Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dirty education!

A little distance from the new house we have recently shifted to is a slum. Our house is in Mohali and the slum technically belongs to the union territory of Chandigarh, the quintessential modern city that was supposed to be "unfettered by past" especially the filth that that past has accumulated over centuries. While I drove with my wife this morning past that slum, euphemistically called a "village", we wondered what happened to the residents in the monsoons, for some houses were actually built over the sewers while a channel of dirty water flowed below them. And as we were trying to clear the scenes of that obscenity from our minds, I caught sight of two little girl students of a local school relieving themselves in the open. They were in their uniform so they couldn't have been two urchins who were never taught the rules of propriety and the need of hygiene. Their classmates played close by and some of them would have taken a "bathroom break" sooner or later. Yes, it was a school.

A na├»ve question. Is one allowed to run a school without a bathroom? Schools are being run without libraries. Schools are being run without classrooms, furniture, blackboards. Schools are being run without teachers. Who gives a damn about bathrooms when schools are being run without conscience? The conscience of a nation is dead when two little school-going girls have no option but to sit on a garbage heap close to their playground to pee. The conscience of a nation is dead when the poor are deceived with empty rhetoric of Right to Education. The conscience of a nation is surely dead when, quite literally, the filthy rich businessmen begin running the education show, and that too with only one aim—to find ways to fish for another rich man's fortune through the fishing rod of his child with a bait of "world-class" education.

This is not a one-off incident. Today itself I found two reports in the city edition of The Tribune about abysmal conditions in our schools. One is about a school in another "village" around the city of Chandigarh, where 200 students share one toilet and about four are locked for the use of teachers. Another one is a story about a school in Fatehgarh Sahib where fire-fighting equipments are thought to be as useless as bathrooms in our neighbouring "village".

(Pictures: From the two news reports)


Shaheen said...

Wonderful post!

jesse said...

Bulls eye!!
Hard hitting! knockout post.

Sights like these (and many others)makes one want to take the law into his/her own hands and set the perpetrators right. Who are the people responsible for such acts of fiendish apathy? They should be 'made to realize' what they're doing by not doing so many things and just being selfish and/or greedy and/or lazy.

shalini said...

what do you think should be done about the apalling condition???? Don't you think an article like yours needs mkre public reading???

Sushant said...

Thanks Ashish for the post.

These problems of a lack of infrastructure and our approach to education are
a result of a national mindset.

Rev Wherry, writing a historical account of the first missionary venture
(1834-1924) by the America Presbyterians which resulted in the first school
to be set up in Ludhiana in 1834 has this observation:

" Learning was not sought for its own sake, but as a means to secure
emolument and an honorable position. To Christian men, who had sought an
education at great personal expense and possibly some self-denial, loving
knowledge for its own sake, this universal spirit of commercialism loomed up
in their way, not only as a great disappointment,"

The observation has some merit though we may not agree with all that was
done by the missionaries. As long as we see education as a stepping stone to
greater material prosperity the 'recipients' of education will do what ever
is necessary to get the 'certificate', 'degree' or whatever without the
learning. Equally, for the 'provider' of education, infrastructure then just
becomes another variable to be adjusted in the pursuit of maximum profit.

The challenge then, is how to produce a mindset that inculcates, fosters and
brings to bloom the desire to learn. A huge task, and certainly not one
that can be achieved through legislation.

My submission is that if this is the motive for education rather than
profit, then infrastructure and the use of it will begin to fall into place.

Most of the breakthroughs in knowledge - research, have come because
somebody was not content with the state of affairs and had the passion to
know more.