How would you account for student unrest?

There was once a time when teachers and leaders were looked upon as role models by students and students thought twice before speaking before them. And now, as the world progresses, there is a change everywhere, including students behaviour. News flashes showing student protests for a recheck of annual papers bring in a feeling of a lack of trust in teachers and authorities, and worse, a fear of an unsafe tomorrow. Who should we charge for all this?

One of the key causes of student unrest is the chase for grades. This is a race every child nowadays has partaken. Students are pre-programmed equally by the parents and the society that an A grade is the only end to strive towards. Therefore, students, preoccupied with the fear of their grades, rebel when they fail to cope-up with their teacher’s teaching style. Agitated, they take refuge in private tuitions and group coaching classes from renowned teachers for the sake of covering their syllabi and lose respect for their school teachers, as if syllabus covering is the only target. This is a growing trend in South Asia, especially Pakistan.

Politics has to be blamed equally. Students are students and their legitimate place is the classroom. However, an increased exposure to social issues, like crimes and evils in their country via media (electronic, print and social) has added fuel to their otherwise confused and agitated life. Then there are political parties that make use of this situation of students, and aid the formation of student wings in college campuses, justifying themselves with the claim that students are the future of a country and they should be alive to the political happenings. However, such measures have always backfired. Taking Pakistan as an example, a recent strife at a university in the province of Punjab led to tyre burning and cross firing between two student political wings. Students are young and idealistic, they tend to think that taking law into their hands would restore peace, but it wreaks havoc instead. Public property has to pay the price as students lose control, and the use of tear gas, public flogging and arrests by police often follows.

Lack of a student-teacher bond is another serious factor, and teachers being more mature in this regard, are to be blamed. Teachers are responsible for nurturing our personalities, for suppressing the unrest in us and bringing out a more discipline and organized way of protest. However, no teacher seems to have time and interest in all this nowadays. The student-teacher relationship is now confined to an hour of class every day, and begins and ends with the peon’s bell. Beyond this, teachers do not feel obliged to deter the students from wrong and indiscipline attitude, or to shield them from bad. With a lack of guard over them, students succumb to doing what they feel is right, like demonstrating for causes that can be redresses addressed without agitation.

Another, rather neglected factor is the generation gap evolving between students as the youth, and parents and teachers as elders. Students are a technologically equipped generation, and so they fail to comprehend the apprehensions of the parents and the teachers regarding these technologies. The urge to bring a cell phone to school, the desire to buy the latest iPhone, the love for X-boxes, the necessity to update Facebook status, all looked upon as facilities by the youth are merely a waste of energy for the elderly. Therefore, schools ban the use of gadgets within its premises and parents use authoritative measures, leaving the youth agitated, and making them break school laws and succumbing to misbehaviour.

Students are our future hope and it is inevitable to win their trust in order to secure a better tomorrow. Students, as youth, already know they have the zeal to set things right. However, it is important to guide them to invest their youthful energy productively via organized and disciplined demonstration. They need not to be actively involved in politics but keep a knowhow of the state’s affairs. The teachers, too, need to reconsider their roles and act more responsibly. Above all, there needs to be frequent conversations and debates over controversial issues to prevent generation gap from widening. All these measures are practical and would surely bear fruits to end the prevailing student unrest.

Author: Mehak Sohayl
The author is the former A level student from Beaconhouse School System (Karachi, Pakistan). She sat for the GP exam as a private candidate in October 2012 and passed with a B grade.

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