Need to educate students on discipline

By : Mahmoud Ahmad


We all have seen the video clip doing the rounds that showed a group of elementary school students in Riyadh trashing textbooks outside school as an act of freedom from the school year. The circulated clip lasted for less than three minutes yet had a huge negative impact. It also raised alarm bells on the future of not only our students’ behavior but also on the future of our education system.

The clip showed the callous attitude of students toward knowledge — for the books are a reservoir of learning — but also their boorish behavior that bordered on the uncivil. The street was a veritable sea of white, filled with papers ripped out from the books and textbooks, with the students shouting for joy with the end of the school year. They were even harassing passing cars by throwing papers and books at them. It showed number of drivers, stopping to chastise the students about their behavior while some tried to chase them away by lambasting them. Neither act had any effect, as it did not stop the students from tearing the books or continuing the harassment.

Though it was an action of a few it, however, stirred quite a reaction. It also raised significant questions. Primarily, where were the teachers and school management? Also do they only impart learning and no discipline? Why students behaved this way? What is the future of our education and schools if the behavior of students is such at the elementary level? Do we actually hope for a better future if such students are to be leaders someday?

As if this was not enough, there was another clip making the rounds that nearly put to shame the earlier footage! The video clip this time was of action from inside the school. It featured a group of middle school students throwing shoes at each other in what seemed like a war between two groups of students. Once again the million-dollar question is where are the teachers and the school management?

Another painful picture, again inside a school, showed a group of high school students trashing classroom windows, chairs and tables and the blackboard. One of the students grabbed a chair and smashed the classroom window. After that he trashed the classroom board before throwing the chair to the floor. The agonizing thing is that other students were cheering the student at his indisciplined behavior. Again the moot question is, where are the teachers and the school management?

It is obvious that many of our students have lost respect toward schools and their teachers. It has reached a level where teachers are targeted and sometimes beaten up outside schools. In an extreme example, police was alerted in Wadi Al-Dawasser, south of Riyadh, when a group of students threatened to beat up their teachers if they failed their examination. They wrote it on the walls outside the school in a bid to intimidate. My question is how brazen that is?

Where schools should be the home of learning, it is slowly turning out to be points of unruliness. Where teachers should be reference points in the students’ efforts to gain expertise and experience, they are the targets of the students’ insubordination. Where a system should be churning out model students ready to take on the world, it is creaking under the weight of students’ apathy toward acquiring an inquisitive mind that would be the ticket to their future.

The Ministry of Education should really analyze this phenomenon and find out what drives these school students that are supposed to be innocents to commit such act? Why our children do not like school or their teachers? Are our children going to school to acquire knowledge or not? Do our children just want to be present at school to make up the numbers, or just because their parents pack them off to school because that’s what everyone does? Where is the problem? Is it the school or teachers? Does the family play a role in this growing phenomenon? Is such behavior a result of problems at home?

These are intrinsic questions that authorities need to ask. In addition, strengthening the role of teachers and fostering a system of students-teachers interaction are a must. The role of parents too must be emphasized with the system, teachers and parents on the same page where knowledge and discipline go hand-in-hand in making a better citizen of tomorrow.

One thing I would like to say here is that trashing textbooks is not new. But it is sad reflection on society that it keeps happening every year and the Ministry of Education is doing nothing to put an end to it.

I remember during my time there was a rule that no one would be able to attend the final school examination without submitting the books back to school in good condition. This rule should be activated now and it would force students to respect their books. I would like to ask what’s being done by the school to impress on students the need to respect books and school property. I don’t think anything is being done at all. I do not think that there are serious investigations about incidents that happen inside schools and any culprits punished to deter others. If there is, then not enough punishment is imposed.

There is another method the schools could use to dispose of these books. The school administration should install recycling containers in schools and all unneeded books could be collected to be recycled or reused instead of trashing them on the streets. What is, however, more important is that we should instill the love for books and reading in the hearts of children, especially at a young age, and let this grow in them. If someone respects any book and loves to read, then they would not act this way. It would also shape their thinking and help them grow into a teacher in their own right — teaching all to be better people.

– Mahmoud Ahmad can be reached at [email protected]





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