Violence begets violence

I HAVE heard of the rare cases of Malaysian teachers assaulting parents and vice versa, and of a few even attacking students.

But I never thought the day would come when a teacher would allegedly attack a deputy education minister.

There has to be a first time for anything and I truly believe last Sunday's incident in Hulu Selangor where a teacher allegedly punched P. Kamalanathan in the face will go down in Malaysian history for its total asininity.

Before anyone tells me that I was not there to witness what had happened, there must have been some physical contact as an online news portal carried a photograph of Kamalanathan lying on a stretcher in hospital.

He later lodged a police report on the matter as did the teacher.

Why did this sorry episode occur?

Police told the media that the teacher had witnessed his father, a retired headmaster, arguing with the Hulu Selangor MP allegedly over a request to transfer a relative.

The conversation took place at the Hulu Selangor Umno meeting with Kamalanathan.

The exchange must have been biting as the teacher lost his equilibrium and allegedly took a swing at the deputy minister.

How could this have happened with a teacher charged with the academic and moral education of our young ones engaging in an act of senseless violence?

When I was in school more than half a century ago, the possibility of this happening would have been more remote than snow in the Sahara.

Teachers back then, and even later during the Seventies and Eighties, were almost paragons of virtues, upholding the moral requisites of the day and passing them on to their pupils.

But the minute the powers that be started the "teacher factories" to churn out educators, things turned topsy turvy with incidents of teachers doing the inconceivable.

Teachers molesting students, one throwing a chair and another a shoe at pupils, one slapping an 11-year-old until the eardrum cracked and the rare incident of racial epithets being hurled at students?

Where did we go wrong? I am sure this is not the first time this question is being asked.

Is there something wrong with the section of candidates for the teaching profession? Or are teachers not being taught the softer side of the occupation in training colleges?

I, like many other Malaysians, am appalled that a teacher did not think twice about the ramifications of assaulting his big boss.

If he is indeed found guilty of assault, he will be punished by the courts and later by the Education Ministry which, I am sure, will not take theatre lightly.

Umno has issued quite rightly a warning letter to him, the overtone being that the party took a dim view of officials taking matters to hand.

The teacher may be remorseful over his actions, but it is a little too late for that.

It will be a real pity when punitive action is taken as his career may see a premature end besides the fact that the people at large lost a large amount of money that went into his training.

I am sure we want a transparent probe into the incident to ascertain the facts of the case and evaluate the matter in a rational manner.

We should also temper justice with mercy in cases like these and try to ensure that the alleged attacker is taught the error of his ways.

I believe there is a future for him and for other teachers who have by design or accident run afoul of the system.

But I am vexed by the relative frequency of these misdemeanours by teachers in recent years and want something to be done by the authorities to prevent a recurrence of such rowdy behaviour.

Some may be inclined to study the statistics behind such bad behaviour from teachers and suggest that one case of a teacher assaulting someone a year is acceptable.

Not in my book though, and I am sure not among those who send their children to public schools.

I hold that teachers, policemen and others holding positions of such great responsibility to the public should be held up to higher moral standards than others.

I worry about the standing that teachers have in today's society where their true status in the eyes of the public has been reduced to one of a public servant without the special responsibilities that come with their calling.

I say calling this a calling as not everyone can become a teacher; one needs to realise the central role that teachers play in the life of our children.

Teachers are charged with raising young hearts and minds in our multi-racial society, children who will be the pillars of our society in days to come.
Surely, we cannot be lackadaisical in the selection and training of our teachers.

If the authorities are unable to come up with a solution to the problem of teachers flying off the handle, they should consult retired teachers in their twilight years who taught in the glory days of Malaysian education.

Maybe they can tell us why teachers were held in such high regard those days, the secret behind their highly successful training, and why the slide in standards took place.

Even as I castigate teachers (the handful that they are) who take the law into their own hands and perpetrate the unthinkable on the young of the nation, I salute the countless others who have and continue to serve the nation and people with their selflessness and diligence in moulding young minds.

There is still time to act before other unthinkable acts are perpetrated by rogue teachers denigrating the very principles they were taught to uphold.

Balan Moses, theSun's executive editor (news), believes that to err is human and to forgive divine. After all, we should want to make those who wrong us see the error of their ways and return to the straight and narrow path. Wasn't that the modus operandi of teachers of yore who turned the worst among us students into better beings? Let us follow suit. Feedback: bmoses@thesundaily.com