Re­cent cases of teach­ers be­ing ver­bally and phys­i­cally abused by par­ents paint a sad pic­ture of Malaysians’ wan­ing re­spect for ed­u­ca­tors. As teach­ers are told to adopt a gen­tle ap­proach to dis­ci­pline and par­ents seem to be re­act­ing more ag­gres­sively, nobo

New Straits Times - - Front Page -

RE­CENTLY, the Ni­bong Te­bal mag­is­trate’s court in Pe­nang sen­tenced a mother of three to six months’ jail and fined her RM2,000 for caus­ing hurt.

The mother slapped a Ba­hasa Malaysia teacher at a school in Se­berang Prai Se­la­tan in 2015 af­ter learn­ing that the teacher had pinched her 10-year-old son for be­ing slow in class.

In the same year, a dis­ci­plinary teacher in Sibu, Sarawak, was as­saulted by a stu­dent, who was an­gry for be­ing rep­ri­manded dur­ing school as­sem­bly.

In March last year, a Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion teacher in Malacca made a po­lice re­port af­ter be­ing as­saulted by his stu­dent’s fa­ther.

In Jan­uary, a teacher in Mers­ing, Jo­hor, lodged a re­port when her stu­dent’s fa­ther at­tacked her in the teach­ers’ lounge.

With cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment no longer the or­der of the day, teach­ers have been told to adopt a gen­tler ap­proach when it comes to dis­ci­plin­ing stu­dents.

Deputy Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Datuk P. Ka­malanathan said in March last year that the old method of met­ing out pun­ish­ment was no longer ap­pli­ca­ble, even on those with se­ri­ous dis­ci­plinary prob­lems.

“A teacher can­not cause harm or hurt a pupil. That is the main rule. No mat­ter what the rea­son, you can­not lay your hands on a child. If you have a prob­lem­atic kid, there are al­ways coun­selling ses­sions, there are al­ways par­ents, talk to them,” he was re­ported as say­ing.

Not too long ago, chil­dren feared the con­se­quences of telling their par­ents that they had been pun­ished in school, for fear of get­ting ad­di­tional beat­ing at home for mis­be­hav­ing and not re­spect­ing their teach­ers.

To­day, the ta­bles seemed to have been turned, and more and more teach­ers are made to feel in­fe­rior at the mercy of su­pe­rior par­ents with deep pock­ets.

There­fore, have we lost re­spect for our ed­u­ca­tors?

Par­ent Ac­tion Group for Ed­u­ca­tion (PAGE) Malaysia chair­man Datin Noor Az­imah Abdul Rahim be­lieved the re­cent court case in Pe­nang was iso­lated and urged par­ents to be more in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment of their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

“This can be done by re­spect­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing the work of teach­ers. Strong par­ent-teacher re­la­tion­ship is im­por­tant as it cre­ates mu­tual re­spect for both par­ties,” she said.

Par­ents, she said, gen­er­ally did not en­dorse delin­quent be­hav­iour among their chil­dren.

“Most of the time, they were blind­sided by the events or mis­led by their chil­dren. This is when it is im­por­tant for par­ents to keep an open mind and seek an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion to prob­lems that arise.”

She said the rights of the chil­dren were more pro­tected now than be­fore.

“In Malaysian schools, pub­lic can­ing was ac­cepted 20 years ago. The pun­ish­ment is only ac­cepted to­day when it is con­ducted in a pri­vate set­ting and guided by strin­gent rules and reg­u­la­tions.”

Noor Az­imah urged par­ents to play an ac­tive role in the de­vel­op­ment of their chil­dren by be­ing stern, yet lov­ing, in­stead of mol­ly­cod­dling them.

“It is im­por­tant for par­ents to be present to guide their chil­dren as they ma­ture in life. When a child mis­be­haves, it is of­ten a man­i­fes­ta­tion of things that hap­pen at home.

“Par­ents are of­ten guilty of ig­nor­ing their chil­dren by per­pet­u­ally be­ing on their smart­phones or be­ing too fo­cused on some­thing else.

“They fail to re­alise that their chil­dren just want to hear a word of praise, en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions or crave eye con­tact.

“We, as par­ents, have to con­stantly check our­selves.”

A Klang school head­mistress, who only wanted to be known as Chang, ob­served that stu­dents these days were more re­bel­lious.

“I of­ten get scared by their rowdy be­hav­iour, which I be­lieve comes from not get­ting much at­ten­tion at home.

“We used to get re­spect from the kids and their par­ents. These days, we were al­ways on the los­ing side no mat­ter how noble our in­ten­tion is.

“It got so dis­heart­en­ing that I even had to ad­vise my teach­ers to let some of the dis­ci­pline mat­ters slide in or­der not to com­pli­cate mat­ters.

“A few years back, one of our fe­male teach­ers’ car was van­dalised and spray-painted be­cause she was tough on the kids in her class.

“Not long af­ter that, she re­ceived a warn­ing let­ter from the gang in the neigh­bour­hood that the kids be­longed to,” she said.

“This re­cent case in Pe­nang does not sur­prise me. We have had to deal with count­less cases of med­dling par­ents in the past.

“It’s gone to the point that we can’t even cor­rect them ver­bally be­cause we were told that the chil­dren would be ‘emo­tion­ally scarred’.”

Hec­tor John, 72, who has been teach­ing for more than 50 years, said the Pe­nang case was a re­ally un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent that could have been nipped in the bud.

“Any is­sues in­volv­ing teach­ers, stu­dents and par­ents should be taken to the at­ten­tion of the prin­ci­pal or the dis­ci­pline teacher.

“No one has the right to take mat­ters into their own hands. The pun­ish­ment seems harsh, and all this is just go­ing to trau­ma­tise the chil­dren.

“If a kid is slow, then it is the teacher’s job to guide him. There should not have been any form of abuse in the first place.

“In my opin­ion, the school au­thor­i­ties should not have let this sit­u­a­tion es­ca­late. It’s re­ally bad man­age­ment.”

While teach­ers had the right to dis­ci­pline stu­dents, it should not be in a man­ner that caused a neg­a­tive im­pact, John said.

“Teach­ers have a duty to teach, guide and set a good ex­am­ple. If they are do­ing the op­po­site, the school au­thor­i­ties need to be aware. Par­ents have the right to go to the head­mas­ter to make their con­cerns heard.”

Reg­is­tered Child Care Providers Malaysia (PPBM) pres­i­dent Datin P.H. Wong be­lieved that re­spect worked both ways.

“It goes back to the un­der­stand­ing that every­one has rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, whether as par­ents, teach­ers or stu­dents.

“Vi­o­lence is never ac­cept­able. If I un­der­stand cor­rectly in this par­tic­u­lar case, the mother slapped the teacher be­cause her child was pinched.

“As far as she is con­cerned, she is pro­tect­ing her child and feels that teach­ers should never lay a hand on her child.”

Wong com­mented that in­stead of pun­ish­ing a child, the ques­tion to be asked was the rea­son be­hind the child’s be­hav­iour.

“What are the cir­cum­stances that may have led to the child be­hav­ing as such?

“How can we deal with chil­dren who are strug­gling with prob­lems or are ‘delin­quent’?

“Do we pun­ish them, as is the case in most sit­u­a­tions, or do we hear their side of the story, and lis­ten to what they have to say?

“Delin­quency does not just hap­pen. It is the re­sult of other ac­tion or in­ac­tion by peo­ple around the child, whether at home, in school or in com­mu­ni­ties.”

She said there was no dif­fer­ence in the way pun­ish­ment was

No mat­ter what the rea­son, you can­not lay your hands on a child. If you have a prob­lem­atic kid, there are al­ways coun­selling ses­sions, there are al­ways par­ents, talk to them.

Datuk P. Ka­malanathan

deputy ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter

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