“I will stand right here till you finish copying this page,” she says sternly in a high pitched voice. It is a voice that rings all through the afternoon, into the evening. Late evening. Within half an hour after school gets over, kids of ages ranging from 7 to 14 begin to troop in. They have changed from their uniforms, had a quick lunch, packed their tuition bags, caught a rickshaw and arrived. Kicking a pebble on the way and hurrying up the steps is all the play they have had.
The question of why they need tuitions is an issue in itself. For now, it could suffice to say that the teachers in the school are not doing their jobs adequately enough. They aren’t explaining well, they aren’t catering to the child’s needs and the child is not scoring well. Fair enough. But what is this tuition that they are coming to?
One doesn’t need to enquire about her qualifications or experience. It never gets that far. Two minutes into the class and you know where this is going. A shrill nagging voice pestering you to write this, copy that, memorise this, open that… The afternoon drowsiness resists the loud orders, sluggish arms work to rescue the ears and the head gets a killer ache. It doesn’t matter that the studies require one to use his/her brains. The headache nullifies any difference between an academically bright and a dull child. It is a non-stop music of one hour which credits the teacher with Rs.100 of hard-work. Hard it was – as much for the child as for the teacher. No one in the vicinity can raise a finger at the teacher for not having taught. Even a passerby on the road can swear he heard her teaching. Thats one risk secured against.
Now for the other risk – you didn’t teach “well”. Volume can’t account for that. Marks could be a measure of the quality of teaching. But then, who could be assured of that. There is an intelligent way out – to be on the parents’ side instead of taking them on. Religiously, every day, when a parent comes to pick up the child, she cribs to them. “Main uske sar pe khadi rahi, tab jake homework finish kiya usne. Hard work bilkul nahin karta.” (I stood on his head to make him finish the homework. He shirks from hard-work.) “Usne toh mujhe kuch aur hi bataya. Band bajana padega uska.” (She painted a different picture before me. Will have to take her to task.) It gives her the cushion of having done her best, but the child being hopeless. If it weren’t for her, the child would be worse off. Surprisingly, the parents don’t take offense. They like this plan. They join in with their own complaints of the child making them the “we are doing our best but the child is hopeless” parents. The kid stands either swinging the bag or chewing a pencil while his parent and tuition teacher brand him as a worthless life on earth. So much for skipping the afternoon nap and evening play.
It isn’t about what education is, how kids should be taught. No, am not going that far. Teaching is an art, a passion that springs from within. Am willing to leave that aside and make these tuitions routine programs tailored to score better. But are they even doing that? In a classroom of 40 odd students, one may not mind the teacher ignoring him. You don’t feel neglected when everyone’s being neglected. But, in a tuition where you are receiving personalised attention, a teacher who fails to hear you, see you, ask you is committing a clear act of neglect, the kind where you feel wronged, the kind where you lose your self-confidence. What is this entire drama about? A passing-the-parcel between the parents and the teacher? No one willing to take the responsibility lest the music stops? Caught in your foolish game, neither will you hear the child sing, nor will you hear his silence.