Understanding the changing equation of the Guru-Shishya relationship


The issue at hand

“गुरु ब्रम्हा गुरु विष्णू गुरुः देवो महेश्वरा
गुरु शाक्षात परब्रम्हा तस्मै श्री गुरुवे नमः”

We the Indians have been the founders of the Gurukul system of education which was followed in the earlier days in the subcontinent, be it the teachings of Dhronacharya to the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

However, in the recent times, the crime against the students inside the school premises is questioning the whole system when it comes to the security and safety aspect of the children.

It all gained heat with the murder of Pradyuman Thakur who was a student of Ryan International School, Bhondsi. Again, a news of the rape of a young girl happened in Greater Noida.

All of this had one important unanswered question- what is the level of safety provided inside the school premises and who is to be held accountable for the same?

But the nail in the coffin was suicide committed by a girl of a reputed school in Delhi. What raised the eyebrow was the fact that the suicide took place at home with an allegation on the teachers who sexually harassed her. She was afraid that she would be failed in her exam and ultimately the result was that she did fail in the exam.

The growing violence and aggression among the students raise a lot of unanswered, yet essential questions. Here, we try to analyse this issue by discussing it with Tapti, a counsellor in Delhi.

The recent crimes happening in school raises many questions regarding the safety of children. Whom can one blame this on?

One cannot blame a single person for the same. We need to understand the fact that the burden of security cannot be shouldered upon by an individual or an institution. The human nature is something very unpredictable. Relying on that person from the action is not possible as it is difficult to understand what the person is thinking.

Most of the multi-national companies (M.N.C.) have the habit of giving the proper training to the staff once they join the institution. This practice is, however, lacking in the educational sector as we do not give proper training to the staff on how to deal with children. Providing counselling session for the white-collar job and blue collar job holders in schools alike are essential on how to deal with children having psychological issues. Being a part of the educational sector is not a mere job or profession. It is a huge responsibility to be shouldered with as teachers are responsible for shaping the future of the country.

There is a case where a girl committed suicide. The accusation is on the principal and two teachers of the school for sexually harassing her failing her in her exam. Can the teachers be held solely responsible for this incident which took place at the victim’s house?

A tangled case is challenging to solve. Hence, it is essential to break it into different parts to understand it in a better manner-

“The teachers would fail me….”

The student has stated that the teacher is going to fail her in the examination and the re-examinations as well. She indeed flunked her exam with 27 marks in science and 17 marks in social science. If we analyse these marks, we can judge that either she is a weak student in these subjects alone or is an average student overall.

Whatsoever the case may be, teachers are surely not going to have any grudge or bitterness towards any student. So failing the student in an exam is something which is out question. However, we cannot completely rule out this argument that sometimes the teacher do dislike some of the students.

There are times when the teacher does not like a particular staff member. So he may take out that distress by being mean to the student. He may award a few marks less in the whole paper as compared to the marks given to other students. He may also take into consideration various other factors unlike in such cases.

Nevertheless, failing a student is not at all possible by any teacher. The reason is that the teacher has to mark according to a set marking scheme given to all teachers to ensure uniformity in the marks given to all the students. If a student is failing, then the prime reason is that the student has himself not written anything in the paper because of which the teacher could not give marks to him. In the closing of this case, it was the student who had not prepared well and not written the exam correctly.

Now let us come to the next aspect which is indeed mind-boggling –

”Suicide by the kid”

A single reason cannot push anyone to take this extreme step. In this, the parents claimed, that their daughter had complained of sexual harassment by the teachers. Nevertheless, the staff is yet to be found guilty. However, the point is that why did the parents not take any strong step when they got to know of this from their child?

The parents turned a blind eye towards the reality that their daughter was in trauma for a long time. She might have been feeling frustrated, anxious, and worried about many reasons and could not discuss it with anyone.

Bullying, a victim of harassment are a reason well enough to push someone to this extent. However, these reasons are not enough for someone to not find a solution to the problem and end their life. This sort of decision takes a lot of courage and a compelling reason to do this.

Suicidal situation generally takes place when a person is not able to find someone in whom he can confide. In most of the cases, the victim is witnessed to be low on confidence and is not able to express himself. It is in this situation where teachers and parent play a crucial role.

Teachers and students alike should be trained to understand whether a person is going through an inner turmoil or not by reading the signs. This way, we can try to prevent such mishaps. However, shifting the total blame on the teachers is incorrect.

What is the role of the parents in such situations?

In school, is because the teacher-student relationship is for a mere 6 hours a day. Also, the general interaction time is of about 35-40 minutes per period. Moreover, there are 40-50 students under the guidance of a single teacher. So it is practically not possible for him to keep an eye on the activities of each student.

However, the students spend the rest of the day with their parents. That is why their role in a child’s life is essential. Counselling to parents is crucial regarding how to befriend their kids these days. Talking to them and advising them is crucial. Monitoring them and their activities is not possible these days as they are active on social media. They now know many people. However, giving the kids space so that they discuss anything and everything with them is essential now. Spending time with their ward is something lacking these days.

One cannot blame the parents as well because, in most of the cases, both the parents are working; especially emphasizing on those parents who are a part of the corporate sector. They work for 9-12 hours a day and then coming back home; they cannot then take care of the house as well. The only meal which the families have together now is dinner. When television and other electronic gadgets too consume that time, there is hardly any time when one spends together.

Merely buying expansive gifts, travelling abroad is not love. Being there for one’s child and holding their hand in this journey of life is more significant than these materialistic items.

In recent cases, we have seen a rise in aggression among the students? What are the possible reasons associated with it?

Association of aggression is not limited to a single factor. There are common reasons behind the following because of which we are witnessing these things.

One of the vital reasons for this aggressive behavior is the access to social media. Being a part of it is not the issue. However, the aspect which is its usage. Science is a double-sided knife. It depends upon the holder of that knife and the way he wants to use it. Use of social media is with the intent to be connected to our near and dear ones who are away from them. Nevertheless, this is the same social networking sites which are a platform for cyber crimes.

Factors affecting the psychology of children

The most important factor which affects the child psychology is the environment condition in which the child is being brought up.

Many times, there are issues among the parents which results in constant fights and at times leads to domestic violence as well. These complications have a severe impact on children affecting them emotionally, physically and mentally. Another well-known factor is bullying, physical abuse, taunts and humiliation by others in school at home to an extreme level.

These factors have two impacts on children- either they become introvert and withdraw themselves from all activities and other places where there is a large gathering, or this has a reverse impact when the child becomes extremely violent and aggressive. These emotions flow out especially in school where children pull each other’s leg for fun and stay together. It is the ideal place where the disturbed child has a place to express themselves. They tend to display this violent nature and pick up fights easily.

Moreover, there are cases where students have attacked their teachers for scolding them for poor grades, indiscipline and various other reasons. These incidents surely questions the safety of the teachers for doing their duty. This further emphasizes on the increase of violence among students.

There are times when the teachers scold the students in case of under-performance. In the recent times, we witness that parents send lengthy letters to the school authorities stating the mental trauma the child went through because of the scolding. What do you have to say about this?

As a counsellor, I believe that the parents have become overprotective regarding their wards which is not necessary at all.

Parents need to have a reality check of the fact that its the responsibility of the teacher to guide their students in the right path. Also, what exactly the parents are trying to accomplish out of this is something which I am not able to understand at all. They can probably interfere at this point of time and protect their child. However, what about the problems the child would face in the future in their lives? They surely can’t control all the situations in their child’s lives.

Parents are the support system for their children. Moreover, they should make them strong enough to tackle situations like this. They have to teach them the difference between the right and wrong. However, pointing the fingers at the parents alone is not appropriate. The blame is also on the system.

A lot many times, students are not good at studies. Instead they are interested and are good at some other activity. However, the current policy forces the students to emphasize more on academics rather than the co-curricular activities in which they are interested.

The academic-oriented system of ours sucks out the enthusiasm and the creativity of the children. This policy pushes the students to set aside their talent. It results in an undue burden on the students because of which they end up achieving nothing. Reforms in the education policy are the need of the hour without which we cannot move ahead.

Last but not the end, do you have anything else to say?

The drafting of the POSCO Act, 2012 had the sole aim to protect children. In the recent times, the misuse of this act has increased against the teachers in situations where they did not have control. These acts are terrorizing the whole fraternity of the teachers across the country. It has to stop; else it would affect the educational sector a lot.

Also, the hiring of more teachers should take place in order to reduce the teacher-student ratio, although fewer people are interested in this field. Moreover, the reason is justified as this career sucks in one’s energy a lot, and payment is also less as compared to the corporate sector.

Counsellors in all the schools is a must for giving support to all students alike.

Educational reforms are a must where students have the liberty to choose the career they want to make. It should not be such that a student who does not like math is compelled to do the same just because it is in the syllabus. A student who wants to have a career in sports should not be forced to study under pressure because of the academic-oriented society and policies. I am not saying that studies are not necessary. What I am trying to say is that there should be enough flexibility so that students can pursue co-curricular activities along with academics. This way one can balance their interest as well.

If we do not act now, we might never be able to prevent the changing equation of the guru-shishya relationship.




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