Right to Education- a different perspective
Every once in a while, the Indian government comes out with a gem of a law. Last time, it was the Right to Information (RTI) which finally enabled the man on the street to figure out what exactly goes behind those closed bureaucratic doors.
Yesterday, i.e. 1st April 2010, another landmark bill was passed in the Indian parliament- the Right to Education Act.
For those of you who aren’t clear about what exactly the act entails, let me explain- amongst other things, it makes 25% reservation for the underprivileged compulsory in all schools- including private schools, whether aided/ non-aided. Excellent idea that, on first thought. Of course, the fees will be waved off/nominal for these kids. And already, the private-schools bodies have started protesting against the bill, approaching the Supreme Court to get it revoked. The bill ensures that these private schools cannot find loop holes to get around it. They can’t segregate the poor kids from the rich kids. No discrimination, no separate morning school for the rich kid, and afternoon one for the poor kid or anything.
As I said, great initiative.
Only, I had a strange thought as I was having dinner in front of the TV yesterday. You remember the time when you were in school, and your friend got a nice shiny new toy?? Or a fancy compass-box ? These days however, with the ‘upgradation’ of kids in schools, the ‘compass boxes’ are replaced by ipods and other expensive stuff. You know, in my school, I think they allow 5th grade kids to have cell phones. Getting back to the point- so you remember going back home and telling your mom that you want a similar shiny toy too? And then throwing a tantrum/ sulking when folks at home refused to entertain you?
So what happens, when the poor kids start going to ordinarily-rich-kids-schools? Will they always have a complex of being poorer, and not having all that stuff that 75% of their classmates have? Imagine- my mom washes dishes and sweeps the floor at your mom’s place. I’ll feel very nice about it, will I? Will the poor kid’s parents even want their kids to attend school at such places? The more I think about this, and the more I find a recipe for disaster cooking up in my head.
I’ve been working with an NGO (Akanksha) for the past few months, and have interacted with some slum kids closely. As my friend had pointed out once, the underprivileged kids are exposed to some pretty nasty things at an early age- things, that well-to-do people don’t expose their children to. So you have here a confluence of two different kinds of little minds- one, which has had real world bad experience, and other, which has had the internet world super-exposure. And grade one, these kids are not going to have the maturity to learn from each other/ celebrate the differences sort of thing. Its going to be a stark contrast. Fullstop.
What are your views on this? Drop in a comment.