Protect our teachers

For those who have been living under a rock over the past 48 hours, a teacher was stabbed to death in the classroom of a private school in Chennai. Her attacker was a 15-year-old student who was reportedly upset at being repeatedly reprimanded for not doing well in studies.

For those who read about the incident and dismissed it, a related story: Not long ago, a group of political activists in Mumbai attacked a school principal and teachers, to ensure that they followed norms set down for safety in school buses. On December 17, 2011, 30 men assaulted a director at Bangalore University because they were unhappy about his decision to not hold exams in centres with a history of malpractice. And, on January 14 this year, a man attacked the assistant headmaster of a Kolkata school for not promoting students who had failed their final exams.

There are a hundred other instances of teachers attacked, their faces blackened by 'activists' of all kinds, in retribution for perceived wrongdoings attributed to them. Given the fact that these cases almost never lead to more than a few warnings by the police, it's easy to see why a student murdering his teacher should disappear from newspapers and TV channels within a week.

Stories like these ought to cause outrage though, irrespective of who the attackers are -- teenagers nursing grudges or older folk desperate for political mileage. Teachers are attacked because they are soft targets. What they do isn't perceived to be as important as, say, managing a company, which may be why they rarely get the kind of protection they deserve.

We need to remind ourselves of what the Roman philosopher Cicero pointed out: 'What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state, than that of the man who instructs the rising generation?'

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