Schools or Prisons?

Schools or Prisons?

First day at work. Headmistress assigns me duty at the staircase during the recess at a school I teach English at. Bell rings, the recess time is over and kids should return to classes.

I stand there waiting to halt any potential fights or acts of indiscipline. There is a jam on the staircase leading to classes so some girls continue talking in their circle. I look at them, smile, and think of my friends. My sweet thoughts are interrupted by the loud shriek of my headmistress screaming into my ears asking why I haven’t ask these girls to break it off and go back to classes.

Before I could tell her that they were just waiting for the block on the stairs to resolve and therefore continued talking like any normal person would, she herself marches forward and with the same shrill tone screams at them to go to their classes. The girls nod and leave. I wince and do the same.



Right at this very moment, I finally understood why we fail to produce good students who seek learning and gain wisdom from their lives the way they are supposed to. It’s because we turn their schooling into a prison sentence. Every single aspect of their 6 hours spent daily at the institution assumes them as lowly savages who need to be tamed and disciplined in every possible way to turn them into civilized beings.

The irony of the matter is, the treatment with which they expect to turn these kids from savages to self-respecting individuals is the prime cause that makes them more of that same savage in the first place. Drawing from my own experience of schooling and now seeing the young kids at the school I teach, I really believe that not just the core pedagogy, but all the rituals attached to the notion of education plays a crucial role in repelling young minds away from the joys of learning.



Let’s start with the simplest of all- the uniforms and the bags. As I stand outside my class putting my stuff in the lockers after the classes, I see a long queue of tired, sleepy, frustrated kids carrying the bags on their shoulders dragging their feet to their vans. How
does one even expect them to be excited to come to school if that’s what they are subjected to everyday for 6 hours? I can make my peace with the ugly uniforms; but there is a simple solution to the bag problem and half of the world already knows it: lockers. The teachers already have it so why can’t students?



Then, there is the issue of constant bickering and nagging to ‘walk in the line’, ‘don’t stand in the corridors’, and countless other similar pronouncements made copiously every day. I know most people would find this argument invalid on the basis such as ‘there needs to be a certain decorum in school’, or the classic ‘rules are made for our own good’; but here’s the thing: there’s something about these wonderful rules which is not working because despite all the training in discipline and propriety given at school, our kids are getting more rebellious and boisterous than ever.



My argument is simple: the rules are fine, there is nothing wrong with having some code of conduct established in an institute of formal education; but the problem lies in the implementation of these rules.



When you assume all teenagers to be devoid of any modicum of pride and self-respect and treat them like a trainer treats a wild animal in order to domesticate it, you mis-assume the most fundamental rule of human interaction: what you give is what you get.



If you cannot treat the young adults with respect and worth, then don’t be surprised when they rebel and not study for their exams or indulge in questionable habits.

Now, if you are thinking that I am talking like that because I didn’t have to deal with them, then you are wrong. I have just started teaching and from day one, I resolved to myself that I won’t treat my kids the way my teachers treated me. I talk to them with respect even when it’s the hardest thing on earth; even when they talk while I am teaching or stand in the corridors when I have entered the class, I don’t thrash their egos.



I simply assert myself in a manner that I would like to be addressed in if they were in that place. And it works, it really does. When the kids know that you respect them as human beings and understand them, they treat you with more civility and better, they want to attend your classes and learn from you. In the end, isn’t that all that matters?

Laila Rajani

a novice researcher and teaches Sociology. She has a bachelor's degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Lahore University of Management Sciences.

  • Qureshi

    I wish all the teachers in this world start practicing that. :)

    • NASAH (USA)

      I thought you were about to say — I wish all the teachers in this world were this good tempered and that good looking.

  • Anonymous

    Makes lot of sense.

  • Gohar

    Nice analysis. But it also depends on the circumstances, some time kids need discipline too and at other times we need to be flexible or friendly with them. Dealing with kids specially those who have behavioral issues never been easy. It is often the case that next generation always smarter than the former. Respect the kids as long as they are in the limits set by the authority, that authority may be the school or parents otherwise time would come that kids won’t respect the orders of the authority.

  • M.Saeed

    All this Big-Big English trickles down to the simple fact that, there is an urgent need for teachers to teach themselves first in manners before trying to teach and inculcate good manners in their pupils

  • Farooq Hashmi

    In the concluding paragraph the writer has hit the nail on the head through accentuating the point that teachers should treat their students with respect. Schools in Pakistan present the scene of the torture-cells where the students of tender age are treated worse than the hardened criminals. The very word,’school’ forms the image of a place where the kids receive their intellectual nourishment through their preceptors.Their teachers are their roll-models. But unfortunately,things are the other way round in Pakistan.Teachers, both in the boys’ and the girls’ schools, are the reminiscent of the task-masters of the ancient times, who used to punish the galley-slaves with whips.The teachers in the Pakistani schools probably,still punish the students in the same manner. The only difference is that the task-masters of the olden days used to flog the galley slaves with the cat-of-nine-tails, the modern-day task-masters,commonly known as “teachers”, torment the kid-students, with canes and fists.Besides, volleys of filthy curses is an addition of insult to injury. The mal-treatment of the students administers a stupendous blow to their self-dignity of the student, resulting in loss of self- confidence. The loss of self-confidence gives birth to inferiority complex_____ the underlying cause of failure in life in a number of cases.
    The sadistic mentality of Pakistani school-teachers is a product of the prevailing the eco-social condition of the country. In most of the cases, economic difficulties give a start to the domestic fights between the working couples,and if either of the spouses happens to be a teacher,his or her anger,accompanies him or her to the school where it befalls the poor students, in the form of wrath.In USA, there is no concept of a teacher physically or mentally abusing a student. Should an ill-fated teacher lay his or her wrathful hand on a student, he or she will have to serve time in the slammer.

  • Farooq Hashmi

    Dr.NASAH, …….. meaning thereby the female teachers lack in the knowledge of disciplining the “rogue and unruly STUDENTS” on psychological lines.

    • NASAH (USA)

      Hashmi sb please be nice to women teachers — they work very hard against some very rocky odds — and they don’t get paid enough for their impossible tasks of turning ADHD monkeys into book cramming human worms.