Tradition, means the passing of a custom or belief from generation to generation. This does not necessarily mean all traditions are great, to be proud of or even worthy. Some are bound to a time frame and as humankind evolves they are best forgotten. Thereby, common sense makes such traditions obsolete. Any tradition that brings harm to humankind is not worthy of emulation. It is disturbing that elitism can blind some from being decent and humane.
So, what of ragging in universities and schools? Is ragging a tradition or simply a practice to show one upmanship? Where does one draw the line? The question arises whether it should be allowed at all. The answer lies not in the simple questions posed above. It does not, unlike in a court of law require a simple “yes” or “no” answer. It depends on how decent the perpetrator of a rag is, or is not. That unfortunately is reality. The victim has no choice but to endure and in some instances, to preserve tradition, hold his/her tongue.
With the passage of time many an old tradition has outlived it’s purpose in society. Primeval conduct is looked down upon by the modern, decent human being. There were times when a lad was disciplined in school be it through six of the best or a proper tongue lashing by the principal, receiving more of the same at his abode, by his parents. They are of days gone by. It is oft heard that some parents are in control and do interfere into children’s activities in school. This is so, be it in the class room or out on the field of sport. All is well and good provided the right message is being imparted to the young. The best and deserving must be selected and parents should have no voice in such activity.
Discipline first, discipline second and discipline should be third in our schools and universities. Tradition cannot override nor be a cover for inhuman behaviour. No parent will be doing a favour to their offspring by glossing over or condoning actions that need corrective measures or punishment. It’s a lesson well understood and learnt for the future. No school nor university should turn a blind eye to such deplorable and archaic conduct either. That being said what of the victim? Rape for example, is not reported as the victim ends up at the butt end of criticism. This is the society we have created.
Similarly the recent reporting of ragging that went on at S. Thomas’ was to be kept away from prying eyes as an internal matter. That the Warden, in this instance took corrective action was to be of no concern to the public? What of those boys who are aspiring to be prefects in the future? Would their parents be like the proverbial ostrich and hope that nothing would happen “to my boy” and therefore turn a blind eye?
S. Thomas’ no doubt counts as an institution with many an achievement. It has produced many men of eminence and learning over the years and continues to do so. None of them will condone acts of intimidation or assault under the cover of tradition or ragging. Therein lies the difference between blind adherence and educated response. Many an educated Thomian has expressed such a sentiment and they are a pride to their Alma Mater. And rightfully so. To sweep such acts under the carpet whether corrective measures were taken or not does not send the message loud and clear to the rest of the flock.
We are in the midst of sweeping changes blowing across the Middle East. After many years of repression by authoritarian rulers without scant regard for their subjects, the tide is turning in this region. These movements are led by young and educated youth who yearn to be under benevolent leaders in order that they benefit from democracy as it should be practised. Repression will not last whether it be a tradition or a custom.
Whether ragging should be allowed in schools of learning or not is a debate that will never be resolved. To touch another’s person is crossing the line and there should be no argument in that. Time is with us to stop saying “boys will be boys.” The need of today is to turn boys into men of honour. S. Thomas’ should lead the way.
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