Educationists the world over prescribe to gauge a productive and successful education system a litmus test, whether students dislike to leave or miss their school, or not. Sadly, schools in our part of the world have badly failed in providing students with a motherly cosy milieu.

At the announcement of summer vacation, the jubilant students leaving school remind us of the whining students when they creep towards school at the start of the day. Scenes of crying children who resist being parted from their parents at the school gate in the morning are frequent. In nursery or playgroup classes, children cling to their mothers. They sob; they hiccup; they weep their throats hoarse. Teachers struggle to cleave between mothers and their kids. But the same children are beside themselves when they leave school. These two divergent tell-tale faces at the start and the end of the school session must urge us to locate the reasons behind their gloom or glee.

Shakespeare in his poem Seven Ages of Man (which is actually an excerpt from his comedy As You Like It), describes the several roles that men play in their lives. The second role is of the whining schoolboy who walks at a snail’s pace towards school.

“Then the whining schoolboy with his satchel/ And shining morning face, creeping like snail/ Unwillingly to school.”

The critics reveal that during Elizabeth’s period, schoolboys would have had to memorise lengthy Latin speeches for school. It is easy to understand why a schoolboy might hurry off to school in the morning, knowing a long tedious day of memorization work awaited him. In our context, replace Latin with English, and it becomes crystal clear when a student has to read his books in a language which is not his mother language or not even his national language, wouldn’t he cringe while going to school?

The other demotivating factor is the unfriendly milieu of school. The stern looks of teachers, the fear of being punished for not doing homework and the bullying class-fellows, all prove a deterrent for the students. Being unable to name their fears at such a tender age, they cry and drag their feet going to school. Parents use force and punishment to send their kids to school without bothering to fathom the reason. It sometimes develops in students the habit of lying to parents and teachers for avoiding school.

Parents and teachers must nurture healthy communication with students, so that they may divulge their fears and hesitations. Only if these fears are allayed, students would attend school in a jocund mood. The ‘shining morning face’ in the above-quoted lines means the mother is only concerned with the outer appearance of the students and has done nothing to his going ‘unwillingly to school’.

If a student faces snags in his studies, parents and teachers should manage to make up for his deficiency. If he has done his homework, learnt his lessons and prepared for his tests, he will never think of missing school.

The unsettling ambience in the classroom and school is a major discomposing stimulus. If a student faces bullying at school, parents and school management must be proactive to neutralise bullies. Sometimes, a student is deserted from his comfortable place in the classroom; his lunch is stolen; his bag is ransacked; his stationery is snatched; he is body-shamed; he is nicknamed; he is taunted for being a slow learner; he is not politely allowed to go to the washroom: all this makes him behave unhealthily.

The lack of infrastructure at schools proves another discomforting factor. Lack of cool fresh water, absence of a hygienic canteen, ill-ventilated and poorly-lit classrooms, filthy washrooms and absence of playgrounds, also appals students from schools.

Sexual harassment and physical transgressions are rarely reported by students because of a lack of communication with parents and the cold behaviour of teachers and school authorities. Students just internalise the transgressions, ending up with psychological aberrations leading to staying away from school.

The physical fitness of students often goes unnoticed both by parents and school authorities. Students with eyesight defects fail to note down correctly what is written on the whiteboard. The scribbly handwriting of teachers and the sitting positions of students go a long way in incorrect jotting down of notes. Consequently, their classwork copies are teemed with red marks by teachers. This embarrassment pushes students out of the learning process. Such students should be reported to parents for timely treatment.

The vigilant teachers must observe such an unhealthy classroom atmosphere, and transform it into student-friendly homely ambience before holding the students culpable of negligence in attending the class.

So before pressurising begrudging students to attend schools, all seen or unseen hurdles must be located and eradicated. The blunt use of power and deterrence can result in the dropout of students from school, even from the whole educational journey. The whining of students gives a clarion call to the decaying and frightening school environment. Parents and teachers should not ignore the tip of the iceberg lest the Titanic of human resources should collapse midway.

M. NADEEM NADIR,

Kasur.