Yesterday Kiran came to me with three pages of written text: it was her holiday home work. I was taken aback. The homework covered every subject and seemed humongous: read two books and find 3o new words, write five sentences about your daily activities and if you want to get an A in handwriting write a page of cursive writing a day. That was English. There was more of the same for each and every subject: maths, moral science, science and Hindi. And that is not all she also had to make a terrarium, draw a globe on a ball, make an abacus and a bird feeder, take a ride in a mtero and write about it and paste pictures of the places ahe visited during her holidays. Wow! And the holidays are for 6 short weeks. And by the way Kiran is just in class III.

Now the purpose of this post is not to debate about the wisdom of holiday home work. What one is trying to highlight is something quite different. As some of you know Kiran belongs to what we would call a slum and her family took a very conscious and deliberated decision: that of putting Kiran in an English medium school and give her the best possible. Her admission was not an easy affair and her school years have seen many hurdles. Now Kiran has a support system – aka project why- which helps her overcome such hurdles. But what about other children whose family have after great sacrifice get them admission in English medium schools and bravely try to cross to the other side of the invisible fence? How would such families be able to help their children with holiday homework. Even I do not quite know how to make a terrarium!

Lats week we had a visitor who told us about an organisation that was engaged in getting slum children admitted to good public schools. He thought we would appreciate the effort and maybe want to learn to replicate it. He must have been very surprised at our lukewarm reaction. My decision to send Utpal and my foster care kids to boarding school has also raised many eyebrows. Why not just send them to a local public school. The answer is simple: a boarding school gives an inbuilt support system that no slum family can give and without which no child can succeed. I remember an acquaintance telling me how her driver’s son was ostracized in the public school she had got him admitted to. Even if he had good marks he never got invited to a birthday party. A tale of two Indias!

But in a lighter vein how do you expect a mom who has been to a government school and probably dropped out to help her child with her holiday homework. And yet no class III kid could on her own figure out the homework as stated in those three pages. Even though children from the other side have been accepted in upmarket schools, be it because parents pay the fees or because of some illogical government rule, schools are not slum child friendly… maybe it was time we addressed this issue.