Last week I visited nine or ten school children. The school was in the middle of a Adivasi village. The children sat on the dry grass and dust, and the headmaster on a red plastic chair. I spent a hour with them. The children all were wonderful, and the teacher was so kind. And I loved the place. The school was surrounded three sides by vast farm lands, and only by one side a path went to the interiors of the village. It was late noon, and the weary winter days were in adieu mood. The trees began to shed leaves, but new leaves still not replaced them. And the whimsical wind with fallen leaves and dust whirled and spiralled around us. We were all dusted. And the birds from a nearby bush continued cooing. And cocks crowed loud, and cows mooed long. The sky was crystal and all blue.
The joy thing.
The children were all happy. The teacher too. They sang patriotic songs, and I loved them so much. The children were so lovely and so plain. They brought khatas and I checked their writings, all good. And the master claimed that he taught them parade, gymnastics, singing, dancing too besides the syllabus. And he got his reward–children loved him so much.
The sorrow things.
1. How painful it was to serve a school of merely 30 students, and all were not regular. The children had to help their parents in haat days.
2. Why so poor numbers? I asked, and head teacher said, “The birth rate declined, and mushrooming of English medim nurseries, and parents, poor they were, but still prefered them.”
3. The govt distributed Rs.4.13 on each student for midday meal per day. How could I mange a meal with that? Moreover the price of cooking gas had doubled. So we cooked with lakris. We could not provide them fish, meat or egg. The master continued. And we occasionally brought a box of eggs with our own for them.
4. The master was chewing betel leaf, and his lips were reddish. He offered me gundi, and I distributed chocolates among them. The children were so happy, and full of joy. They began to call me , “oh saar, oh saar” , words of love and proximity and warmth.
The inequal thing
I was hurt, and saddened. The scene in every vernacular school more or less was the same. Eductionists, social reformers, activists, netas, knew it all. And they were silent, as they had alternative– big private schools were for them, and they sent sons and daughters America–a land of orgies and guns, shootings and killings and racist rhetorics. For them no value education based on ancient Vedas and the Quran, it was solely meant for the ill fed, ill clad, poverty stricken poor unsaid children of unsung remote villages.