THE SICKENING details of the misconduct of a teacher at the Tranquillity Government Primary School must force authorities to pause and reassess whether the system of vetting and recruitment is working properly. It’s alarming to read of the alleged conduct of this teacher but at the same time it has to be considered how such conduct, if substantiated by probes, could have escaped the authorities for so long at both the school and elsewhere.
According to accounts given to this newspaper, children had made several complaints, almost every day, but to no avail. One mother even told this newspaper several complaints were made to a school official and nothing was done to assist the children. In fact, at a meeting parents were told children often lied.
“I too would have said the children lie until they took action into their own hands and were brave enough to expose her,” said the mother.
Thus, it seems, the individuals who acted most responsibly in this situation turned out to be the smallest people in the room. For once, this is an instance of modern technology doing good and not merely causing disruption.
Stomach-churning is the only way to describe what has emerged thus far. Racist and classist comments, crude and inappropriate remarks, bizarre preaching appear to be just the tip of the iceberg. In one remark, the teacher urged children to commit suicide.
The police, the Children’s Authority, the Ministry of Education and the Teaching Service Commission must conduct full probes and subject this individual to the full brunt of the law. It is one thing to set a poor example to children, it is another to harm them.
We welcome the indications this week that the teacher will be suspended. That’s the only rational course of action to protect the interest of the students pending further investigation. However, the authorities must consider whether the nature of the offence warrants a more permanent resolution.
Students should be exposed to an environment in which they can be nurtured and can feel safe. Unstable personalities are not conducive to such. Which begs the questions: Is the State doing enough to ensure the right kind of person becomes a teacher? What type of screening is being undertaken at the recruitment stage? Are teachers subject to ongoing assessments which might pick up disturbing trends in their behaviour? Is there adequate monitoring of the functioning of teachers at the school level?
While children make frivolous complaints all the time, what controls and methods can be used to more efficiently test allegations without harming the reputations of professionals and the interests of the children? It is ironic that the Tranquillity Primary School, whose name was once associated with famous students like VS Naipaul, is today in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The situation however is far from tranquil.