A few weeks ago, we all heard of a principal, Srinivasa Rao of Vijaywada who took digital photographs of girl students in the nude and posted them on the Internet (link to the Internet posting article I could not find). His punishment was to stand in his underpants in a thana in Vijaywada.
Today I see another incident —Bobby Chachan , the principal of Bethany Boarding School in Kurseong who, in a drunken fit, hugged and tried to kiss a 15 year old girl of the school. Police have picked him up.
The alarming thing is that for every perv outed, there are 100s of more prudent ones who pass muster under the guise of respectability.
Taslima (not her real name) tells of how Bobby Chachan would pass seemingly innocuous but sexually loaded terms (lovely mountains etc) while teaching Geography and stroking her hair.
In my own school, I have seen similar things happen countless number of times—-girl students being “encouraged” by caresses on their back and other instances of teachers intruding into a girl’s personal space. Not to speak of the barely concealed sexual innuendo that had no business coming from a school teacher.
Example: A teacher in a tutorial told a girl of Class 11 who had done a problem in a needlessly complicated way: ” This is like taking off your “inner wear” without taking off your top.”
Example: Another Life Science teacher in a prominent tutorial always chose girls to explain what “sternum” was.
The sad thing was that many times, girls did not even know that they were being molested– physically and/or verbally. My best friend in school and through college used to be regularly “felt up” by one of these leches and when I pointed it out to her she kept on defending the teacher saying that he was merely being avuncular and “loving” and that it was my dirty mind (which to be honest I have…sorry had) that ascribed disrespectability to his actions. Now a married lady, she says she was wrong and realizes how her favorite teacher used to get off on her.
The reason this happens is because of the absolute powers vested in teachers by the Indian school system—there is no way a student can speak up without the fear of recrimination from the concerned teacher. Parents are also loathe to take up the issue because of the same reason—-sir will be correcting the annual exams. The only option is to take a transfer certificate and get the girl readmitted to another school (one which Taslima’s parents tried to take also) –something that is also an extremely difficult thing to do.
What I found laughable was how our school authorities were strict in reacting to exploratory sexual incidents between boys and girls—-a boy and a girl got expelled for kissing in the library and another girl for kissing a guy during a production of Macbeth while no action was ever taken against teachers who were , as adults, doing far worse.
Lest this sound like a denouncement of my school and my childhood tutors, let me say it is anything but. Most teachers were dignified and professional and the rotten apples were very few—but even that was enough to do extensive damage to impressionable girls. And to guys also—-young boys grew up seeing firsthand how authority could safely be abused for one’s gratification.
The solution is simple: make schools more accountable to parents. I found it despicable , how teachers would sometimes act rudely and arrogantly with hapless, grovelling guardians—–the subtext being that teachers were Gods and doing an enormous favor by performing their duties.
And if you dared glare back at the Gods, the threat of victimization was always dangling– palpable yet unspoken.
Its high time this power equation was changed in Indian schools so that errant teachers can no longer hide behind the veneer of “nobility of teaching” and “authority”.