Whether one is a new leader or seasoned head of school, one thing is certain that in this age of accountability (which in today`s time is fixing responsibility and I may be allowed say to fix somebody after something goes wrong), everyone is looking to that one person to solve a mounting list of challenges-from overcrowding to underachievement to providing the inspiration the school needs. The principal always and at all times need to inspire and motivate and at the same time remain a champion for learning. Leadership can drive a school either forward or backward and therefore, needs to have a focused plan and a strong support network.”
Listening to the above stated, conveyed by Sadhana Bhalla, Chairperson, NPSC, at the inaugural session of the 45th National Progressive Schools’ Conference; I was filled with pride agreeing on the ideas that, “the school is as good as its leader and that is how critical the role of the principal is. Given the innumerable responsibilities be it student achievement, teacher motivation, running the school, reducing achievement gaps, garnering the support of all the stake holders, being accountable and making everyone else accountable and balancing between being an academic head and an administrator. Needless to say, the principal’s position has never been so challenging than what it is today.”
Yes, the position of the principal is challenging and important and so is the role of teachers and the entire system of education that still stands responsible for bringing up responsible citizens who would frame the future of the nation. The involvement in the field of education has always been a matter of respect and pride, especially in our country. Years ago, even the renowned names in the field of business, like Birlas started a unique initiative aimed at promoting excellence in education at schools and college and university level. Their programmes emphasized on growth with equity and encouraged schools to promote the concept of quality and performance excellence in all their activities, including teaching and learning methods. This they did as their social responsibility and not as a business venture. Many more philanthropists came out of the land of Shekhawati and set up wonderful schools in their area from where they originally came.
After that well-known and established pinnacles of education such as DAV and DPS have schools spread all over the country and helped raise the standard of education in the country with their innovative and child centred approach. But in the last few decades the situation has become grim due to various reasons including increasing competition. Due to the lack of intuitive approach on the part of various governments many new players entered in the field of education to fill the space created by the government run institutions. Numerous private institutions are getting affiliated and popping up everywhere. To worsen the situation we have coaching institutes which are doing their best in deteriorating the pious teaching and learning culture of our country. Education is becoming a mouthpiece of such corporate giants who are encroaching upon the age old tradition of education and turning it into a business.
The question arises that how a profession so deep rooted in our tradition could be so easily mocked and caricatured by corporate giants and money oriented coaching classes. Who is allowing this to happen? Why is no one bothered to put a halt to it? And most importantly, who is supposed to stop this? The answer is simple. If questions are being raised on the teaching fraternity and education system, it is the whole and sole responsibility of the teaching fraternity itself to fight with the all spreading vice. In the ideas I quoted above, the underlying theme is of support and working together as a fraternity dealing with education. Are we as teachers and educational administrators, ready to deal with the situation, united and undeterred? Are we bothered about what is happening to the torchbearers of our education system across the nation? Are we supporting and promoting each other as principals and teachers? Are we standing by each other at testing times?
On January 5, a bus belonging to renowned school rammed into a truck and six kids were killed. It was a great loss to lose young children who had dreams in their eyes. Their parents would not be able to live their life that normally and the nation is deprived of wonderful future citizens. The Principal of school was arrested for alleged violation of rules and regulations related to transport and maintenance of school buses. He was produced in a court in Indore, which rejected his bail plea and remanded him in judicial custody. He is suffering from trauma and unbearable humiliation. What’s strange here is the fact that if the principal was held responsible for the tragedy, why weren’t the other people responsible for the safety of the children brought under scrutiny? Why weren’t the authorities, responsible for road safety, held responsible? Political activist Abbas Hafeez Khan has vehemently criticized the way the principal is being treated, through a video. He asked teachers and principals everywhere in the country as to why weren’t they coming together to help a man whose entire life was probably spent in learning and teaching and imparting knowledge; and now he is being treated like a criminal. He warned the people all over the country who are a part of this profession that it’s high time and there is a need for the teaching fraternity to come together and raise voice for each other’s rights. Otherwise, there would come a day when this profession would lose all the respect it deserves. But is that the solution of the problem? The teachers are the role models for the entire society, should they be protesting for their cause. Many may not agree with me but our only cause is the safety and prosperity of the children handed over to us and we should not waste our time and energy in debates and protests. But I would definitely like to raise a question, is it the responsibility of the principal alone or was he made the scapegoat? The Management of the school, the organisations which are responsible for recognition and affiliation need to answer and own responsibility. Do they have no responsibility towards the safety of the children and support to the school staff? Rightly said by Mr Abbas; that in this situation who would like to be a teacher or a principal in a school if they are treated shabbily and not given the respect they deserve. To maintain the dignity and respect of the profession we will have to work together and ensure that everyone fulfils the task assigned.
This needs to happen as “schools are no longer self- contained institutions. The wall between school and community has tumbled down; what was ‘out there’ is ‘in here’ as government policy, parent and community demands and storming technology. This has intensified the workload of principals and teachers.” Above all, I ask the principal and teachers all over the country to be proud of their own contribution and in particular their effectiveness so that the society realizes that “at the end of the day, Principal ship and teaching are a calling, a sacred one and all that matters are the children and the fact that we are responsible to fulfil the hope and expectations of the society that these children will in their own way make the world a better place” but the society should also realize the fact that anyone who has ever taught them something worthwhile, deserves respect for their contribution. The trust between parents and the teachers is of utmost importance and we should do our best to keep that intact.