By Farooq Shah
Schools play a pivotal role in shaping not only the academic expertise of their students but also their values, attitudes, and social consciousness. A key aspect of this influence is their ability to cultivate unity, inclusiveness, and an appreciation for life’s diverse tapestry.
The primary focus, in an ideal educational environment, should be on the pursuit of knowledge and the nurturing of intellectual curiosity among students. Teachers play a crucial and multidimensional role in establishing and sustaining such an atmosphere. They play a key role in creating a learning atmosphere that encourages growth, inclusiveness, and positive student interactions. This involves not just imparting knowledge but also appreciating belonging, respect, and a safe space for growth.
Teachers, thus, serve as the backbone of this educational ecosystem, where their dedication and efforts contribute significantly to the overall well-being and success of their students.
However, there is a concerning trend prevalent in almost all the government-run schools that is negatively impacting their overall academic environment. This is evident in the troubling divisions that have emerged among the school staff, rooted in differences of gender and job positions, sometimes seniority posing a significant threat to the fundamental principles of the education system.
Government-run schools, the bedrock of our educational system, are suffering the consequences of this insidious influence. Rather than cultivating an environment of unity and shared educational goals, the system is rife with discord and disunity.
Within a typical higher secondary school, a clear separation can be observed between the senior secondary and higher secondary sections, each overseen by non-gazetted staff and gazetted lecturers, respectively. This division is so deep that it even extends to the physical layout of the school, with up to four separate rooms being used by staff members, each of which has its own tea club.
The repercussions of this division are profound, sowing the seeds of hierarchy and prejudice among staff members. Gazetted staff often consider themselves superior, while their non-gazetted counterparts grapple with feelings of inferiority. Adding to the complexity, gender-based segregation results in separate staff rooms for male and female educators, further fragmenting the school community.
This disunity among staff members has dire consequences for the academic character of the schools. Students, who should be learning the values of cooperation and inclusiveness, instead witness the stark realities of discord within their educational environment. The first lessons in division and prejudice are imparted right within the school walls, where staff members often find themselves at odds.
On occasion, these divisions become evident through behaviours such as mudslinging, back-biting, and character assassination. In more heated moments, they may even escalate to verbal confrontations, stopping just short of physical altercations.
School administrators, whether principals or headmasters, face an arduous task in bridging these divides. Almost all of them have risen through the ranks within this divisive system itself, making it exceptionally challenging to instil a sense of unity and a shared commitment to academic excellence.
The way ahead necessitates immediate intervention from the authorities at the helm to tackle the issue promptly. Converting staff rooms and opening them up for students could serve as the initial action to deter teachers from congregating in these undesirable gatherings.
Simultaneously, teachers should be encouraged to utilize alternative spaces like libraries and reading rooms during their free time. This change in approach would not only resolve overcrowding but would also foster a culture of engagement in more constructive and academically enriching activities.
Transforming school libraries into hubs of intellectual engagement can be a powerful tool in fostering inclusivity. Encourage teachers, irrespective of their designation or gender, to spend time in libraries, perusing books, journals, and magazines together. This shared intellectual pursuit not only promotes unity but also provides opportunities for informal discussions and bonding. The library becomes a neutral ground where staff members can interact as equals, promoting a sense of belonging.
An essential step in dismantling hierarchical barriers involves arranging frequent workshops and training sessions dedicated to enhancing professional growth and interpersonal abilities. These programs can assist staff in understanding the value of teamwork and proficient communication. By elevating their expertise and understanding, educators are better prepared to partake in meaningful discussions and collaboration, regardless of their position or gender.
Furthermore, to foster a sense of unity among school staff, it is essential to encourage team-building activities that bring them together in a non-academic setting. These activities help break down the barriers that may have developed over time and allow staff members to interact on a more personal level. Team-building not only builds trust but also promotes inclusivity by transcending traditional hierarchies.
Implementing mentoring programs within the school can further solidify the bonds between educators. Experienced educators can guide and support their colleagues, regardless of their designation or gender. These programs provide opportunities for knowledge sharing and create a culture of mutual support and collaboration.
Encouraging collaboration between gazetted and non-gazetted staff members on academic projects and extracurricular activities is another powerful way to break down artificial barriers. When educators from different designations work together, it promotes a more cohesive staff body. It showcases the value each member brings to the table, regardless of their job title, and emphasizes that everyone’s contribution is equally important.
We must understand that it is crucial to recognize that education should transcend such divisions and biases. Instead, it should stand as a beacon of enlightenment and progress, where all individuals, regardless of their gender or job title, can collaborate harmoniously in the pursuit of knowledge and the empowerment of future generations.
To counteract this concerning trend, educators, administrators, and stakeholders must work together to cultivate a culture of unity, respect, and inclusivity within our academic institutions. Only by upholding the core values of education can we ensure that the seeds of wisdom and inspiration continue to flourish in the fertile soil of our schools.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author can be reached at [email protected]
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