If schools can help teenagers formulate a vision for their lives, set goals and focus on these goals, they would neither indulge in violence nor commit suicide.
Indore: Teachers in India seem to be at the receiving end of violence these days. Every other day, media channels report students from around the country attacking teachers, even killing some of them.
The nation was shocked in early February when a ninth grader stabbed to death his teacher in a Salesian school in Chennai, southern India. The 15-year-old was reportedly angry that the teacher had informed his parents about his poor academic performance.
In another incident in Chandigarh, northern India, a student attacked a science teacher, pulling his hair and beating him in front of the class. The management tried to suppress the case to protect the school’s name.
A teenager in Mumbai, western India, allegedly under the influence of drugs and alcohol, slapped his school principal.
A similar incident occurred in Kolkata, eastern India, when a tribal boy attacked the principal of a Catholic school.
Even others have become victims of student violence. An eighth grader paid 5,000 rupees to a classmate to kill another boy in Uttar Pradesh.
In another incident, 18 youths picked up two girl students and raped them in the outskirts of Indore, a central Indian city.
These are just a few examples of hundreds of crimes committed by students. What shocks us is that these are committed by teenagers.
Added to this is the news about the increasing number of suicide cases among students.
Recently, the Universal Solidarity Movement invited 140 prominent schools to join parents, social workers, media personnel and anyone concerned about youth to discuss this serious problem. Just three schools responded.
Since we are engaged in the mission of promoting value education for peace, we felt it our duty to make a proactive response and initiate a constructive discussion and action plan.
It was an initiative against the culture of indifference. The small group expressed concern about the indifference of the teaching fraternity. The elite schools who are often indifferent to socio-political contexts failed to acknowledge the invitation.
During the discussion everyone agreed that education today has become a profit-making industry. While the school management is concerned about results and profit, parents want their children to become money-making machines.
Parents want children to join courses that will ensure quick money and status in society. While schools organize events to develop skills and talents hardly anyone makes an effort to help students formulate a vision of life, goals and policies.
In a consumerist culture, parents provide all facilities to their children too early, but make little effort to make them sensitive to the marginalized and acknowledge their responsibility to society.
The discussion also noted that students look up to teachers and parents as authentic role models. It asserted the need for school atmosphere and discipline to provide value education. The modern generation does not believe in words. They want people to match their words with examples of life.
My work with young students in the past three decades has convinced me that our young people do commit to serious and value-based programs. They have proven their willingness to make sacrifices, experiment with self- discipline and work hard for creative ventures. Many a time, teenagers have inspired their parents and become catalysts of change in their family and in their school.
This is the secret of success of the training sessions organized for leaders of school cabinets at the Universal Solidarity Movement in Indore.
The principals and parents take a keen interest in sending their children to Indore year after year because they see transformation in their students. The fundamental principle of the training is “transform the world by transforming oneself.”
When children witness and experience how trainers practice what they preach, violence would be the last thing in their mind. This is the solution to preserve the wealth of the nation, the youth.
Motivating the youth and providing an atmosphere where they can use their energy and talents for productive use is the way to prevent violence and suicide.
I have seen this happen. Two students of Convent of Jesus and Mary School, Shimla, northern India, walked through two feet of snow for two days in January to travel to Indore to attend a week-long leadership training.
Ananya Mehta, one of the girls, walked eight hours and 18km through two feet of snow. What motivated this girl to make that arduous journey?
“I was inspired by the previous batch of students who participated in the training. They said that the schedule was demanding but very productive,” she said at the training session.
Students who have undergone our training always choose to take their studies and life more seriously and in turn become agents of change in their schools and society.
Trainees also resolve not to waste money on luxury items and junk food but share it with the poor and the marginalized. Dhishma of St Antony’s in Faridabad donated 5,000 rupees she had saved for a cell phone for the education of poor children.
Miyukta from Montfort school in Maharashtra influenced her family to adopt an orphan she found begging in a railway station.
Principal of Carmel School, Raigarh, central India, conducted examinations without supervisors after her children underwent training in being honest.
The changes were possible because school principals accompanied their students in their trainings.
Value education will be effective only when principals and teachers practice the values they preach to students. Principals and teachers have to become the text books for students. Unfortunately, most principals and teachers find this difficult and label it as impractical and unattractive.
Most principals are busy with the routine work of renovating school buildings, constructing large auditoriums, installing statues in garden or reshaping their playgrounds.
Hardly anyone updates their knowledge or explores possibilities of motivating teachers and students by which the rebuilding of the nation will take place.
Therefore, students see contradiction in the words and deeds of their guides and frantically search for role models.
If schools can help teenagers formulate a vision for their lives, set goals and focus on these goals, they would neither indulge in violence nor commit suicide. Then our teachers could do their job without fear.
It is through our young people that we can create a better country and a civilization based on love.