Friday, July 25, 2008

Lost Childhood

The other day when I was watching BBC news channel I saw it was a report on some of the war ravaged countries. Some of the clippings were of little children with their mothers standing with dazed look on their face. Their eyes are staring vacantly at the horizon.In another clipping it was Children of twelve, thirteen running around corners with guns in their hands and enjoying shooting at the security personnel. I am sure you must have all seen this by now familiar sight on news channels.

This made me wonder how these children are getting affected by constantly getting exposed to war, shootouts and killings. Personaly many must have lost their near and dear ones in these senseless fights. this would mean a whole generation of children are getting exposed to these violent crimes and their psyche would be totally affected.

When our children would be playing with toys , children there would be playing deadly games with the guns. When our children are making a fuss about food little ones there must be suffering hunger pangs. School for them would be fight for day to day survival lessons and trying to save their lives. Bed time stories would be the days drama of life unfolding in front of their tender lives every day. Dreams would be of gory bodies everywhere.

I wonder what does life hold for them? What would their future be? Can they ever hope for a normal life and a normal childhood? Imagine a whole generation just losing out on their childhood. They might become cynical and be much more mature despite their tender age. They too might become part of the vicious circle of war and death. In the battle fought by the shrewd politicians and war mongers these little lives have been sacrificed .

When we do not have the power to create the world we do not have the right to destroy it. In what way would war help anyone? I wonder...

Just imagine a world of peaceful co-existence where there is love, joy and happiness. A world filled with the gurgles and laughter of children playing together , carefree and full of life and dreams. I hope these children will survive to see life in a whole new way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Books Child's Best Friend

One thing that I was crazy about right from my childhood was reading books - specially fiction. Initially it started with small storybooks which my grandmothers sister used to give as gifts on birthdays. Later our very good old Amar chitra katha books and in teens it was Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, the forever exciting Enid Blyton books like Famous five, Mallory towers and the list was never ending. Oh! the sheer delight of reading these fantastic books.

I remember how I used to try and finish my studies fast ,complete all my home work and then I would start reading my favourite books. My mother and my sisters used to grumble as to why I had to read as though my life depended on completing it. But there I was just reading .... and most of the times refusing to go on a family outing, which really used to irritate them no end.

So it was no big surprise that I started planning and started my own library of books for my babies even before they were born. Both me and my husband who luckily also shares my passion in reading books would visit book exhibitions. Thus we started building up a good collection. It was my dream to pass on this passion of reading books to my children also, as I felt books are the best friends that a person could have.

I initially started with nice colourful picture books by pointing out pictures and talking about it.This was the beginning. Once he started talking, then we both would sit with books and I would point out and talk to him about the various animals, birds, vehicles and all the other pictures with which he could relate to and which he would see around him. We also bought a series of the excellent books by Time Life Series which I recommend all parents to buy. These books are amazing. Even to this day both my children have the habit of going through these books now and then.

So my first baby started slowly developing this love for books. When my second child was born we again went through the same process of introducing him to books This time I also had my first son participating in story telling along with me. Till recently I had to read a book for them and tell the story at dinner time and they really used to enjoy it. Now I find that both my sons enjoy reading and I really feel it is worth all the time spent in trying to make books their companion.

This might be the era of PSP or Xbox or WiFi but books can never ever be replaced. These give the child the power of imagination, flight to fantasy land , improves their vocabulary , and opens up a vast ocean of knowledge. When the child is not in a good mood then books will uplift his spirit. Who can forget the spirited Tom Sawyer and his adventures? How can one forget the famous lines "Elementary my dear Watson" from Sherlock Holmes? The thrilling adventures and sights that we all saw on the Coral Island, or the most beautiful and touching story where one travels along with the lives of "Little Women". The list is never ending.

So I feel the best gift that any parent could give to their children would be making them passionate about reading books and letting books be their best friends . Starting at a very early age is a must. It can also be a good bonding time when parents take their children to book stores and let them just sit and read or go through different books. I enjoy the time when we take the kids to Crossword and see them running to their favourite book section and picking up a book and sitting very seriously reading it. I see a lot of children there reading and it makes me glad that books are still part of childhood.

Infact the best holiday for me would be staying near a river side cottage with my husband and children, some good food, a hammock and lots and lots of books to read. Ideal wouldn't you say?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lost Labour?

The other day the labour department people gave a surprise visit to our apartment. They went to all the flats to find out if there were any children below fifteen years being employed as house help.

We are all aware the goverment has banned child labour. When such children have been found they have been put into shelter homes and then they are enrolled into schools. This I really appreciate as I have always felt that education is the key towards development.

But at times doubt assails my mind. I just thought is this really working? Are children happy to be going to school? I mean if the child is say thirteen or fourteen then they have been working for a long time. Here I am talking only of househelp as I can associate with them more than children working in other sectors. Most of the time the story is the same. Children are forced to work to earn income for the family. Sometimes this would be the main source of income for the family. The man of the household generally does not contribute to the family's income. His money if at all he works goes into his liqour and gambling habits. Then a huge family needs to be looked after by the lady of the house.

Now if only the mother works it will not suffice considering the forever spiralling price. They will need as many hands as possible to earn for the family. So what happens when this source of income stops.
Is the government going to support such families till such time when these children finish atleast the minimum of tenth grade? Even then is there a guarantee that they will find jobs where they can help the family?
Also another thing I felt was, these children till now were used to a life with little or no rules . They would go and spend time after their work as they pleased. Now would it not be very difficult for them to sit in a class room and obey rules?The subjects that are taught in school might not interest most of them barring a few exceptions. They might feel how learning social studies , languages and science help them in future. A future which they can't comprehend on a long term basis. Theirs is a day to day sustenance.

The first step I feel is for the government to close down all the liquor shops. This I know they will not do as it is a big revenue stream for them. We have read in papers the women taking it upon themselves to forcibly close down these shops. They have understood the ill effects it is having on their family. Hopefully the man of the house would then start earning and contributing to the family income. This in turn might help them towards better living conditions. Only after this would they think of enrolling their children into schools. Once the little ones start going to school atleast that generation might have better awareness and slowly some of the schemes that the government plans for them, might help these children in future. Hope this shift happens soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Better life for underprivileged children through education

When I was doing my Masters in Human Development we had to submit our thesis. The topic that I chose was "Motivating The Ragpicking Children Towards Education Through Play-Way Method".

I had two groups. One a control group and the other the experimental group. Both the groups were asked certain questions , to find out their knowledge on various topics. After this, a specific programme was developed to teach the experimental group and a specific curriculum was planned. As part of this programme, they were taught various things about day-to-day happenings and things about their surrounding environment. They were also exposed to a number of creative activities. The activities used more of the audio visual medium i.e., charts, pictures, dramatisation, experiments etc., At the end of one month both the groups were again subjected to the same questions that were asked earlier. A profound change was found in the experimental group. They genuinely enjoyed all the learning excercise given to them. Some of the children, I noticed, were extremely intelligent and very active. The younger they were the better they responded.

Many of these ragpicking children had run away from home at a very young age due to various situations that they had to face on the home front. They led a nomadic life. They did not have one particular place to live in. Many small children I got to know had got addicted to drugs. As they could not obviously buy drugs, they would get a high by inhaling strong smelling chemicals. Many of them had sores and had contracted some form of disease. Overall, it painted a sad picture.

At the end of this thesis, I really felt that "Education" is definitely a key to a better life. The rag picking children need not be imparted education in the tradiational sense where they have to go through the rigours of an examination. Education for them would be more about how to deal with the practicalities of life. It would be about making these children 'world-ready' - something they can use to earn a living and be self-sufficient.

There are various individuals as well as some organisations which I came across who were doing a very commendable job in this field. It is therefore with great respect that I salute them for trying their best to rehabilitate these children into the mainstream. India can definitely progress if all her children are brought into the fold of education from the time they are young. As famous educationist Roussoue said "The mind of a young child is like Tabula Rasa" which means their mind is a clean slate which a good teacher fill with knowledge.