Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's all about money, honey!

Some say, Money can't buy the best things in life. While others say, there are no free lunches. Depending on how much importance we give to money in life, we will believe either of the two fundas strongly.

I tend to believe the former strongly. However, I realise that I'm in a hopeless minority. Given the backdrop, having an argument with people with a contrary worldview can be quite an unpleasant experience, painful to be precise.

There is a subject in schools called Work Experience or Socially Useful or Productive Work (SUPW) for the students in Karnataka.

Assessment of the SUPW should not be in terms of marks assigned to different processes but on the basis of skills learnt and the needs satisfied by individual students or in small groups. A diary of the day to day work done, the knowledge gained, production achieved with sketches and tables of statistics will more than answer the needs of assessment (Coutesy: http://www.education.nic.in/cd50years/g/t/EL/0TEL0501.htm )

As usual, the reality is quite different. Many school principals, teachers are of the belief that SUPW involves making children cleaning the toilets, filling up buckets of water for school purposes and various other stuff like this. I am not kidding at all. One school in Bangalore (school A) which suffers from severe water shortage makes it children fetch water from nearby areas as a part of SUPW projects before the start of every class. Another school (school B) which was smart enough to utilise the government funds, procured funds from Suvarna Jala Yojana and invested in a rainwater harvesting system. However, the work of filling up water in several buckets for various reasons is done by students of the school as a daily project under work experience.

Now one would obviously be proud of school B. However, the only difference is, students from school A struggle more than school B since they have to go out and fetch water. But the point is, even in school B, the students are made to do the work. The principal proudly proclaimed that the children do so under the able guidance of the teachers :|

It is sad to see many of my friends and acquaintances who do not think that something is wrong. One reaction that I got from one acquaintance (who is apparently doing a human rights course!?!?!?) was....."those are poor children, they get free food, free books, free everything. They don't have staff, so I guess, they have and need to do it. They do only within the school premises na...not outside."

Why don't people understand that making children work like this is a wrong thing to do. Even filling up buckets involves hard work. It isn't an easy task for a child aged 9 to fill up large buckets of water and lift them with/without help. Just because the students get free stuff, doesn't mean that they are "OBLIGED" to do work like this.

Filling water on a regular basis is a chore and not productive work. Making children do it is ridiculous. There is no harm in teaching a kid how to clean a toilet. But making the child do it on a daily basis as a part of school curriculum is a crime. But it happens in such an alarming regularity in all the schools, that it is just not funny. Unfortunately, it is not even a story for me....*sigh* Its interesting to note how people stop having expectations from municipal schools just because they are 'free'.

I am just appalled. Does money determine everything? Just because the children come from unfortunate backgrounds, does it mean that they should do work like this.