Let’s start with an obvious question which may have an equally obvious answer according to general opinion. The question is: “Why do we send our children schools?” And the answer is: “To get them educated and make them a better human.” But are we really sending our children to school only with this narrow motive in our conscious and sub-conscious? In conscious, maybe. In sub-conscious, there are a lot of factors that come to play beside just education.
To understand it with an example, we all want our children to be admitted in the best possible school we can afford for them. We cut on our other expenses to pay for over-priced academic tuition fee at school, and for other curricular and co-curricular activities as well. When we tend to send our children in expensive schools, we have the motive of a “better education” in our conscious mind, but in our sub-conscious mind we send them to high-profile schools to get them socialize with the upper strata of society. Where children from only elite families come to study. We just don’t want them to focus on the same NCERT or ICSE books which are taught in some inexpensive schools as well. We want them to also focus on the mannerisms, the habits, the etiquettes, and the ideas that people of such class have. We want the adoption of all this in our children too.
So more than education, what matters is the social group which you children are into during the six significant hours of their day. In this, if we get to know that the children who belong to the economically weaker section of the society are also studying with our kids, we get uncomfortable. It’s a horrifying thought which gives the shape to a stereotypical image of oily-haired, shabbily-dressed, and foul-mouthed kid sitting beside our child in school. These are the inhibitions which restrict us from acknowledging the diversity, and the levels our society has. And with this ignorance, comes inequality.
Most of the children belonging to economically weaker section of society are caught up in a vicious cycle for generations because of the unavailability of proper educational facilities. The privatization of education has left government schools in rather neglected and bad condition. These government schools is the only alternative the EWS children have for whatever little education they are allowed to pursue. Just like the middle and the upper section of society conveniently ignore the hidden slums in the city from where their daily domestic help arrives, the children living there are also ignored. They either don’t go to school or are admitted in ill-maintained cheap government schools. And like these well-to-do families who send their children in good, private schools, their children also ignore the EWS kids.
Various educators and educationists however, have suggested that the integration of the children of all the sections of society is very important, not only for EWS children but for other children as well. It’s for making each and every child a “socially responsible citizen”, with a greater good of EWS children, that this kind of integration is thought of as not only important, but also necessary.
For the children who are well-facilitated in every way through their families, it is important to acknowledge and recognize the harsh realities of our social structure. And more than that, it is important for them to not harbor inhibitions and hatred for other sections of society like the parents of most of the children do. It’s only when they would accept the diversity, by breaking the socially constructed barriers through educational activities like studying and playing together that they would become a “better human” –something for which we really send our children to schools.
Now looking at the other side of the coin, the integration on the part of EWS children is necessary so that they don’t lag behind in any way when it comes to the broader sense of our society. Studying in an integrated and diverse environment would fill them up with confidence and prevent them from thinking of big institutions and people associated with them as imposing, which they often do.
Various NGOs these days are already working towards this integration which will help imparting the quality education in the children of both the sections but the task can be eased with the participation of parents. Doing little things like inviting your maid’s child to come home and study ad play with your child, inviting such children on your kid’s birthday parties, paying for a. EWS child’s trip along with your child, can help breaking barriers which we ourselves have created and strengthened.
We need to dismantle these barriers and erect a new societal structure with “better human being” that all children have potential and capability to make.
About the author
Preeti Taneja has a rich experience of various technologies and finance for over a two decades. She has worked for top global consulting companies and is the founder of letsdiskuss.com .It is India’s first Question and Answer portal in English and Hindi. You can connect with Preeti by writing to [email protected]