'Online harassment is not a minor issue’: Kerala teacher reacts to cyber abuse

A day after virtual classes began for schoolchildren in the state, a number of derogatory troll pages and online groups formed, harassing women teachers.
Teachers on TV
Teachers on TV
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A day after virtual classes began for schoolchildren in Kerala, on an experimental basis, several disturbing outcomes have arisen, none due to lack of quality. The online classes were necessitated by the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic spread which prevented schools from reopening in June. These were also telecast on the government run channel Kite Victers and uploaded on YouTube.

But on the very day the classes began, hundreds of trolls – most of it in a very derogatory form – have harassed some of the women teachers, who had taken a lot of effort to try a new method of teaching, hitherto untried. Harassers took screenshots of some of the teachers, made WhatsApp groups and social media pages with names like ‘Blue Teacher Army’ referring to the colour of the sari worn by one of the teachers.

Most of the harassment was directed at a teacher in a blue sari who along with another teacher taught English for Class XII.

The other teacher – Rathi Nair – told TNM that it shows the attitude of a large section of people. “This is how we teach in classrooms, there was nothing artificial about it. We will of course welcome constructive negative comments on the teaching method, so we can improve it. But these comments on the social media, taking a harassing nature, is part of the trend these days, of a section of people, who are waiting to pounce on and attack people on cyber space,” Rathi says.

Rathi teacher’s observation is spot-on. It is the same space that made a random wink in a film song famous and a female teacher’s dance version of a popular Malayalam song viral. While these two instances were on a flattering note, the harassers would easily turn vicious towards women actors who have an opinion.

“Maybe they didn’t have good teachers. I can say for sure that none of the students that I have taught would do anything like this. It is in fact our students who alerted us of the developments and reported the trolls,” Rathi adds.

Activist lawyer Harish Vasudevan posted a video, condemning the attack, and asked the government to make a stricter cyber law that wouldn’t let the offenders go scout-free. He also said that such kind of behaviour may inhabit women from even appearing in public space.

Rathi teacher however says that that will certainly not happen. “It should not be seen as a minor issue. The education department has already made a complaint with the cyber police and the social justice department has taken a suo moto case. But you get courage from the people who stand with you, especially the students you teach. When you are a teacher, you get a very supportive network of students.”

The two English teachers had prepared for a week and discussed over many phone calls how to take the class without seeing the students in front of them. But it’s worked out well, Rathi teacher says, and all the students have submitted their first day assignments. “Even students I don’t teach have watched the online class and sent assignments,” she says. Both the teachers have already begun preparations for the next class. They can’t lose time over this, their students await them.


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