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Monday, 31 December 2007

Indian schooling

Indian schooling
By Remigius de Souza

I had an opportunity to watch a short play on Door Darshan, 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) wants the little boy to go to school so that he does not remain stupid like her old man (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 D.D. 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? Perhaps those sitting in the chairs will lose the power game 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) of Door Darshan brings insult and humiliation to realities of living in an Indian village!

[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]

© Remgius de Souza 1990
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  1. I find the contents very much disturbing...! I wonder if the conditions have changed over years!

  2. Thanks for your visit and comment.

    You have to decide if the situation, education and other areas of public life has improved or not.

    Please refer to a report published in the Times Of India dated 24 April 2009. on page 2, which gives statistics of "school dropouts in Mumbai".

    I feel there are many more children in Mumbai who are not even "enrolled" in schools.