APRIL 6 — Last week’s furore over a video of a lecturer being verbally abusive was interesting as there were quite a few voices speaking up for the lecturer, many of them being her own students.

I found it appalling that her former students confirmed that the video did not show anything but how the lecturer is normally.

They admitted she was verbally abusive, had a tendency to aim projectiles at them, and yet they praised her for being a “good” lecturer and that her actions prepared them for the realities of life.

Oh sweet summer children, how naive can you be?

If a lecturer pulled that s*it in a Western university, police would be called or at the very least, the university board would call for administrative leave pending a full investigation.

Instead, in Malaysia, it seemed the university as well as its students were bending themselves backwards to defend said lecturer’s actions and praising her for again being a “good” lecturer.

What actual hellscape are we creating that a screaming woman, risking physical harm to her students, belittling them at every possible opportunity is considered an exemplary educator?

In that case why bother with actual school when we can just enrol our tots into military boot camp, another place where shouting, insults and assault are very much normalised?

Ask every single student in Malaysia and I am sure they will know of at least one educator who has either physically or verbally caused them harm.

If you have to hit or scream at a child to teach them something, you are a terrible teacher.

Form Five students get ready to sit for their SPM examination at SMK Seksyen 7 in Shah Alam March 2, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Form Five students get ready to sit for their SPM examination at SMK Seksyen 7 in Shah Alam March 2, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

There is no school lesson that warrants unnecessary pain.

This notion that young people need to experience, directly, life’s hard knocks in the form of loud voices and physical harm is simply barbaric.

I remember one of my early primary school maths teachers who had a reputation for shrieking at her students and then twisting their ears until they were bright red.

I also remember one day when she sat and tearfully justified her actions to us, eight-year-olds, saying it was for our own good.

What I don’t remember is anything she taught me in school because all I can recall was her inability to control her temper.

Maybe I was a precocious little snot but even then, I never thought it justified for a teacher to hurt a student. It filled me with horror then, it fills me with horror now.

That lecturer’s former students arguing that her abuse was acceptable and helped them is sheer Stockholm Syndrome. 

It doesn’t help them to deal with future abuse; the correct reaction to someone abusing you is to make them stop.

Yet this indoctrination, this training from young to accept abuse in all its forms make our youth biddable when they should be outraged, meek when they should be speaking up.

It explains a lot about our society. This fear of defending ourselves and subjecting ourselves to wrong actions is so ingrained that even when politicians behave badly, we excuse what they do.

We blindly accept their abuse of their power and status, the way we accept the abuse from our teachers and our bosses.

The M in Malaysian should not stand for meek.

I hope that our young people learn not just that it’s OK not to be OK, but that it is OK to say abuse is not and never OK, no matter who the abuser is.

It’s a lesson not just for them, but for all the Malaysians who have grown up with generational trauma inherited from our families, our teachers, our employers.

We shouldn’t have to stand for abuse when we should instead be standing up for ourselves even in a society, and country that strives so hard to persuade us not to.

* This is the personal view of the columnist.