Looking Beyond Surveillance: Trust and Sense of Community in Education


The Delhi Government has decided to install surveillance cameras in classrooms across state-run schools. Will such a move ensure safety or will it defeat the very purpose of a meaningful education?

Kabir The New Leam

In the modern civilization we learn to accept the tools and mechanisms of surveillance to be natural and the due cost that we must pay in order to progress and develop. The mechanisms become such an integral component of our lives that we begin to see their importance and even tend to miss them when they disappear or fail for some technical reason. In other words, the modern society often becomes a society that is premised on fear and surveillance, on mistrust and doubt- we tend to believe that to sustain the society and ensure its safety; we have to install surveillance systems.

CCTV camera in classroom

We doubt others and are doubted upon by others, we look at all others as criminals and others see us as criminals in turn. This foundation of society that is made out of doubt, fear and mistrust gives birth to a society that is naturally fond of surveillance and takes pride in it.  If surveillance resolved all the problems of society, if it erased crime and violence and the corrected the evils in society automatically – then we would have already become a peaceful society. Ironically, this has not been the case.

In our own country we see how men at toll booths are murdered despite the installation of cameras, how children get raped and murdered in educational institutions which boast of surveillance, banks and ATMs are looted, people are killed, molested and robbed on airports and railway platforms under high surveillance mechanisms. It is true that today unlike in earlier times, we immediately know who committed a certain crime because of the fact that it is recorded. 

However what we must understand is that surveillance does not ensure morality or the restoration of ethics. And for the society to become better, we must instill inner discipline and values. So when today the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr Kejriwal promised to install CCTV cameras in all government school classrooms and allow parents constant access to footage in order to keep an eye on their children- it is only a repercussion of the larger crisis in society. Right from the vulnerable age the child lives in a society where everybody is seen as suspect, where doubt is naturalised and trust is criminalised, the child is told perpetually that he lives among criminals in a jungle like situation.

What kind of values will such a child grow up with? Education should act like a catalyst for the transformation of the raw and instinctive to the mature and sensitive mind of the learner, it should cultivate values of social responsibility and humanity. Today the naturalisation of surveillance and the impact it will have on the young generation needs to be looked at critical. I feel the very purpose of education is defeated if our schools cannot be trusting communities where positive human values are nourished.

You may give a hundred arguments why in a world like that of today it is an urgent need  and how it will help to control crime- but I only want to ask you who really is responsible for the mess that we are in today? If schools as centres of learning teach us to doubt and see others as potential criminals, what kind of society will we make for ourselves? It is urgent that as educators, guardians and sensitive people we give this critical question a sincere thought before it is too late.


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