‘The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something‘ wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Wise words indeed. Words that remind us of forgotten intentions and unfulfilled dreams. This post was written after a visit to the Kalka Temple where getting to the deity means coming face to face with beggar children who’s number seems to grow in quantum leaps. Children begging is a shameful reality of urban India.
Every time one walks the perimeter of a temple or stops at a red light, little hands spring from nowhere and seek your attention. No matter how many years go by, the size of the hands never changes. Child begging is thriving. New children take the place of those now to big to tug at your heart.
One has heard of mafias controlling the panhandling business and ensuring a perfect demand and supply equation. This is unequivocal proof of this sad reality. But it does not end there. Actually parents too use their own children in this sordid business. An enquiry on whether it would be possible to teach this multitude of children was turned down as we were told that parents themselves would not allow this to happen as children were those who got brought in the maximum. Without the kids, the family would not earn a day’s wage. School and education are anathema
Even the laws are against us as in a recent amendment to the child labour laws, children under 14 were allowed to help in the family business. Hence the little beggar girl as king for her chocorate is legit.
The only way to solve the problem is to stop giving money and hence with no demand the supply would diminish. That is what Project Why attempted as its first programme: replace the coin by a biscuit. The idea was to have biscuits in nice boxed that could be ‘refilled’ at petrol pumps and hence everyone would be handing over biscuits and not coins. It did not work even though 50 biscuits were sold at one hundred rupees.
As long as we give, they will beg. As long as we give more to children, parents will not allow them to get educated and break the cycle of mendicity and thus will remain beggars producing more beggars to beg. An infernal spiral!
A child seeking alms is something that should disturb each and everyone and make them soul search for a solution.
The solution is simple: remove the demand, stop giving money, stop giving to children: the supply will vanish the moment the business is no more viable
The new education policy is in the anvil. The recommendations of the committee set up to look into the issue are ready. Two of the recommendations are close to our hearts. The first is to reinstate detention beyond class V and the other to set up a cadre akin to the administrative cadre for education.
The first recommendation comes as a sigh of relief. Ever since the no fail policy till class VII had been instituted quality of education particularly in state run schools had taken a free fall. Moreover in a country where corruption has permeated education, this policy could result in the aberration of class XII toppers unable to answer questions from subjects they had aced. For one of them political science teaches cooking and the other did not know the link between water and H20! Looked like someone else sat in their place. Retest was ordered for the toppers.
This is no laughing matter as toppers are the ones who get seats in prestigious and affordable state run colleges, something you can miss by a fraction of a mark!
Creating an education cadre is also of paramount importance as often teaching and more so school teaching is not socially acceptable and a last resort when all else has failed. The need to attract the best could be a game changer.
Project Why as been advocating such changes and welcomes them.
At Project Why we believe that primary education should be given its right place in the education journey as this is where foundations are laid. This is also when the mind is receptive to suggestions and thus a sound policy can make all he difference. Content should impart the right social message: tolerance, gender equality, compassion etc. Extra curricular activities need to find adequate space as they are essential to growth.
The two-shift system followed in the majority of state run schools in Delhi should end. All children, be it boys or girls, should attend school in the morning and the afternoon should be for creative and sports activities.
Quality is of the essence but should be imparted in school. The need for ‘shadow education’ or ‘extra tuition’ should end.
Neighbourhood state run quality schools that see a social mix of children is in our opinion the way to meet the constitutional right to education for all children in India.
Project Why proudly presents its first ever English play: let us save trees. The play has been written and performed by our children with a little help from their wonderful teacher Smita.
Wow what a proud moment for us all! I must confess that I sat through the play with moist eyes and a lump in my throat. I must also admit that whilst watching the play I did not hear the halting English or the hesitant delivery. For me it was nothing sort of perfect. And more than that it was a true vindication of our focus on quality programme launched barely a few months ago. It was a ah ha moment indeed. Just a few months back the young protagonists of the play could barely utter a few word of English. At best they could spout a few words by rote. When we began the programme many thought it too ambitious, others a pure waste of ressources. And yet we held on and launched it. Over and above the regular after school support, the primary kids spent a short hour learning spoken English. I somehow believed the experience would bear fruits sooner than later and I was proved right yesterday when a bunch of boys took the stage in a language they had always feared. This was the way to go and I knew deep in my heart that we had crossed a yet invisible barrier.
I know that the road ahead is still very long and filled with many hurdles, but somehow today as I watched the tiny play I knew we would cross them all.