Hey Teacher Just Leave the Kids Alone

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”.

36 thoughts on “Hey Teacher Just Leave the Kids Alone

  1. How come you only talked about molestation/sexual/verbal abuse by the school teachers? Your solution of changing power equation in the schools is definitely the order of the day. But how about changing the ‘respect to elders’ syndrome prevalent in our society? Isn’t that garb of ‘respect to elders’ used to molest or sexually or verbally abuse the girls by their so called ‘uncles’/ neighborhood dadus? The girls are afraid to speak about the happenings because not even their mothers will believe them. And if at all the mothers do listen to them, then the suffering girl would be made to suffer more as she would be told that it is she who asked for it – how come that does not ‘happen to other girls’. It is time we make the mothers/parents accept the reality of prevalent sexual abuse in its different forms and make themselves and ‘respectable elders’ ‘accountable’ to their kids

  2. Greatbong, on a side note, I have issues with mis-use of authority making a bad impression on kids from the very young age upwards. When I was in school, the teachers always felt, “Spare the rod, spoil the child”. Worse, making a counter point not only invited beatings but also scorn from peers and parents alike. Everyone felt we were abusing authority. I (and so a lot of my class-mates) lost faith in class room education precisely because of the culture of “Dont ask, dont get beat” culture prevalent…

    Side note 2, we need our originial GreatBong back, I suggest you do a review of Mithun’s comeback Movies for us 🙂

  3. Very valid post, may i say
    this again raises the issue, u had posted one along the similar lines on whats eve teasing/molestation and whats not. I have grown up in urban india, so my influences and experiences, i think i can recall more than the odd instance of whats mentioned here. forget this, delhi police has many times arrested middle aged eve teasers and what have u’s. Sadly this is a state of mind, something which the real “DIRTY MINDS” have become used to.

    and abt the teachers, dont even get me started. Being brought up on the ‘guru is bhagwan’ motto, i think most gurus are haiwaans (satans). I study in a engg college, girls get marks here for frree, many times undeservedly so. NO offence meant to any females reading this, but somehow in urs truly and many other’s not so humble opinions, they are not worthy of the socres they get.And the lewd remarks, they are indispensable.

    Teachers have become a joke, how many want to b one themselves . ZILCH, CIPHAR

  4. vhttp://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5244486&postID=112148798362910553

  5. i (like any other rational person) agree with the higher accountability suggestion. but, arnab, the etrnal difference in theory and practice! who will you go to? the principle? the cops? board of education (which doesn’t apply to all schools anyway)? the media? human rights? ngos?
    doesn’t work, does it? the few which do are isolated cases. and they should be the shining light, but there’s such a thing as the system wearing you down. that, more often than anything else, does the trick. retaliation, of course, is also a part of the deal. at the end of the day, the refrain is “think about you’re career”, “it’s all a part of your life. be more careful in the future”, “i TOLD you not to wear those low waisted jeans to college!”

    i’ve been through four years of abuse in high school; of a different sort, but abuse nonetheless. and i think i’ll carry the relics of it forever.
    on that cheerful note, good job, and keep posting!

  6. i think they are two seperate but related issues. meaning the harassement, specially of girls, and specially those too young or immature to know whats happening, is something thats not restricted to uncle like teachers but is everywhere … gaurdians, uncles, fathers, family-friends, brothers, cousins. it sounds bad, but blv me its there everywhere.

    what do you do? best way to stop it would be to spread awareness and education so that the victims always know whats happening. but in that way arent you killing a part of their childhood, their innocence? are we not moving towards a society where you see a cute child playing somewhere and ur scared to bend down pull cheeks and say so sweet … i have seen this extreme too.

    which is the lesser evil?

    the other thing is abt the way our indian education system is making the teacher so powerful that he can arbitrarily take ‘revenge’ on any poor kids who, or whose parents, had displeased them …

    in my school i have seen such horrors of teachers arbitrarily bullying students into buying things, taking trips organised by them, getting favours from the parents … everything. and if u say no u know all hell will break loose.

    on the other extreme is a america like system where education becomes a commodity to be marketed and sold and the child the consumer. that, i feel, has its evils too.

    oh no! i said too much 🙂

  7. @Yourfan: Agree with what you said. But neighbourhood “How big you have become” Dadus can be controlled by keeping an eye on the girl and if a perv is found out, to prevent any interaction with that perv (along with public shaming of the concerned dadu). However the power equation in schools is so hopelessly skewed that even after you know that some sir is a lech, there is often nothing you can do. You cannot go to school and supervise the girl, nor can you go and publicly shame the teacher without the consequences on your child’s education.

    @GHE and Almost_useless: The larger issue is the misuse of authority as you have mentioned and the bullying and intimidation that teachers pass off as “discipline”.

    A Mithun post shall follow….soon.

    @Rimi: The government has a independent body consisting of educators, parents, lawyers and medical men to which complaints can be made and who, keeping anonymity (anonymity from the school and the teacher concerned—the committee would of course know who made the complaint), can call the concered teacher and inform of him the charges. Now yes, there is the he-said-she-said thing, many students are not angels themselves and can use this as a weapon against a teacher—but it’s at least a start.

    And the thing is that, in my personal experience, the leches and pervs were well known to all of us and successive generations of my school mates would know about their activities…it would never have been difficult to prove anything against them if anonymity was assured mainly because there would be so many complaints.

    @Prerona: Agree that it is now impossible to pet a cute looking baby in US without possible repercussions and that’s horrible. Children are told at an early age about “bad men” and deviancy and it does affect their innocence. But it regrettably *is* the lesser of the 2 evils.

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  9. Saw a wonderful Badal Sarkar play Baki Itihash (The other side of history), courtesy Kaashyapeya Arka, last weekend. One of the stories within the story dealt with a teacher molesting minors, when they are least aware of it. Then expelling a student for reading Lolita in class when this “respectable teacher” is giving mindless gyan.
    But for your post, the eternal question is “Who’ll bell the cat?” Alas, not one of these people we’re speaking against will read your post, Arnab; nor will any of the “powers-that be” who may be able to make a difference, if they wanted to. And of course, media won’t be bothered to search the Blogosphere for such issue-based blogs and publish them as open letters…they’re more interested in creating their own heroes/award winning bloggers for some quickie aimless weekend feature (read filler). But hey, Keep Hollering, may be some day someone will hear;)

  10. Hi Arnab,

    Great post on a very real issue.

    Just reminds me of an experience my wife had, when a prof of a “reputed” cal tutorial asked her to show proof of chicken pox after she rejoined after missing some classes due to chicken pox. And her parents somehow thought it was her fault, like she was somehow leading the guy on or something.

    Cal (or maybe all places) definitely has a startling collection of all these weirdos masquerading as well meaning teachers.


  11. Hi… your posts are really very thought-provoking… and I will stick around for more. But at the end of the day, don’t you think that ultimately the person at the helm of things, or maybe someone who has nothing to lose is the one who can bell the cat? The stifled voice of the victim has to be heard, even at the cost of negative publicity.

  12. Uh Oh Pre! …”on the other extreme is a america like system where education becomes a commodity to be marketed and sold and the child the consumer. that, i feel, has its evils too.”

    Unfortunately “america like system” is a system failing dearly in that “public” is in fact “state” which puts parents again at the backseat of the auditorium.
    Yes, private sectors are a commodity and can actually allow parents and guardians have a voice and a more personal relationship with teachers, administrators, etc. And has even allowed those guardians with educational background to submit and vote on certain curriculums that inspire and upgrade a child’s education.
    In that respect I give a standing ovation!
    As for what this post is about, American children have faced this and more from when I was school age too (I am alot older than you, so don’t ask!)but it was not tolerated then anymore than it is now! It is a matter though, of getting the student to break the barriers of confusion and allow themselves to be confronted by a party who would support them and on their behalf!
    Unfortuantely and fortuately depending on the side of the coin for the particular deed, teachers are not placed above the guardian of the child and are not thought of in terms of a “god” that can unleash powers beyond the control of the administration and or the gurardian of the child.
    I say unfortunately, becasue students in alot of your public schools have taken this knowledge to the extreme and harrassment, degrading and immoral actions, and even violence have occurred in the classrooms and the teacher has become the vulnerable party!
    A total revamping is apparent no matter where you live, I guess!
    OOPs, I wrote a book!! Sorry!!

  13. Peg – coming over to ur place to reply 🙂 to avoid being kicked by the great bong … what say GB?

  14. @Priya, Well maybe someday they will. I guess people know already—nothing I said is “new”…it’s just that too many vested interests prevent real change from happening.

    @Udayan, Despicable. And the attitude of parents—mindboggling.

    @Sudipta, The problem is often finding someone without a vested interest—many big schools are often as pervasive and corrupting as corporations.

    @Peg, A few words of clarification. The school I come from is a private school and so are the tutors mentioned here. So it’s not really a matter of state vs private—private does not mean any more accountability in an Indian context.

    While in US the problem may be violence directed at the teacher, in India it is exactly the opposite. (none of the extremes are desirable)

    We have a cultural reverence for the teacher that is so deep rooted, that it creates a power imbalance which perverts can use to their advantange. There are a lot of students and few good schools—which means that pure economics puts guardians at a disadvantage….it is extremely difficult to get a child readmitted to another school. This makes school teachers virtual lords of the realm—be it in public or private schools.

    @GB: No probs Prerona…you can argue wherever you want…only people who doubt the G in GB get kicked out :-))

  15. And if you dared glare back at the Gods, the threat of victimization was always dangling– palpable yet unspoken.

    Yes indeed.

    In college, the VC actually at some point of time came up with an innane rule that guys and girls shouldn’t be caught sitting next to each other, during “non-class” hours. This rule, when I had seen faculty letch, and do far worse……

    Why is it that in the subcontinent, the victim (especially if female) is usually made to feel responsible for, and is punished for something that was some one else’s fault.

  16. good post, GB. a lot of uncomfortable questions which need thinking about… the saddest part about girls – and even boys? who go through such ‘experiences’ is the complete taboo on ever mentioning these – even to parents… almost every time – till it gets really serious – any kid who dares to say anything is dismissed as a liar – and I have read, thinking and imagining “sinful” things… and they live with the trauma feeling shame AND guilt…

  17. @Sunil, Beats me…never understood why even parents tend to blame their daughters first.

    @Charu: Yes boys getting sexually harassed I have never heard of but it surely does exist…of course sexual harassment in boys’ hostels in schools (perpetrated by other boys) I have heard of. Of course no formal complaint is usually lodged.

  18. Hi,
    I have read half of the article… i shall come back and read it fully.

    I dropped it to say this. i liked the way you wrote Him with a H capital while refering to Mithun. (it definitely shows that you were serious when you said that he is God to you.)

    nice blog, this.

    Pip Pip and Toodle-oo,

  19. Arnab, thanks for bringing forth the article. i wonder why was this not given more media coverage. anyway, as a law student @ delhi univ. i (we, women)are regularly verbally assulted by a certain proffessor (male) , who hold a similar post as those perverts in kurseong and vijaywada. certain times i felt compelled to leave the classroom while his lectures (leechers) were on. the one thing that we lack is unity in protest, coz all of us are driven by some or the other ulterior motive( job placements, internships) and donot protest. try as i might to form a group to raise a voice against the creep…nothing happened ever!.
    at the end of the day as legal student of a premier university and so called “responsible citizen” i could do nothing to stop the harrassment women @ DU law fac go thru.

  20. Thanks Arvind

    @Anon: The irony being that the offender here is a law professor who knows first-hand the impotence of the art he teaches.

  21. You think parents will do a mighty job about this eh? All they can think of is embarassment, what the neighbours and family will think….and to the maximum extent possible will try to conceal everything.
    I dunno what the hell they’ll solve if at all they knew about all this…perhaps even blame the child for this…yeah pretty apalling aint?

    Half the parents in India metropolis are working so guessing they don’t have time for repairing all this.
    Most of them are so gruelled already, they don’t give a shit what the teacher is saying about their child…they know their child’s a genius anyways, even if he ain’t they wouldn’t care…but if she were not a genius, I suppose then they’ll start caring!

    There are of course those broad-minded parents who don’t give a damn to people they don’t give a damn about. Unfortunately they’re low in numbers.

  22. In general, the girl is raised as a submissive slut, so how you think paretns are going to change anything at all, when they’re the one raising their child like that? Tell me which pair of parents would start talking about sex abuse and protection just because you said so?

    Young children aren’t aware of anything except all the foul words but dunno what the heck they mean. They know all the words attached to sex and beam in pride that they’re “gnani”s amongst their peers. Piteously they know nothing else. The monstors who molest children continue to do so cos of two main reasons, nobody tells about them and even if he/she does get caught, he/she knows how easily to unravel from this temporary “mess”.

    It’s plain sick and disgusting. Everything bogs down to the faulty law system and I dunno what’s left to do about it.




    now i shall switch off the caps lock..:)

  24. i meant amongst all my friends not against them.. but then i am gushing..

  25. Thanks for raising the issue. I too have something to say about it so if you’re interested, please check out http://sunayanaroy.blogspot.com/2005/11/my-two-bits.html. (Too many comments here for me to add an extended one to your blog!)

  26. There are of course those broad-minded parents who don’t give a damn to people they don’t give a damn about. Unfortunately they’re low in numbers.

  27. Young children aren’t aware of anything except all the foul words but dunno what the heck they mean.

    i think so!!!



  30. when will i recieve an anwser

  31. What does everyone think? My nine year-old son is in day care. One of the thirty-something “teachers” said to him as she put sunscreen on his face “you like it when I do this don’t you.” He was bothered by that and said she is always trying to hug him even if he asks her to stop. The administrator told the teacher that she may speak to her own children that way but she cannot do that at the daycare. The teacher said she was only kidding.
    A few days later, my son reported to me, that the teacher said “you can have another cookie if you give me a kiss.” We then contacted corporate headquarters and that teacher has been dismissed. Now, some of the kids are saying that my son got the teacher fired and that he is not a nice person. I tell him that he did the right thing. What does everyone think?
    Thank you!!

  32. Children Rule The Schools April 21, 2007 — 1:56 am

    Here is the deal, I was fired because a kid accused me of calling him a “dumb bully”; do not go into teaching pre-k or anything for that. They believe the children over the adults because the lawyers won in court in the past. I was cleared of this but thanks for firing me…SEE YOU IN COURT!!!!!!! Fired over things kids make up is not what I worked so hard in college for. DO NOT HELP THE POOR as I got fired dealing with there kids doing me job better than required. Working for minimum wage to help children and all I get is fired and a mark in my belt for this and bad reputation. I got a lawyer and we are preceeding from here. Someone needs to get back teacher rights.

  33. Umm…did you just reference a pink floyd song?

  34. worried mom you are big loser and a typical indian threatened by anything.

  35. I saw one teacher taking small cute girl student of Clas – IV in the extra room and tell her to band down in one desk and caught from back side and shecking himself with her. The small girl does not know what the teacher is doing with her.

  36. Hi,
    How you saw that incident? who are you? Why didn’t inform to others. Are you crazy?

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