My new semester’s schedule gave me a couple of hours free in the morning, so I decided to visit my old school just to freshen some memories. 10 years have passed since I last saw Beaconhouse Primary Branch Rawalpindi. Although I have been living in the same city, I hardly bothered visiting the school before I realized I should be refreshing those fading memories.
The school has changed, physically. I could never imagine entering into my own school passing through levels of security beyond pragmatism. Here’s what happened: walking toward the school gate was my smiling face, which soon turned pale when a guard slammed shut the door a few feet away. A tiny window was opened and a hand came out, asking for my identity card. A provided mine. One of the security guards went into the school premises, showed the head mistress my ID and got permission to let me in. I walked in, refreshing my memories with views I could hardly forget. I was escorted to the HM’s office; sitting right there was Ma’am Rizwana Jafferi, my English teacher from the 4th grade. I was welcomed wholeheartedly and had a long discussion with the HM.
After discussing all the old memories, I asked about her views on the evolution of student behavior over the years. “The students have become aggressive now,” she replied instantly. According to her, a major reason was the violence going on around them in the country. “We have tried our best to hide those barbed wires on the walls with vine plants,” she said helplessly. “These security measures we have made have an impact on the students; and this is because parents have become increasingly overprotective too,” said Mrs. Rizwana Jafferi. A special security room also has been made for surveillance through CCTV cameras.
She called a school attendant to the room, a face I could slightly remember from a decade ago. I was escorted by him to have a visit of the school. Some teachers were the same, and many were new. I was astonished that the old teachers could recognize me as one of their students, not to mention their memories were not strong enough to remember my name.
I met Mr. Saud, the sports teacher. Had a great chat on sports; but one thing couldn’t simply lose my attention. “Now even the children of 5th grade are extremely poor in sports; back in your time, a 3rd grader would play sixes in cricket,” he said. I asked the reason and I could not imagine the reply. “Parents do not allow kids to play in the street now; they are afraid of the kid’s security due to poor law and order situation,” he said. “Their hand coordination is down to zero,” he added, showing a kid hold the cricket bad in a weird way. I asked a few kids about their home routine, none of them plays soccer or cricket in the street. However, their parents allow them to play multiplayer video games with friends inside the house. Mr. Saud revealed: I as a parent do the same too.
Since I was being escorted, I could take a few pictures of my school freely. As soon as I exited the gate, the guard didn’t allow me to grab a snap of the parking area and the school billboard. Same clichéd answer: security reasons.
There is now a specific area, till where the parents have access to come at pack-up time. Back in my days, parents even used to come to classes, talk to teachers and kids around and enjoy the aura of little brains. There are speakers installed all over the school now, the names of students are called by a school attendant and they are supposed to walk to the main gate.
There are now periodic security drills for the little fellows, giving them a fear of guns and bloodshed, as they watch on TV. “Even the sports day does not go that enthusiastically these days”, says Ma’am Rizwana, adding to the explanation. Just for a comparison, back in my days, on the sports day, there used to be a segment of artificial gunning with fake crackers. If they try that today, there would be total chaos and everyone would think there is a sudden terrorist attack.
The school has tried its level best to introduce good artwork, soft-boards and posters for students to stay distracted from the high security measures. But to my judgment, it would not eliminate the ‘feel’ of fear around the premises.
The current law and order situation of Pakistan has impacts lasting over the next whole century. Little kids cannot imagine a prosperous country these days; it is like a fairy to them that does not exist. They want answers to anomalies and ironic situations of corruption and bad governance and law enforcement. Have we ever thought what are we feeding them with? Fear of the unjust? If yes, they may simply become unjust to overcome the fear. Think over it, friends.