Our schools and those Fascist spot-checks

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

JUNE 27 — One of the time-honoured traditions of the Malaysian public education system is this thing known as the “spot-check.”

This is when, about once a month, prefects and the disciplinary teacher will go from class to class confiscating anything and everything they deem “illegal” under the sun.

Students are commanded to stand up and move away from their desks and bags. The prefects would then do a thorough search of each and every student’s belongings and possessions as if they were looking for stolen royal diamonds.

Now for the bad news.

The list of things confiscated range from pencil sharpeners (those dangerous devices whose only purpose is to produce weapons of war known as pencils) to scissors (potential vehicles of manslaughter) to hair-bands and wrist-bands (which don’t meet school regulation colours and thus are verboten) to hair-gel (which students include as part of their plot start a riot) to key-chains (which secretly contain heroin perhaps) and, of course, that most devious of items: The phone.

It doesn’t matter if students don’t even turn the phone on during school hours. It doesn’t matter if some (or many?) students use public transportation to school and thus require a phone to contact their parents en route. It doesn’t matter if it’s a crazy-cheap device meant merely for phone calls.

All this is irrelevant.

Next question: How does a student get back his or her phone?

Well, he/she has to go to the school office, fill up a form and if lucky the phone will be returned on the spot. If not, a parent has to go all the way to school the next day to retrieve it.

After which, most likely, the student will continue bringing the phone to school (especially if he continues to use public transportation) where it will most likely get confiscated again.

Are spot-checks supposed to help with learning in a broad sense? — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Are spot-checks supposed to help with learning in a broad sense? — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Are spot-checks supposed to help with learning in a broad sense? — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Why do our schools do this? What is the rationale and purpose of these Fascist-like searches which treat every student as a “criminal” first then, later, effectively STEAL things from them?

Yes, yes. yes, I know there are such things as school rules. But is every parent or student supposed to know these rules, without which the child has his/her slightly longer than usual scissors taken away by force? Are these rules even logical?

How does having a wrist band or a key-chain cause trouble? Are the school’s leaders afraid that students will fight over these things? Seriously?

Is it about uniformity and conformity then? Do we honestly believe that? So, for the sake of appearing “the same”, let’s subject teenagers to having their property taken from them because, oh, a green watch threatens to unravel the universe of equality that is our public schools?

What kind of message are we sending?

This may sound a bit dramatic, but spot-checks look like mass thefts by any other name. I mean, where do we draw the line and realise, in fact, that we are teaching our prefects — supposedly the “cream of the crop” among students — to take things away from innocent people without their consent?

Are these spot-checks supposed to help with learning in a broad sense?

If so then the message appears to be that, uh, learning is best done in the absence of anything which promotes individuality.

Finally, notice that many private schools use iPads and tablets in class...yet our public schools are taking phones away from students.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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