [Archives:2000/01/Focus]

January 3 2000

Abdul Majid Ahmad
It was Nov. 13, 1999 when all the parents the children of the 9th class in our village school were called by the headmaster of the school to attend a general meeting concerning their children. The problem began on Nov. 8, when one of the boys threw a small stone at another one in the same class. The victim complained to the teacher who asked the whole class to stand up and identify who threw the stone, but the whole class denied seeing anyone throw a stone. The teacher went to the headmaster and informed him of the matter. The headmaster came and inquired of the class about the stone, but they did not give him a very convincing answer and insisted that they did not know who had thrown the stone. This made the principal angry, and he ordered the whole class to leave the a school and not to come back unless they identified the culprit. The whole class left the school and returned to their homes. None of the children told their parents of the incident for fear of punishment.
None of them believed that the headmaster would insist on his decision of kicking them out of school. The next day the boys went to the school, but they were lectured and turned away again. For next five days the boys were barred from attending the class until the meeting on November 13. During the meeting, there was a heated discussion between the headmaster and the parents of the children about the crisis. Finally it was suggested to the headmaster that he shift some of the known troublemakers to other classes to keep them under strict observation. Meanwhile, the headmaster advised the parents to take proper care of their children. He assured them that the lack of teachers in some subjects, such as math, would be taken care of.
My remarks and comments about our public schools, teaching and school children are:
1- The year is approaching its end. The children at the school above have not leaned anything about mathematics and other subjects as the headmaster testified. What about their examinations at the end of the year? One student told me that it would be easy to prepare for the examinations. He would invite the teacher to a qat chewing session with him and that would ensure his passing the exam. Other school boys complained of much harassment from their teachers if they were not serious about their studies.
2- Another problem is that some of the school boys have recently been expelled from the same school on the charge of not wearing proper school uniform, although they had been wearing the same outfit to school from the beginning of the year. This is a kind of harassment of the poor.
3- Our students and school children are always very weak both in English and Arabic. How is this going to be remedied?
4- Many people are of the view that due to bad treatment and negligence on the part of public school teachers towards their children, our public schools should be converted into private ones. And that would add insult to injury for the poor and the people of low income sector who are the highest percentage of people in our society. If there is no free learning and free health medication and creating of work for the unemployed, there will be no progress and prosperity in our community.