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.

13 comments:

Unjun said...

it is not that children come from unfortunate backgrounds, and so they do work like this... it is because they do work like this, that makes their backgrounds unfortunate.

ur right.... money can't buy the best things in life. their economic status is no yardstick to determine the quality of their life. it ought to be their social awareness of major issues that would take them out of the shadows cast by other people who consider themselves more powerful... BECAUSE they think they've got the money, and so they've got everything! sigh. it's a vicious, ugly and unending circle, it is.

Anirudh said...

I think the very first statement in the post is wrong. Why should we believe one of these theories and not both? What you've written later is self-explanatory and need not be started with this extremely ambiguous statement -- what, after all, are the best things in life?

I don't agree with all your reasons for criticizing making children do manual work. Why do you consider physical work demeaning? Considering what I did in SUPW -- making some idiotic charts, preparing Bhelpuri (not a bad thing if it weren't for the fact that all the work was done by four or five girls) -- it might have been much more useful to learn cleaning toiets.

The only bit I agree with is that children of a certain age might not be strong enough to do certain kinds of work and so must not be made to do so.

As for your friend's statement, I am not as outraged as you are. I am outraged about the inequality but I think it is a good thing if children learn to run their own lives -- as they are in this case though sadly under strong adult authority -- instead of learning nonsense like inorganic chemistry.

As for the statement: "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", I think it's absolute bullshit. What the hell are these people upto? And what do they want to say anyway? And lastly, why are you quoting them for no reason? Why not get to what angers you instead of highlighting how reality in schools is different from what the Educational Board (or whoever they are) considers ideal. Because, in my opinion, what it considers ideal is idiotic!

Anirudh said...

(Continuation of comment)

And from what I've gathered in my many conversations with you, your opinion (about the Educational Board) isn't very different.

Shreyas said...

I wonder if letting children get involved in manual work is all that bad. But, what would trouble me, as your post suggests, is if:

a) they are being forced to do the work, without the knowledge of their parents; and

b) they are being asked to do this because they come from poorer backgrounds and hence, have to cover up for fees. In fact, if they are being discriminated for any reason, then it is quite saddening

Good article by the way. Had me thinking!....

Shreyas

PS: It's been a long time...and welcome to Bangalore :)

Shobha said...

Anju: hmm....

Anirudh: Ok....I have made these comments keeping in mind the existing framework of the system. That, I dislike the system is another argument altogether. But given the system, what's happening here is wrong. My post isn't a debate on whether SUPW is a useless subject or not. My point is, given the fact SUPW exists in reality, it is not being followed as per the guidelines. (People having problems with the guidelines is another issue which I am not getting into)

My issue is with strenuous work. The children involved here are from std 5 to std 7. They are very young children to be carrying water in huge buckets even within school premises. I don't think physical work is demeaning. But I guess school (given the current system) is not the right place.

I do agree that my first statement is ambiguous. I wanted to state how money becomes an important factor even to expect basic facilities and rights per se. I mean, I dislike the attitude of people who opine that only if you pay money do you have the right to expect facilities from people. However, I guess, the first few lines don't exactly convet what I want to say.

Also, probably the state would have been very outraged had this happened in some private schools. Because they are poor, these objections don't get the attention they need.

"Why not get to what angers you instead of highlighting how reality in schools is different from what the Educational Board (or whoever they are) considers ideal. Because, in my opinion, what it considers ideal is idiotic!"

I completely agree with you. However, I also agree that we can't escape the mainstream. The mainstream will be there with all its issues. Therefore even though I am fundamentally against the mainstream, as a reporter I can't afford to look out of the purview of the system when I am reporting. I have to constantly switch in and switch out. Given the framework, what is happening is wrong and the subsequent reactions also irritate me. Just because I dislike the system, I can't ignore the plight of the children for a simple reason that the majority in the country is still an active part of the SYSTEM. What the board considers ideal might be idiotic, but at the end of the day, it still is a set of rules which schools are supposed to follow.

Shreyas: Physical work is not wrong, but not the way it is happening in schools. The saddest part is, even the parents wouldn't consider it wrong. Mostly, schools and the teachers have this demi-god status among the poorer sections of the society. One needs to sensitise them too in this regard. See, the education under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan is free. This manual labour doesn't minimise any costs per se. Its because of corruption that watchmen may exist in paper but not in reality and subsequently the work of the watchmen will get passed onto the students.

What irked me was the lack of sensitivity :( It's quite sad actually....

Oh, its been more than six months in the city now...its been nice :) How are you? long time....

Anirudh said...

Your blog's comment section is pissing off. Always eats up my comment. Damn Google.

Anyway; thank you for the explanation. I agree that this incident brings to light, once again, the contrasting attitudes of state and society towards the rich and the poor. Indeed, if it had been a private school, a small but powerful section of society would have been up in arms. (Sadly, more because they would have considered labour undignified than because of the breaking of rules.)

The only objection I have is to your last statement:

"What the board considers ideal might be idiotic, but at the end of the day, it still is a set of rules which schools are supposed to follow."

If a set of rules is idiotic, would you support their being followed? Would you not prefer it if they were subverted?

Shobha said...

Anirudh: I would not personally mind if idiotic rules are broken. But not in the above instance mentioned. I do not like children working like this because it is highly strenuous work which I do not approve of, simple! I'm not against manual labour. But I'm definitely against exploitation in the guise of manual labour...

Anirudh said...

Agreed.

unjun said...

quoting anirudh: "Indeed, if it had been a private school, a small but powerful section of society would have been up in arms."

that is exactly what i was trying to drive at as well... these may be the masses, yet it is the stories of the smaller sections of society that we keep hearing about endlessly. and it is because, whether they consciously realise it or not... they have the power to change all that does not suit them.

i think i remember we discussed this over the phone as well :)

kpowerinfinity said...

I remember that we had go to an old age home for our SUPW one year, and some friends visited an orphanage. After that, in college we had NSS (National Social Service) in which we lived in a village and tilled land. It was fun!

I don't know much about schools in Bangalore .. but you should identify (or at least categorize - government or private etc.) which schools make students do such things. What you said is appalling. I think the first thing that needs to be done is to educate the parents of these kids so that they can take the matter up with the school authorities.


However, I am not sure what the connection with the 'money can't buy the best things in life' is ... Those kids might have to work, but who says that kids anywhere else are any better. At least they are getting some physical exercise. In most schools now, all the kids do is do home-work, rush from one tuition to another, and mug for exams. Life's no better, I would say that expectations from kids are so high now a days, that it is probably only worse. They will soon forget what is means to do physical labour!

GK said...

I guess, in some ways these children are MORE fortunate.... reason being that, when I was in school, and part of MCC (Maharasthra Cadet Corps), we were made to go through an exercise called "Kari Kamai" (similar concept exists in NCC as well....), wherein, the students are asked to visit households, do domestic or other work, and 'earn' money.

Quite a great concept, as it is designed to inculcate nice values in the students such as dignity of labour, earning through your own efforts etc. The students work hard, earn some money, and treasure the values for life!

But our school, after making us go through sincere physical hard work, actually took all the money collected by the students for itself, saying its the school's money!! Period!! End of all values..... infact teaching newer values on how to steal hard-earned money of others, and call it your own!! :P

Shobha said...

Anju: :)

KK: I know that my statement about money isn't clear. I have clarified about it in the above comment. I repeat. wanted to state how money becomes an important factor even to expect basic facilities and rights per se. I mean, I dislike the attitude of people who opine that only if you pay money do you have the right to expect facilities from people.

GK: Don't talk about MCC. It was pathetically executed in my school. All I did was stupid exercises. Absolutely useless. I still become angry thinking of it.

Sriganesh said...

I thought SUPW meant "Some Useful Period Wasted!" :D