This is what I learnt from an abusive and toxic teacher.

Girl sitting on a school desk looking out of the window
A child can become exhausted when education becomes difficult. Learning should excite, motivate and inspire.

What a toxic learning environment really feels like, how education felt like torture.

Education should be loves and should instill passion and inspiration into a child.

During my schooling years, I was quite a difficult child to work with.

That even, in eastern Africa (Tanzania). This is a place where there was no such thing as learning difficulty.

The only way to get a mathematical formula into a child’s head would be to make them do the following:

1. Repeat the exercise over and over again.

2. Take a test.

3. Beat the living day light out of them for getting it wrong.

With that understanding, you can see how someone with learning difficulty or someone who grasps things a little slower, the chance of getting it wrong is a lot higher.

Consequently, this would mean more beatings.

Rather than focusing on the technique of teaching, students are forced to adopt a singular way of learning.

Any child who doesn’t fit that narrative, would get bruises instead of tailored support.

So this is was how studying or education worked was given in that place.

Why extra tutoring was important at the time.

Almost middle all class students, would engage in extra tutoring after school. This was to hopefully boost their grades, receive additional learning support outside school time.

Parents had been working and quite frankly didn’t have the time nor interest in teaching their children.

They would send their kids to the most popular tutor and popular does not in any way mean best.

Parents didn’t want to deal with the stress of teaching their child, so just outsource it to a teacher they would have thought.

Perhaps the blame for bad grades would go to their tutor instead, not sure.

I just feel that some sense of responsibility and accountability needs to be there regarding education within that region.

To give you an example, here’s what I went through

I used to attend tutoring sessions with this one particular teacher. It was complete horror, to say the least.

Because I have so much to say about this, let me break it down for you.

Let start with the teaching style, which was clearly flawed.

Their teaching style did not in any way consider the feelings of the child, which is actually a big part of learning and development.

For example I had to memorize the times tables which were difficult for me at the time.

I was given a test, and I was damned if I got anything wrong.

I was either given the cane on the palm of the hands or the thighs.

However, there was something much worse, i was told to remove my clothes (apart from the underwear) and study in that state for the remainder of the session.

One would think it would stop there, but no.

This teacher would make me go home like that, luckily, I had a driver who would take me home.

The next session I would collect my clothes that I left there the previous session.

Controlled by fear.

The whole time in the session, more than even learning, I was basically controlled by fear.

In fact I felt paralyzed by it, this really came as a distraction to my learning.

Rather than focusing on mastering the techniques, I would focus on how not to get it wrong.

Making mistakes was seen as being incompetent, yet the reality is that mistakes are how we learn.

You make a mistake, you get corrected with the proper technique, keep practicing and eventually you get it. This is what healthy learning environment looks like, with fear removed form the equation.

Fear really disrupts learning, because a child cannot possibly think logically, and problem solve in a state of fear.

It’s not because they are incompetent in learning, but just that they have yet to find a technique that actually works.

Once they do, learning becomes joyful. Most importantly, effortless.

Once the foundations are set in place, everything becomes easier, its all about the technique.

“Fear can discourage a child from learning, associating fear with education can be detrimental for development”. Says my aunt with a strong background in teaching youngsters.

Turning each other in

Seeing a fellow student being punished was somehow joyful, a sense of accomplishment even.

This is something that would happen quite commonly.

Other students would weirdly take pride that they would turn someone in for not doing something they were supposed to. At least not to the expected standard.

From my understand the fact that could get another student in trouble seems to be entertaining for them.

For example, if you were taking notes in class and miss a couple lines because you weren’t fast enough, someone would notice that.

Both of you would go to that same tuition teacher after school, one would say that the other didn’t complete all the notes. The kid would get a beating.

All because of the fact that he didn’t complete all of the notes. Which is complete foolishness, because the teacher was simply copying off the text book. That kid could easily refer to that text book for completion.

But no, if you got all the notes down, you were fine. Learning the actual material is completely ignored.

There was no cooperation, understanding or collaboration between students. It all about who could turn who in.

It was just the colors of fear and revenge mixed together, it doesn’t product a very pretty picture does it.

Joy in seeing others in despair.

I clearly recall one instance where, I had just been punished pretty badly.

I had actually been pointed and laughed at by the tutors son. At that point, I think I understood.

More than punishing children for not doing their so-called homework or meeting an expectation. It was clear they were being punished simply for entertainment.

Karma catches up

Eventually parents catch up and would confront the tutor for what they were doing.

However, the reality was that most parent would still send their child over to them.

I would really question how their child actually benefited from that, particularly with context to healthy learning development.

What’s funny is, she would only teach early primary children.

Because she knows good and well, that if she did that to older kids, she would get the taste of her own medicine. 

That much I can guarantee.

How my education changed when moving to the UK

There was a huge contrast, when I moved to the UK.

There certainly were no physical punishment and but detentions.

One thing I really appreciate about learning in the UK, is the fact that teacher actually had good techniques.

Amazing support

What’s even more special was the fact that, even in children with learning disabilities, there was some hope.

We would get extra classes after school, where a specialist teachers would teach us.

We even got teachers to read out the questions to us in the exam, obviously they wouldn’t tell us the answer.

Sometimes even write for you, this is called a scribe.

This is why I really appreciate it.

Now, this doesn’t mean school for me was hunky dory, there still problems with my performance in certain subjects.

However, the support system was simply amazing.

Take this away

I hope you found this story somewhat interesting.

I hope this can show you what a toxic learning environment can feel like. Every child is different, with their own needs.

Every child deserves a learning environment where they can truly thrive. Find their purpose and given the chance to really excel in their lives.

Learning should inspire, grow and challenge you in various way. Helping you become the best version of yourself.

Thank you for your time and reading.

Take care.

The end.

By Kunaal Bakrania

An individual passionate about developing mental and emotional resilience in daily life. Through my experience and knowledge, I'm on a mission to help others cultivate strength within themselves and create a life of true fulfilment.

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