When educational campuses go violent

UNREST Why do students give vent to indiscipline and strikes? Dr N N Prahallada tries to uncover the reasons.

When educational campuses go violent

In the contemporary context, ‘campus unrest’ has become a constant phenomenon in colleges and universities in our country. Strikes and dharnas by college and university students have almost become a daily feature.

Class conflicts, caste distinctions and cliques, fissiparous tendencies, cut throat competitions and rivalries, which dominate public life have unfortunately entered educational institutions, polluting the atmosphere and perpetuating indiscipline among students.

Indisciplinary acts range from simple disobedience to the teacher and defiance of authority to law and order problems, manifested in the form of arson, assault, burning of buses, looting of shops and even manhandling of teachers. All these have created a great concern in the mind of public over the future of democracy in our country.

Causes of unrest

Causes of indiscipline have   been   analyzed by people from all walks of life.
n Lack of leadership: Indiscipline among students, the fall in standards and the general deterioration of academic life, is largely due to the lack of leadership qualities among teachers. So to say, contemporary teachers possess less leadership qualities.

Most of them are not able to command the respect of their students either by their scholarship in subject areas or by their personalities. They are just serving the educational institutions as paid workers like other employees. In the eyes of students, they neither have any professional nor social status. This has led to mounting indiscipline in colleges and universities.

Psychological gap: Overcrowding in educational institutions has made it impossible for the teacher to contact pupils individually or give personal guidance. In other words it creates a psychological distance between the teacher and the pupil. As a result many misgivings, misapprehensions, and even legitimate grievances on the part of pupils go unnoticed and those which can be easily redressed burst out into acts of indiscipline.

Deterioration of values: The general deterioration of moral values in the society has resulted in cynicism, pessimism, avarice and rebellious-tendency among the present day youth.

Denied demands: Many institutions are poorly equipped and facilities are lacking for proper learning today. These create an unhealthy atmosphere to the extent that pupils struggle against the authorities and as a last resort coerce them to grant their demands. Many a time demands that are denied lead to agitations.

Economic distress: Owing to ever increasing economic difficulties there is a widespread frustration among the college and university students. The basic urges of the students are not being satisfied either by the parents or by the university authorities. The general economic distress suffered by the parents is being felt by the students.

Apart from the above, lack of job opportunities, chronic parental poverty, aimless education which is not job-oriented, corruption in public life etc., are all creating undue depression in the minds of students which is resulting in wide-spread unrest and frustration.

Influence of anti-social elements, maladjusted students, influence of crime and cheap sex literature, problems of students coming from broken families, influence of romantic and crime films, social prejudices etc., are also directly or indirectly contributing to the student unrest on the college and university campuses.
It is a sad fact that politicians use young students as pawns in their political games as a result they become the victims of political exploitation.

Lack of novelty and innovation: There has been a great deal of unplanned and uncontrolled expansion of higher education with a large increase in substandard institutions, academically non-viable.

The curriculum, methodology and examination system is too rigid without any novelty/innovation. In most of the colleges, students are deprived of basic academic amenities like equipped libraries, furnished laboratories, proper playgrounds and good hostel facilities. Lack of drinking water facilities, cycle stands, urinals, lavatories proportionate to pupil strength etc., aggravate the unrest.

In India, a university degree is still the primary passport for any type of employment – general or professional. Universities are thus becoming simple degree mills, manufacturing armies of unemployed educated youth in various fields.

Viable solutions

Many a time students’ indiscipline starts from the classroom itself. Therefore the problem of indiscipline should be tackled right at the classroom level. This naturally calls for understanding the classroom management techniques. 

Classroom management: The most decisive factor in a classroom atmosphere is the teachers’ method of management. This is very essential for keeping the class attentive and to involve the students in productive independent activities. Even today, many of us view teachers’ functions in the classroom as maintaining discipline, control, keeping order, motivation, and establishing a positive attitude towards learning, among others. Newly recruited teachers often fear that they will not be able to control the class or that the students may not respect them.

Research findings of several classroom studies reveal that the teacher’s methods of dealing with discipline problems are unrelated to the frequency and seriousness of such problems. The measures adopted failed to differentiate between teachers who solved discipline problems and those who could not cope with them.

That is why it is said that successful classroom management is a matter of preventing problems and not just the ability to deal with them after they emerge.

Sustained credibility: Credibility can be established by making sure that words and actions follow the suit. If a teacher earns the respect of students then it will be easy for him/her to implement classroom management techniques. This will also help students to accept responsibility for their own behavior. When a teacher establishes fair rules and enforces them consistently, the rule breakers can get angry only with themselves. However, if the teacher lacks credibility because he or she makes empty threats or enforces the rules inconsistently, the rule breakers, who are punished, are likely to retain bitter feelings and become violent.

Student participation: Right thinking persons the world over tend to look upon student participation as a promising prophylactic against campus disturbances. Great educationists and social thinkers too have favored   the idea.
In recent years, many university students have demanded for allowing student representatives as observers on certain university bodies. Some of the teachers emphatically reject the idea as they fear that even as observers students would politicise further the already much politicized atmosphere of the universities.

Student participation does not mean permitting or bowing to student rowdyism and goondaism. It can only mean that students should take part in the process of decision making. This includes, among other things, deciding on the syllabi, new courses, teaching, examination, internal assessment, provision of facilities, discipline and proper behavior, the nature, management and control of student activities and their associations. 

The admission of students to the decision ­making process does not mean that others abdicate their judgment and responsibility. If we set the ball rolling in the right way, student participation will certainly provide healthy channels for the expression of their innate energies and potentialities. This will certainly result in a new kind of student leadership and combat campus unrest to a larger extent.

(The writer is an associate professor at the Regional Institute of Education, NCERT, Mysore.)

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