Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Deadly Education | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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By the end of the holy month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, video footage had circulated via the Bluetooth service on mobile phones of a teacher beating a young student.

The clip was ruthless, especially with the painful cries of the student who pleaded his teacher and assumed guardian to stop the violence towards him.

Despite that the local papers had tackled the issue, it failed to make the matter one of public opinion in the same way that it did with the case of Al-Nahda Street in Riyadh.

The question that deserves to be answered is why was this case of physical abuse forgotten so quickly whilst footage of further violations continued to circulate?

The answer is quite clear as the abusive teacher confidently told one of the newspapers, &#34The matter was settled a long time ago, and the child”s father had accepted my apologies as I explained that hitting the child was for his own benefit to teach him manners.&#34

The truth remains that the teacher”s justification of hitting the child in such an inhumane way may have been accepted had the incident taken place on the street, however school is an educational haven, where laws and rules should be committed to by teachers. Teachers who fail to comply with such regulations should be punished accordingly.

The most surprising aspect of the teacher”s statement was the acceptance of the abused child”s father. The father was simply supportive of a common social culture that accepts such behavior.

Alaa Barian, an eleven year old child said, &#34My teacher has hit me more than once but when I tell my father, he says that I should not be naughty, then I wouldn”t be hit.&#34 Alaa adds, &#34I don”t believe that I am so naughty that I deserve to be slapped in the face. If the teacher had told me to be quiet, I would have obeyed immediately.&#34

If education authorities believe that such situations are rare then they are mistaken. This is evident by the violent reactions from students in various parts of the kingdom. Many develop the need to seek revenge; to the extent that a limited number have shot their teachers, or in one case 2 years ago, a headmaster was shot. Such incidents propelled the Ministry of Education to issue a decision three years ago, allowing the teaching body to expel the student or hand him over to security authorities if the headmaster agrees.

A while ago, a friend had returned to the United States to complete his studies, along with his eight-year-old son who would also continue his education there. After sometime of attending school, the child”s father was summoned to meet the boy”s teacher.

The teacher had not called the father in to request that she be allowed to &#34teach the child manners&#34 the hard way, but rather to explain to the parent that the child had behaved badly towards three female students from his class. The teacher further elaborated on the boy”s psychological status and the most effective ways in which his behavior could be improved. The first of these methods was for a psychiatrist from university to sit with the child for a one-hour seesion everyday. The psychiatrist would explain to the child that he was his friend and wanted to complete some research in the differences of attitude of children of his age. After one year of such counseling, the child excelled in his class, revealing strong levels of ability and almost ingenuity. He simply required somebody to trigger his mental capacities. Is this example enough to highlight the degree of backwardness in our education system?

Education in our schools unfortunately, is plagued and mismanaged. It has been plagued by teachers who graduated from the faculty of agriculture and commerce, who have resorted to teaching merely as a source of income. It has been plagued by student representatives who have been elected based on favoritism rather than on merit. Moreover, it has been plagued by sadistic teachers who themselves suffer from psychological illnesses who are supposed to guide children.

The final question: why was the case of a teacher accused of being secular, delivered to special authorities and prosecuted in the courts immediately, whereas education administrators answered the press enquiries regarding the case of the sadistic teacher by saying that the matter has not thoroughly investigated? This is my question, but I will not expect an answer.