A Quest To Teach & Learn With Integrity (2)

Read part 1 of this series here

They say education is the key to success, but why aren’t they educating our girls to stand up for themselves instead of wooing them sexually? We need more than just teachers, we need leaders, mentors and role models, not morally bankrupt men who corrupt and exploit our students. If you are a good teacher, I say stand up and direct our girls and boys; advice your colleagues against these acts, don’t keep quiet – your silence is also contributing to the mess. In the words of Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

While serving as the Chair for the Press Club of the Muslim Congress High School (“Congress”), a few students had anonymously reported to the club that a teacher often asked them to deliver their assignments in a book along with a specific amount. Being the Chair of the Press Club, I made the decision to allow this news be read at Morning Devotion, especially after being instructed by our coordinator to give the broadcaster the go ahead to read the report without allowing any forms of major edit. That news was read early on Monday morning around 7:30 AM. During the reading, Approximately half of the student body shouted in favor of it saying,La true!” As I was the head of the Press Club, I was attacked by most of the staff in the school and the school’s administrators did nothing about the situation – they did not even address the news that was read. My Chemistry teacher even said to me “Teachers are all one and if you have to audacity to disgrace one person, then it means you are going against all of us.” That particular situation took away my freedom and bravery to speak up, especially as I valued my grades and was terrified of being failed.

I had a Quran teacher who did the same as the teacher in the previous paragraph; there were students who couldn’t even read the Quran well but they passed because they could afford to put in 100 LD every time they submitted their assignments. I remember wanting to mobilize friends and do reports over the news since I was a radio talkshow host, but I often get feedbacks like “You will be spoiling your school name and considering the fact that it’s a Muslim school, you will be giving people ammunition to relate it to Islam and thereby contribute to the perpetration of Islamophobia.” The truth here is, I know very well that Islam spokes against dishonesty while promoting truthfulness (Qur’an 9:119, 83:1, 4:69, etc). While one would counter that most of the school’s staff are not Muslims, but why would our RELIGIOUS instructor, who is supposed to teach us good morals, be involved in such acts? The few muslims who claim to know the scripture seem to have forgotten these verses.

Most of the time, schools’ staff use low salaries as an excuse for corruption and exploitation, but I believe it is the result of a lack of personal values and dignity for oneself. Low salary is definitely not an excuse and it should not result in sexual harassment. Teachers should start acting like teachers, not rapists. 

I recall after my graduation and before my coming to the USA, a few of my colleagues and I started a survey on academic malpractice, using basic questions like, “have you exchanged sex for grades or cash for grades?” It wasn’t a surprise that most students said yes to one or both of these questions. Students were able to answer the survey honestly because we assured their anonymity. Among the respondents was a particular story, one which happened during my time at Congress during our quarterly exams. During our exam, our Algebra instructor brought in a friend to help administer his exam. His friend saw one of the students and asked her to have an intimate relationship with him and she refused. Well, that was her crime; our instructor took pride in giving her a 60 (F) for rejecting his friend. Not a single person spoke up for her or against the injustice done to her. 

Authored by Fatu M. Kaba

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