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Hating school!
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 22 - 05 - 2017

We all have seen the unfortunate incident, not the first one and most likely not the last, of a group of elementary school students tearing up their school textbooks after the end of the school year and throwing them into the street. In the video clip that widely circulated on social media there was a sea of books and pages on the street, with students from a particular school dancing in joy. Acting swiftly, the Minister of Education immediately relieved the school principal from his post. This incident was widely condemned by people and raised the question of why such behavior is repeated every year. In addition, the question was once again asked: Why do our students hate school?
As I said, this was not the first incident of its kind and most likely, unfortunately, it will not be the last. Such juvenile behavior has been repeated every year even during my time in middle school and high school. Showing disrespect for textbooks after examinations are over is the only way a student can express his hatred for his school.
However, this mode of disrespect has escalated recently to another level. Now we see students writing graffiti on school walls, damaging school utilities and equipment, and worst of all, beating their own teachers. Sadly, today, we have teachers in high school who fear their students.
How can we curb this growing phenomenon? Where does the responsibility lie in shaping and molding our youth? Some might say that this should start from home, and that school is just an extension of home, and families should be involved in combating such phenomena.
Well, let me say here that such misbehavior exists at the family level, as well. Families that go out for a picnic in a public place leave the whole area trashed with their garbage. In this, parents and elders are also culpable. Let's look at the behavior of some fathers when they drive recklessly on our roads showing disrespect for traffic laws with their children inside the car. Some parents show disrespect for other people and treat them badly, such as domestic help, drivers or cleaning workers and they do this in front of their children.
When elders show such disrespect and entitlement, how can we expect their children to respect others and respect institutions and public property? All these things leave a deep imprint on the psyche of children and affect their behavior. They grow up with these bad principles and values and carry them with them throughout their lives.
The worrying fact is that there is a growing phenomenon of students expressing their hatred for school and learning in many different ways. This is extremely dangerous, especially as good values, principles and traditions need to be instilled in our students at a very tender age.
We should also ask what schools have done to make the learning environment more attractive and interesting to our students. We have to admit that the condition of some of our schools may encourage negative behavior. Despite the fact that the government is spending a significant amount on schools, some buildings are still rented and the cramped physical environment they provide is depressing, and this, of course, has a negative effect on students. The condition of some of these schools encourages students to cut classes and escape from school, which happens on many occasions. If our students cannot find school to be an environment for innovation and excellence, then how do we expect them to attend, leave alone excel in their studies? We should ask why our schools are no fun at all.
In America, where I finished my studies, students pay for their textbooks. They also have the option of reselling them again after the end of the semester at a lower price. I have rarely seen students throwing their books in the garbage or tearing up textbooks throwing the pages into the street. One major factor is that our students, who get these textbooks for free, do not know or appreciate the millions of riyals that are spent on printing and distributing these books. When there is something given for free, the recipients simply do not care. During my time in high school, in order to receive the certificate at the end of a school year, the rule was that students must return all of their textbooks in good condition to the school administration. That solved the problem of showing disrespect for textbooks.
To get rid of this problem once and for all, we need to build the student himself. There are many great examples of countries that have innovated their schools and curriculum. Prominent Saudi TV personality, Ahmad Al-Shugairi, has produced many television programs on schools when he visited Japan and South Korea. One can only view the schools there and feel sorry or our younger generation. I wonder if officials in the Ministry of Education have watched any of these programs. If they have, then what have they done about it? Have these programs impacted them in such a way that they are planning to make changes in the future? Have they been inspired to build innovation into the school curriculum in pursuit of excellence?
It is evident from the actions of students that the situation is yet to change. Urgent steps need to be taken to make the learning environment in our schools one of innovation and excellence. But until that time, we should get schools and parents to work in concert to shape a better future for our youth.
The writer can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng

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