These days student strikes are a common occurrence and we hear news coming from all provinces and universities of strikes in colleges and sometimes even in schools, of various duration. In view of the phenomenon has become so common, especially of late, it behooves us to inquire carefully and searchingly into the causes of these commotions and as to whether they can be justified in any circumstances. The main cause that sets them going is some grievance, real or imaginary, against the staff or the management of an institution.
Let us say at the outset that, unjustified though most students’ strikes are, in some rare cases they are justified and arise out of some gross act of mismanagement of affairs or some injustice. One really does not know what to advise the students to do in the case where the authorities may be irresponsible or despotic and ride rough-shod over the very reasonable demands made by the students. But not with standing these rare cases, which are so rare really as to be negligible, the fact remains that most strikes are unnecessary.
Very often, however, in our students’ strikes it is seen that they are brought about by professional students leaders, whether students of a college or outsiders, to gain notoriety and to establish their leadership. Sometimes they have some private grievance against an institution or someone of its members and are on the look-out for some minor incident to inflame, the student mind. There is then free talk of students’ ‘rights and of organization and a ‘struggle.’
The parents of the students should strictly warn their wards against being used and led by any such people for purposes of this kind.
The occurrence of strikes is based upon a misapprehension of the relations that subsist between the students and their teachers. Fundamentally, the interests of the teachers and their students do not anywhere clash. It is the teachers’ and the parents’ common interest to see that the students behave well, study hard, keep healthy and make good progress. On a long view, however, the students may resent any necessary curtailments of their liberty, that is the students’ interest too. Students must be sympathetic and try to understand the difficulties of those who are carrying on the work of education in our country. Our political leaders have all along disapproved of students going on strikes, for they do so much harm to the peaceful progress of educational and intellectual activity in the country.
Students are only too apt to regard strikes as a recreation and a pastime, something which is exciting for the sake of its thrill. That is a foolish and irresponsible attitude. They cause great harm. Studies are neglected, results deteriorate and discipline, without which no institution can be run, is undermined. The relations between the students and their teachers get strained so that no useful give-and-take is possible in that atmosphere.
There are no special students’ rights that the teachers are likely to usurp and in order to protect which strikes may be necessary, like the labourers’ strikes for more wages and shorter hours of work. The only ‘rights of the students are to be taught honestly and well, get opportunities for intellectual and moral development, and to be well looked after. These things the teachers have never been known not to concede. If at all the teachers fail to train the students to their best satisfaction, it is because they are helpless victims of the economic system that imposes so many limitations on them.