Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The kumkonam tragedy and it's lessons

The recent fire in Kumbakonam is a very tragic and entirely avoidable incident. For many years, I have seen such schools which are run from a residential building with no open space at all. The thatched roof literally became the final straw, I think. Only now after the incident the government has taken steps to close all such schools. However I don’t think that this incident should be politicized. Also I feel the opposition’s statement that the government did not take enough steps after the Srirangam fire (which was at a marriage hall) is also not just. Simply because, the government had then taken steps to scrutinize (only) all marriage halls and this is what you expect from any normal government here ! Such is the state of governance and administration in our country that the government only takes stop-gap measures after each tragedy. May be another tragedy (though god forbid that) should happen so that government scrutinizes some other public facility. What is needed now is a complete relook at the administrative system that has allowed this to happen and just a suspension of a few officers involved in the incident would not serve that purpose.
However for me, what was more disturbing was the reports that teachers of the children had abandoned them and saved themselves. Also it is reported that one of the teachers instructed the students not to leave and told that the fire can be controlled ! As if to vindicate these reports the teachers are still absconding. I think that this is only symptomatic of the moral decline of our society. In a society driven by money, teaching profession (especially at school level) is not at all lucrative because of the pay levels. Thus mostly only those who are not able to take up other professions end up in this and they also only think of earning more money by taking tuitions. Being service oriented and caring for their students seems to be a thing of the past. If not for high ideals of the teachers even basic humanity should have prevented such a despicable action. That the teachers who are supposed to make the next generation don’t even have these basic human values is a cause for grave concern.
As an aside, I think the habit of students going for tuitions has increased phenomenally in Tamil Nadu. I myself never went to tuitions until my 12th standard and it was the same for most of my then classmates. Now I hear of students going for tuitions for many subjects even before 5th  standard, even in small towns. (In this atleast there is a generation gap with in 6-7 years!)And most of the times, the tuition teachers are the same as their teachers in school ! Also, various pressures exerted by teachers to make children join their tuition, like being biased against them or not teaching properly are not uncommon. I am strongly against this trend, not only because this puts the teaching profession in a bad light, but also because it is sure stamp out any creativity that is still left in the students after going through our syllabus and examinations.    

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