This is a portion of the case study I wrote for my CM class, after that I found writing personal experience is fun. It's freaking long!
Due to the nature of this case, I have decided that the actual name of the school should not be disclosed. However, in order to enable the readers of this paper to understand the context of this case study, it should be revealed that the school was a science boarding school (SBP) situated in Sabah, in the middle of an urban city. In terms of students’ distribution, most of the students in this school were selected from all over the state. Therefore, some of these students were from urban areas, while some were from sub-urban and interior areas in the state. The total number of students in the school was around 2000, significantly lower than most national schools in the city.
In terms of academic achievement, the students in this school were carefully selected from primary schools all over the state; only students with at least 4As in the UPSR were offered to enter the school, thus explaining the small number of students. Thus, in this school, competitions between students were common. In each examination, there was no telling who would gain the spotlight because competitions between students were intense. A large number of students in the school were achievers and the school performed quite well in each PMR and SPM examinations.
The school offered several useful facilities such as gym, computer labs, multi-purpose room with audio-visual equipments, lake for recreation, field and tracks for sport events and also hostel for students. Also, since the school is a boarding school, all of the students stayed in the hostel with no exception. Each afternoon at 2 until 4 and every evening at 8 until 10, students were required to attend prep classes which would be used for revision, discussion, studies and also for finishing homework. Each afternoon at 4 to 6, students were required to go to the field and participate in co-curriculum. Students who failed or intentionally skipped the prep classes and sports would be punished if they were found by warden, teachers and prefects.
The schedule was very strict and tight, therefore each night it was compulsory for the students to ‘lights off’ at 11 sharp, after 11 nobody should be seen loitering around the hostel, much less other school compounds. The rationale for this tight schedule and packed activities was probably to build students’ character and to mould them to be more disciplined. In fact, as one of the students in the school, each time I went home during holidays, I felt empty and bored because I adapted too well with the school’s routine. In this school, students were not given any chance to waste their time during daytime, from 6.30 in the morning the classes began and only at 10 in the evening the prep ended. The school tried very hard to mould students’ behaviour.
Judging from the characteristics and settings of the school from the perspective of a teacher now, the school seemed to promise an effective environment for teaching and learning. What more can a teacher asks? The school was privileged with many facilities that would aid teaching and learning process. The students were mostly intelligent and they performed well in tests and examinations. Collaborative and cooperative learning were easy because all of the students stayed in the hostel. The school’s schedules and routines were carefully designed to mould and build students character and discipline. Then, from such a positive school and classroom environment, how could there be a problem? This will explained further in the next section.
The problem in this case study began prominently when I was in Form Three. The routines in the school went on as usual when the semester began. All the students in my batch were doing fine, classroom activities and lessons were running as usual. The positive environment persisted for a few months, only until some of the students in the batch got close with some problematic senior students in the school. It all began with one or three of my friends learning to smoke from the seniors, who intentionally gave the cigarettes to them, a ‘strategy’ they used therefore they could ask for cigarettes from my friends when they became addicted and had to purchase cigarettes on their own. Smoking habit in my batch of Form Three spread like a wildfire. It was not long until more than 80% of the students in the batch turned to avid cigarette smokers, including me. We were hiding all over the place to smoke; in the toilet, the attics of classroom, the wall less balcony just outside the dormitories, in the bushes, we were all over the place. This smoking problem was only a beginning of a rather severe situation.
Smoking cigarette was only a beginning of a more serious and unhealthy habit. More and more students in my batch were influenced by the seniors. We were skipping preps and some of us began the tradition of bullying junior students. Junior students were asked to carry food from the dining hall to the hostel, some were asked to iron our clothes, some were told to wash piles of clothes and some were told to do silly things just for entertainment. Those who were rebelling and showed dissatisfaction were beaten and were severely warned. Then we learned how to ‘fly’, a term we used for the activity of sneaking out from school at night and during weekends. We climbed the edgy fences and went to the city with around 15 to 20 participants. We walked all to the way to the centre of the city and loiter around to see the sceneries of night. Then some us began to teach each other how to steal from shops and supermarket, how to cheat taxi drivers and get a free ride. The situation was very chaotic; being in Form Three was very different from what we had in Form Two and Form One.
Then progressively, some of the students in my batch began to befriend with people outside from school. They sneaked out of school to meet these people and sometimes they illegally bought them to the hostel. To be exact, these students were mostly my dorm mates. It was not long until I noticed my friends began to involve in a seriously unhealthy activities and they were doing it right in front of me, in the dorm. They were introduced to ‘crystal meth’ or its scientific name, methamphetamine by their friends outside of school and also by the seniors who were involved. Not only meth, some of my friends were addicted to cough syrup or to be exact, dextromethorphan, a pharmaceutical drug found in cough drug and it can get people high when taken in high does. The activity of inhaling ‘crystal meth’ spread in the batch as well, though not as worse smoking habit. However, the problem worsened when my friends realized that the drug was a lot more expensive than cigarette and money became a problem. Thus began another series of decadence.
These students who were involved in drug abuse began to steal from their own batch, or rather, my batch of Form Three students. They learned how to cleanly open lockers without scratching a thing and left undetected, only by using a fork and screwdriver. Many things were stolen such as money, hair gel, wristwatch, perfume, shoes, clothes, foods, and even personal collection of wallpapers. Then if there was anything sellable from the loot, these items would be sold to their friends outside of school and through this cycle they managed to buy drugs. Other method they resorted to in order to afford drugs and cigarette was by threatening junior students and extort money from them, though this was not done as much as stealing. Judging from the chaotic situation in social and discipline aspects, of course the situation in classroom was not any better.
Though not all of the students in the batch were involved with drugs and other unhealthy activities, problems persisted in class because more and more students were disappearing, especially students from ‘C’ and ‘D’ classes. Some students began to lose their interests to learn, while some were feeling uncomfortable studying with groups of drug abusing and stealing students. The batch of students were falling apart due to the stealing, we began to despise each other and accused the wrong persons. The situation was getting worse and of course, grades were falling and we were still active with non-curriculum activities. Sneaking out of school became a trend and those who had not done it were ridiculed. Throughout the semester, the batch of Form Three students was getting wilder and wilder and the school was at lost because we were out of control. The school was at war with drug abuse, which was kept unknown from the knowledge of parents and other schools. The teachers in the school somehow knew a few of the details about what was happening, but still the problem was not an easy one to be solved.
The problem was getting out of hand; therefore the first step that the school took was to contact the Narcotic Department to do urine test for suspected students in the school. Of course, after the urine test, many of my friends were caught and given warning. It seemed like the purpose of the urine test was to sniff out the bad fruits in the batch. Those who were involved in drugs were identified and blacklisted by the school. Then, after a few months, my friends who were involved in abusing meth were disappearing after another. When I asked them, they told me that the school actually gave them two choices. It was either to leave the school on their own will or the school would use its right and power to sake them out of school, with negative disciplinary record. Of course, anyone with sane mind and concerned parents would choose the first choice because most schools would not accept students with such discipline record. The choice that the school had given to them was not actually a choice but a mandatory. These friends of mine were thrown out of school despite of what they had done.
Then, as I progressed to Form Four, most of the problematic students were not present anymore, some of them transferred to new school and some quit school once and for all. Indeed, the loss of my friends was not quite an exciting experience but the overall situation in the school and classrooms were getting better. There were no more students involved in abusing meth. The worst case that happened was just only student caught smoking in the toilets and balcony. Though it was not the best decision, but the school managed to eliminate negative influence in the batch, by removing them from the source. However, was it justifiable if the school’s decision actually had forsaken the dropped out students’ future? Now that is an interesting issue to be discussed for us as teachers.