dscn2565Two weeks ago, two class XII students murdered their teacher. The reason: he expelled one of them for poor attendance. Rage, anger, frustration? Nothing can condone violence of this kind and the boys will face the law.

The question that begs to be asked, though few will, is: who is responsible for this brutality and the answer may not be as easy as one would like to believe.

This extreme action should compel us to look at reality in the face. The two boys were school going and had studied hard enough to reach class XII. They were not one of the (ill)famed dropouts.

That any child would resort to such abhorrent violence must lead us to look at the present education system and social environment our young live in particularly in urban slums. This post is not meant to justify the act but prevent it in days to come as violence and aggression are an intrinsic part of the DNA of underprivileged children.

Education is undoubtedly the one tool that shapes mind and thus life. School should be an enabling environment where every child blooms according to her or his capabilities and talent. Education goes far beyond three Rs.

At Project Why we have always believed in Jacques Delors definition of education, namely his four pillars of learning: learning to learn, to do, to be and to live with others. Sadly education as we know it stops at the first.

One of the reasons of setting up Project Why was to address a unnatural reality: the half day school system whereby boys go to school post lunch. The school is for girls in the morning. Boys are left to their own device as their homes are tiny and so the street becomes their realm. With no quality parental control they are left to themselves. Bunking school becomes easy and as they grow the transformation between child and bad element is bound to happen. What we forget is that we are a part of the terrible mutation.

That they should be aggressive and even violent is again to be expected. Child physical abuse is rampant in both homes and school and becomes the only tool they know. No one talks to them or asks them their point of view. Communication is one-way from adult to child and they have no voice. So where do they learn to be and live with others.

We once asked a group of secondary students who were regularly beaten in their school what was the one thing they would change if given a chance and ALL of us would have bet our bottom dollar that the answer would be physical abuse. We were astounded when they told us that they would give the child a chance to explain himself before beating him. Beating was par to the course. What they wanted his a voice.

Children need to be heard. Children need to be recognised as individuals. Children need to be respected. Their talents need to be discovered and honed. They need to be given means to vent their anger and emotions. If the two boys who now will spend years in a brutal jail had been taught better then three lives would have been saved.

It is time we took responsibility and acted. Education reforms are needed but again they have to be the right ones, the kind that helps every child to grow to her or his full potential.