The man who taught us to be afraid

Published: November 24, 2010
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The teacher said he was like a 'father' to his students.

Learning that adults aren’t always as virtuous as we expect them to be is a rite of passage. One teacher exemplified this lesson, presenting himself as a patriarch. He told his students they were like his children and he would lecture them on morals. His tarnished reputation preceded him and this was his way of overcompensating.

One girl dropped his class because he made her uncomfortable. When she asked a question he would come around and “accidentally” brush his hand against her. He’d pick up a book, place it on a lap and write with one hand resting on a thigh. He made puerile jokes and talked about girls from another school because “they ruined his Hajj” with their un-Islamic clothes. Someone joked that it didn‘t seem that way when he was with them- then he’d grin like the Cheshire cat.

He berated students for not asking questions yet when they did, he would rage at their ignorance. For boys, the punishment for getting an answer wrong was a forceful blow against the length of the spine. If this was a country with a legitimate justice system, he’d be in jail for that alone, after paying their chiropractor bills.

The girls became tired of the stressful situation so one day they finally made a complaint. They went in a group because they had heard the stories of girls being expelled for telling the truth.

In the next class he was furious, cheeks flaming red. He didn’t teach that day. He ranted that he had been like a father to the students who had betrayed him. Everyone had an alibi, “It wasn’t me sir” or “Sir I was out of town”. One girl hadn‘t been with the rest at the time of the complaint, so she didn‘t speak out.

“Was it you?” he asked.

It should have been her. This is the teacher who repeatedly asked her to go to his house for private lessons. After she didn’t reply, because she was in the middle of an exam, he asked her why. Her hair was tied up so it wouldn’t catch on fire from a Bunsen burner; he took the opportunity to grab her neck. When he left she was enraged; so livid that she couldn’t even register whatever he was hissing into her ear. There were a dozen other students in that room. No one said anything, paralysed by fear of repercussion.

Every single student had reason to file a complaint, but he had reason to believe it was her. On a day that she was absent, he griped to the class that she was lazy. He slashed her grade by 40% and said it was because the result wasn’t accurate since she must have studied from past papers. He then went to the coordinator to get the girl made a private candidate because her grades were abysmally low.

After she graduated with a 95 per cent, she went back to the school to speak to the administration and told a coordinator everything. A couple of months later the coordinator told her that they were in a bind – they couldn’t find a new teacher and it was above her power. The administration brushed this aside even though all the girls had collectively made a complaint long before she did.

This man still teaches in about half a dozen institutions, places we consider elite. Places that your children or your sister possibly attends. No one wants to fire him because his name draws applicants. They decided to tolerate his behaviour even though it the students who have to bear it.

There is no doubt that there are students right now who are still going through all of the above, at the hands of the same man. When will the time come that one succeeds in ending his tyranny?

amna.mela

Amna Mela

A student at Allama Iqbal Medical College whose interests include literature, journalism, pop culture, politics, fashion, human rights, food and travel.

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