Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Struggling learners are those innocent souls who are not only continuously ignored and ridiculed but also labeled as hopeless, lazy, incompetent, and unteachable by their teachers. If you are unlucky and come across such a situation and do not get moral support and encouragement from the teacher your confidence shatters forever. Unfortunately, the schooling system is woven around dealing with the normal students, it cannot cater to the needs of the ones who are either struggling or extraordinarily sharp. My heart cries when I see a student standing in front of her teacher confessing, “Miss yaad nhi.” (teacher, I don’t remember). As the sentence comes to end or even in the middle of the sentence the teacher starts shouting. As a habit they say “Yaad Nhi tha to school ku ai ghr me beth k apni amma ko brten dhulwati…” (if you don’t remember the lesson why are in school, go and wash dishes for your mother), and the terrified student holding back her tears, clutching her textbook in her shivering hands tries to grab her seat as she may not stand the humiliation. Sometimes, the class fellows add to the agony by making faces at her.

I just would like to share my experience of how I was able to make a change in a struggling students’ life. It is a story of the time when I was teaching in a small private school. Two boys showing leaving certificates from a well-known private school approached our school for admission in class VI. The reason for leaving the previous school as mentioned in their report was the lack of learning skills and spreading of violence in the school. On the contrary, to the report, they appeared calm and collected by their looks.  Soon I found out that they did not want to fight anyone else. They were fighting with themselves and with their frustration. This frustration was created in them by their teachers who have not only ignored their individual needs but have labeled them as rebellious. I took the challenge, I gave them attention, and tried to win their trust. Whenever students teased them, I used to resolve their matters by supporting them. It was, however, true that their learning skills did not match their chronological age.  I started teaching them basic language and math skills and gradually took them to grade V level. Now I think I only filled those gaps that were created by their teachers by keeping them unaddressed and by not treating them they deserved. I trusted them and they trusted me, as I helped them to polish their learning skills. After one year’s rigorous efforts they started to grow not only in the subject matters but in their confidence levels. They passed out matriculation without much struggle. After that, they left the school and we lost contact.

After a few years, one of the students Bilawal Pirzada visited me at my home. He had a box of sweets in his hand which he handed over to me and I could see the sense of accomplishment in his eyes.  He told me that he has got district top in Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) entry test. It was such a pleasant surprise and it was my turn to hold back my tears of pleasure. 

Years passed and one day I got a Facebook friend request from him.  He was the vice president of the Pakistan software house and a software Engineer. It was a big achievement for him and me, as it was a sense of satisfaction that could help him achieve who he was capable of. We need to think about how many students are we destroying in every class every year by depriving them of their progress because of our ignorance. We need to remained ourselves that all children can learn, it is the teacher who does not have the ability to teach all students.  On that day I understood the meaning of the quote by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”. Let the teacher in us believe in the potential of the children and make it our moral and professional obligation to teach all children who turn to us for learning.

By Masooma Khushik.

The writer is a primary school teacher in district Thatha, Sindh.

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