Monday, 11 April 2011

Indian Schooling

In the year 1947 India's population was about 400 millions, and 60% to 70% persons were illiterate. Presently there are 400 millions illiterate persons. What at the beginning of 20th century G. K. Gokhale attempted, to bring 'free and compulsory education to all, is still not fulfilled.

Indian Schooling

I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY to watch a short play on Door Darshan (DD), India's State TV channel, on 21-09-1989, in the afternoon transmission. It was on the occasion of International Year of Literacy. The play was about schooling. Now I, sort of, admire its main actors, Sulabha Deshpande and A. K. Hangal. I consider them to be respectable artists in the Indian cinema, TV and theater.

The play is obviously propaganda for the good cause of the spread of education by schooling. In the play an old lady (Sulabha Deshpande) wants the little boy to go to school so that he does not remain stupid like her old man (A. K. Hangal).

The boy looks after the goats and does not want to go to school. At last the old lady sells the goats. But the boy is upset. He refuses to go to school. He even attacks the other boys who come to take him bodily to school.

I wondered if Hangal and Sulabha pondered for a while over the treatment of the theme!
Here the goats are projected as the pets in the affluent families like pedigree dogs, horses, cats etc. For a villager a goat, cow, buffalo or hen is a means of livelihood.

Why then is the old man said to be stupid? Is it because he is poor? He is poor perhaps because he has been exploited first by British rulers and now by the industrialized society in India?

Why is schooling so important that one should give up the very means of livelihood – goats? Why is the rearing of animal so inferior? (Well. Some people consider that the goat is an enemy of forestation. Forestation means left over — whatever that is left after modern man — has eaten away the forest. Otherwise the goat is a sturdy animal which can live in the deserts as well as mountains, in hot as well as cold climate and is most economical to maintain for the poor. Its milk is medicinal.)

I wondered, couldn’t a goat, a tree, a paddy field, the making of an earthen pot, or moving of a plough in the field be part of schooling in India?

Why can’t actual cooking or preparing food, treating the sick, growing a kitchen garden, Milking a goat or a cow (the method of milking is different for each of these animals), making a toilet, urinal, treating garbage in the village, potatoes and onions, water and washing, sand dunes and ravines, cyclones and floods be part of schooling — actually, not merely verbally — not merely on the blackboard — either inside or outside the school building?

But the system the British started is so powerful that there is not much change except in nomenclature and timings.The so-called educationalists are still in the grip of the system started by the British. The play that was shown on DD is typical of the way the educated, the urban elite project schooling and education.

What if 5.57 lakhs of villages in India gave up rearing animals?

What if every family of 557 thousand households brings up graduates, masters and doctorates? Then, perhaps, those sitting in the chairs will lose the power game, of musical chairs; they play with lives of poor people. Finally, what is the relevance of present day English-made schooling in the eyes of these villages where 70% of the population is still illiterate?

This English-made system of education has not much changed since it started in this vast country made up of villages having a variety of landscapes, regions, climates, dresses, tongues, topography.

I take a little time off to ponder meanwhile this ‘natak’ (play or Tamasha) of Door Darshan brings insult and humiliation to realities of living in an Indian village!

For further reading: 1. Politics of Literacy in India; 2. Farming and the Politics of Education in India; 3. One Step Quantum Jump in Education; 4. Letters and Numbers, plus ‘Things to Make': Restructuring (Indian) Education 

Note: After twenty years I find this note is still valid. It has not changed the situation other than few numbers, while the population is growing. I republish it.

[Published in (1) GOGRAS, publishers Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh, Vardha, India 442001, March 1990, year 14, issue 5, p. 236-7; (2) FOURTH WORLD REVIEW, Issue 44, p 14, The Close, 26 High Street, Purton, Wiltshire SN5 9AE, UK. 1990]
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©Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. my first article on education that was published abroad!