Experiences in the practice of the Preventive System
Let me begin my experiences in the practice of the Preventive System reminiscing the effect it had on me as a candidate. I understand that it promotes spirituality and leads to sainthood as asserted by Don Bosco and other well known Salesians. I also believe in the eighteenth century J.H. Pestalozzi (1746- 1827), the Swiss school Master, who emphasized and stressed that discipline based on love and affection should be experienced by all students.
Feeling at Home
In the year 1964 I reached at St. Mary’s Convent Berpetta Road as a candidate. Enthusiastically I left home, but on reaching Berpetta I was full of ‘home-sickness.’ My mother’s absence was felt very much. Added to that there was the asceticism of work sanctified by prayer. Everything around weighed too much on me so I began to pray that someone should rescue me from this situation. But I could forget all these when all the candidates actively participated in the recreation after supper. It was so delightful to sing and play in the company of our assistant sister (Late Sr. Mary Alex). That was followed by good night, night prayers and rest. In the Dormitory I found the assistant checking everyone’s bed, tucking the mosquito nets where needed. She also placed a night lamp (lantern) in the room. There I felt the care, love and concern of a mother and gradually I found comfort in her presence and forgot about the home –sickness.
When it was my turn to practice preventive system I found it useful to win over the hearts of pupils and others. Love, reason and kindness work very well. To be succinct let me touch upon a couple of incidents that occurred during my teaching career with students, teachers and others. Preventive system is not confined to students alone but to people in every walk of life.
A Fierce Fight
One day during a lunch break two boys fought rather fiercely in H.F.C. Model School, Namrup (Now known as BVFC). Their companions could not separate. In my absence there was another sister to assist the children. But her efforts too proved to be a failure. So, one of the teachers rushed to the room where I had just served my lunch. The building is with many wings and the incident took place near the last one. From far I could see an outburst of anger in them – sleeves tucked up and using their whole energy struck viciously with their fist at each other. In this process, they were sweating profusely. At the sight of this my anger arose. Reaching them I composed myself and told them to be apart to which they responded with much difficulty. My next impulse was to scold and inflict corporal punishment. But I thought it better to deal with kindness. I told one of the boys to go to his class room and sit down without a word to anyone. And the other I took to the school office. They did this reluctantly. This calmed their anger. Later they were asked to attend the mid-day school assembly and to come to the school office after class to clarify the matter. Sure enough they came. I asked them to explain the reason for their quarrel. They were unwilling, but gradually confessed that it was something related to sex. I reasoned with them. Finally realizing the futility of their quarrel, asked pardon from each other, shook hands and departed in good terms. I released a sigh of relief and thanked God. I also realized that if I were to be angry, shouted and punished them, the whole incident would have been worse. Reason and kindness brought about the desired effect. Quarrels among many children were prevented on many occasions by the loving presence of assistants.
The careful movements of a sister would bring the children right conscience. Very often walking along the school veranda, I have heard students whisper in the class; ‘sister’ and the whole class become silent even in the absence of a teacher.
Another incident that took place in the same school is as follows. This took place when the students’ agitation in Assam was at its peak. In those days students would declare school holidays. On one such occasion, the sisters and staff from Naharkatia were waiting in the school. Suddenly, there came one of our students, Syed Imam Hussain, a very good foot-ball player and a very close associate H.F.C. Higher Secondary school (Assamese Medium), with a glass bottle in his hand. Coming along the veranda of the school, he hit and broke 5 to 6 window panes just in front of us. Seeing this I was very annoyed and wanted to inform the authorities of the factory who would in turn send the Police. Controlling myself I asked him what he was doing. There came the immediate reply that he was doing nothing at all, I questioned him again saying what he had in his hand. He replied that nothing was there. I continued if nothing was in his hand how he had broken the glass. Spontaneously he said that he did not know. With a bit of hurt feeling I replied that one day he would come to know. The boy left the place. Two days later his elder brother came to school to get a certificate to bail out the boy, for he had damaged the bike of an officer. Some ten years later, this same boy, then a resident of Kolkata came to Guwahati. On enquiry he found out that I was in Sonaiguli, a bit in an interior place. One whole day he searched for me, but in vain. Next day he continued his pursuit and traced me out. After greeting, the first question he put me was, sister, do you remember me? Instantly I responded, how could I forget this naughty boy! Taking no offense at each other, we chatted over a cup of tea and departed. I feel that this occurred because this boy was not taken to task but treated in an inoffensive manner.
Disciplinary action with kindness
Another blow came to me when I had to terminate a teacher Bepuni (not the real name) on moral grounds, after receiving complaints from students as well as parents. Her father being an advocate lodged a complaint against me and I received a subpoena. I was prompted to pick up a quarrel and taint her name in public. God inspired me to solve this in prayer. From one of our boardings the children sent up their prayers. I drafted a letter and the case was settled. No further enquiry was made afterwards. I believe that kindness settled this situation which otherwise would have taken an adverse turn. Years later we met each other in Dibrugarh market. I didn’t see her rickshaw but she called me out and we spoke to each other pleasantly.
Loving kindness shown towards a weeping child who refuses to enter the class room by offering some flowers or sweets has positive effect. To tell a hurt- child who is deprived of a seat or a merry -go -round, that the whole play ground will be yours, sooths all his/ her aches.
I was told by students who got admitted in other schools that they don’t like the school because no sister is around there when they come to or return from school. Incidents and events of these types speak vehemently of the importance and impact of Salesian presence.
Sr. Lucy Joseph MSMHC