Sunday, September 17, 2017

Safe Environment Is The Right Of Children


Once again a child at the tender age of 7, who could have been a great contribution in making this world a better place, has become a victim of a heinous crime. It’s unfortunate and terrifying to that the crime took place in the temple of knowledge i.e. school. It happened in a so called accept reputed school on 8th September 2017.  This incident shattered the world of the parents and family of the little one. An obvious uproar of the parents, politicians, government department or administration and media covered the entire nation. A lot has been said and written about this incident which is unfortunately not the first one but if we make sincere efforts we can definitely make it the last one.
Amidst this sad situation a journalist of a Hindi newspaper, has presented a very balanced analyses of the grave incident. He is of the view that everyone must contribute to safeguard our children in the school premises. The major responsibility is on the school management as no one else can ensure the safety of the kids within the school premises better than the administration of the school. The very first step has to be the selection of the staff under strict guidelines and thereafter proper training and regular checks on them. Also, the physical infrastructure of the school is also very important and the sensitive nooks and corners should be monitored with the help of cameras.
It’s a popular saying in Hindi that ‘a child is given milk by the mother only when he cries for it’, in today’s scenario the parents are ‘shouting’ to let the management know that they want a better environment for their kids in school. There were times when schools were defined as a ‘masterji’ teaching a bunch of kids under the shade of a tree. Today, the schools claim numerous facilities in the name of education but safety of the kids should always be the priority.
We come across horrible incidents of sexual and emotional assault of little kids almost every week. The so called ‘good’ schools boasts of their vision and mission as the all round development of the kids which is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual but the reality of the present times is that some of these schools don’t have proper infrastructure for physical activities, don’t teach the students to express emotionally and doesn’t sensitize them on sensitive issues, burden of course pressurizes them and their aren’t any methods left in the curriculum to enlighten the students spiritually.
What I observed after this unfortunate incident is that everyone is passing the ball in other’s court and no one wants to take the responsibility. Such incidents expose the loopholes of the entire management. The board to which this school is affiliated has once again done its duty by sending revised guidelines for implementation in the schools, which have been sent in earlier cases also.
My question is that why the board was waiting for such an incident to occur and did not ensure earlier whether these guidelines were strictly implemented or not? The very board which gave affiliation to this school should have made sure that regular inspections were done to keep in check that all the guidelines were followed. Even the school administration should have ensured that these guidelines were strictly adhered to. I request the parents to make sure that their child will be safe in the school premises before getting the child enrolled in any school and they should not be carried away by the name and fame of the school.
The management of such renowned schools should not become a money making machine. Education is not an industry, its sheer knowledge which is imparted with the mission of a child’s holistic development and the safety of the child thus becomes a priority. School is the pious place where knowledge is worshipped.Let us take a step forward to ensure that it remains so:
·      Most important function should be played by the school staff; guards, support staff, teachers and administrative personnel and they should take direct responsibility in their own way. If all remain vigilant then surely such incident can be stopped. All should keep their eyes and ear open and help children be safe in the school premises.
·      The security and all other support staff should be appointed with utmost care and they should be sensitized on regular basis of their responsibilities and duties especially with regard to the safety of the children.
·      Though it is becoming difficult to find good teachers today as teaching as a profession is not being looked up to and due to increase in tuition culture teachers are losing their deserved place in the society as education is being sold. A teacher is supposed to be trained in child psychology, she/he must be extremely understanding, patient and affectionate so that they would go out of their way to make sure that the child is doing well and is safe. For this the school management should arrange training and counselling sessions for them.
·      The infrastructure of the school should be such that no one unwanted can come in the school premises. The secluded areas should be under strict supervision. CCTV cameras are unfortunately becoming a priority and they should be installed in vulnerable places so that they act as a deterrent to crime. All those areas which are not be visited by the children should be locked and guard should be stationed. The guards and other school staff should be given proper responsibilities at various places and they should be checked on regular basis.
·      Children should be guided not to stay alone in isolated areas even inside the school premises such as toilets, basement etc. They should be counseled about the good touch/bad touch and should be made confident enough to stay strong in uncomfortable situations and try shout if unable to run from there. They should be taught that they should raise their voice in case they are being touched without their wish and comfort. Children of primary and middle block should be given extra care and attention. The staff and parents of primary and middle schools should be extremely attentive towards their responsibility.
·      Parents should make sure that they maintain such a rapport with their child so that the child can openly express these issues and doesn’t feel uncomfortable and shy. It’s high time that we Indian parents come out of the so called cocoon of traditional orthodoxies and talk openly to the kids about sensitive issues and possible dangers. Remember kids are the soft targets of assaulters and their weapon is fear so make sure that your child is not scared at all and has full faith on you in every situation. Parents need to come out of their stereotypes and realize that boys are also targeted and therefore they should be taught to express openly instead of enforcing the age old horrendous idea that “boys don’t cry and aren’t sensitive”. The talks between parents and kids should not just be confined to academics.
·      There should be open communication between school and parents and they must remain in touch with each other and parents should visit the school as often as possible and suggest what improvement can be enforced for better safety of the children.
·      Group of teachers, parents and few senior students should review the safety situation and suggest measures if required.
·      The school management must take it as their main responsibility to ensure that the safety of the students is their priority. And they should not wait for such an incident to happen rather they should strictly follow the guidelines given by the board and invest more on safety of the kids. The schools should not be treated as business but those who argue in favour of that have rather more responsibility for the safety of the children whom they consider as their “customers” (written with a very heavy heart).
·      At last I would request the media and journalists to play a positive role by creating awareness among children, parents and school management in a constructive manner and show faith on the investigating authorities instead of blaming the entire education system shouting at the pitch of their voice at the prime time news.
Let us all work together in a hopeful, optimistic and constructive manner, giving our best to prove that even in the year 2017, this quote holds meaning in its true sense that:
 One, who opens a school door, closes a prison.”




Thursday, September 7, 2017

Stay Positive in Difficult Times


“There was a time when life was simple and social equations even simpler. Society consisted of an older generation and a younger generation and the twain met somewhere in between. Along came the New Age sociologist with trendy buzzwords and PowerPoint presentations and, suddenly, entire generations were reduced to alphabets; the X Generation, the Y Generation, the e-Generation, the Millennials and the newly coined iGeneration. The old socialist mantra of "rice in every bowl" has now been replaced with "a cell phone in every hand". Better educated, with greater spending power and technically savvy, the urban young have an enormous role to play in shaping the India of the future, but they are just not sure how to go about doing that.” (Source: India Today)

Its soul wrenching to see the youth, with endless possibilities, empowered with latest technology, going haywire. It isn’t an exaggeration. Various incidents, reports, statistics and surveys reveal a horrifying scenario. Equipped with everything, today’s youth feels empty and directionless deep inside, unable to combat the societal pressures, policing, expectations and comparisons. A mind troubled with dilemma and a heart governed by materialistic urges, replacing sensitivity unfortunately reflects the reality of the urban youth. But again I would like to put forth my favourite question. Who is responsible for this plight of these budding, impressionable minds and hearts?
Without further ado, I would talk about the recent horrific trend of the ‘Blue Whale Game’. “It is an Internet "game" that is claimed to exist in several countries. The game allegedly consists of a series of tasks assigned to players by administrators during a 50-day period, with the final challenge requiring the player to commit suicide. Blue Whale began in Russia in 2013 and allegedly caused its first suicide in 2015. Philipp Budeikin, a former psychology student who was expelled from his university, claimed that he invented the game. Budeikin stated that his purpose was to "clean" the society by pushing to suicide those he deemed as having no value.” (Source: Wikipedia)
It is disturbing to learn from different sources regarding the ill-effects of this “game” which is playing havoc with the life of teenagers.  In a recent incident a student of class X, from a small town, became so influenced or terrorized by the instructions of the game that she attempted to end her life. Fortunately, she was saved but others have not been so fortunate. Like the other countries where the game is spreading, India too is taking steps to combat the terror of this menace.
In August 2017, the Government of India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology directed several internet companies (including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo) to remove all links which direct users to the game. The fear of the game has been so that one of the largest educational boards in the country sent advisories to various schools and parents. Even the Judiciary has taken suo motu cognizance of this dangerous situation and directed the government to take immediate steps so that the future of the country is saved. But this isn’t enough as the cases related to this are increasing day by day. Interestingly, In Brazil, in response to the game, a designer and a publicity agent from São Paulo created a movement called Baleia Rosa (Pink Whale), which became viral and relied on the collaboration of hundreds of volunteers. The movement is based on positive tasks that value life and combat depression. In May 2017, Tencent, China's largest Internet service portal closed 12 suspicious Blue Whale-related network groups on its social networking platform QQ, as the number of this kind of groups is on the rise. The search results of related keywords were also blocked in QQ. (Source: Wikipedia)
Well, again the question arises; should internet be blamed for this plight of the present generation? Are these applications and games more influential than family values, affection, communication and faith? Of course not, but then the current situation has exposed the deteriorating condition of our society. The influence of these negativities has put a question mark on the familial values, education system and parent- child relationship. These games and sites are expositing the loopholes in out much celebrated family and education system and its high time that we realize that the problem lies within our approach rather than simply criticizing western influence. This game is yet again a catalyst that has triggered the last onslaught of the already existing broiling situation. It is time that we stop the blame game and realize that the foundation is shaky. The values and principles that are being inculcated in the kids aren’t enough to keep them firm in testing situations. The youth of today is utterly lonely and confused and yearns for communication and guidance. But its scarcity has directed them to seek pleasure and solace otherwise. And this is how sites, applications and games such as the one discussed above easily engulf the psyche of these perplexed individuals struggling for an identity and meaning of their existence.
Another terrible problem that has been detrimental to the society is that of drug abuse among teenagers. This horror isn’t new but recent reports show that this evil is spreading in small cities and towns and engulfing the teenagers rapidly. Every now and then we can read news where teenagers were caught in hookah bars and rave parties, consuming drugs and undesirable drinks. But the main question arises that why the Indian society is experiencing such a dilemma where more of the teenagers and youths are involved in unethical and unproductive activities.. The youths are topping the charts for the wrong reasons this time around.
This brings me back to the question I raised in the beginning of this article. Are kids responsible for the menace that is clutching them in its fetters? No one wants to be an addict of such games and drugs. Why do kids end up being trapped in such things? What is the weak link? The reasons are the same that I have been discussing in my articles time and again:
·         Loneliness and peer pressure: teenagers are influenced by their friends. The fear of being left out and lonely encourages them to be part of groups. Any wrong influence in such circles can deeply affect them as peers play a major role during teenage.
·         Family problems and lack of healthy communication: children get deeply affected by family issues and quarrels. This disturbs then and they seek peace in staying away from such situations. This can make them vulnerable.
·         Sheer pressure of studies and unhealthy competition: education has become a race, 5 to 6 hours of coaching and tuitions; pressure of scoring more and getting into best of universities is killing the hobbies and passions of the students.
·         Lack of guidance to channelize their energy: most of the times kids are not aware of how to use their leisure time as they are not guided to involve in outdoor games and constructive activities away from their expensive gadgets.
·         Erratic Lifestyle: late night parties and improper food and sleep habits distract the students and make them lag behind, thereby leading to frustration and distraction.
·         Unhealthy and overuse of gadgets and internet: in the name of providing everything to the kids parents blindly give them the best of gadgets and internet facilities without taking care of what the kids are browsing and how much time do they spend on it.
·         Lack of values and adequate family time: parents are unable to give adequate time to the kids on daily basis and NO the need of quality time cannot be compensated with any kind of “facilities and luxuries”. The “trend” of nuclear families is taking away from the students the ideas of sharing, care and sensitivity which are a necessity in the present times.

We know the reasons but we don’t have time to find solutions. Rather we aren’t even being observant enough to notice the behavioural changes our kids are going through. Their anger, frustration and depression are considered to be their tantrums. There are symptoms that parents/family members and teachers should look out for so that a child can be saved at the right time before evils like these games and sites can work on them to provide them the so called “escape” from real life. Children suffering because of the above stated reasons show symptoms like: neglecting responsibilities at school or at home, low performance academically and staying away or alone for most of the time, showing indifference in family gatherings, losing temper easily and getting into nasty things for petty issues, frequently getting into fights, feeling lethargic, anxious and irritated, sudden loss of appetite or over eating in some cases and loss of sleep patterns or over sleeping in some cases.
How can one stop this peril and lead the kids towards a normal, peaceful life?
It is time to ask yourself these questions and find a concrete solution otherwise the future is going to be dark and ambiguous. What the kids need today is proper motivation and guidance to inculcate the wisdom of differentiating between constructive recreational activities and vain pleasures based on material gratification. The kids today need examples and not lectures. You don’t have to be just a parent or a teacher rather you will have to be a socially aware, accepting, understanding and worth emulating guide for the kids of the present generation.
Parents as well as teachers will have to channelize the kids in the right direction “practically”:
 
·         Observe: keep an eye on the peer groups and friends the kids are engaged with. Monitor their internet activities time to time. Notice and look for the above stated symptoms.
·         Communicate: talk to the kids about their daily experiences and instead of dictating opinions, help them find logical solutions so that they can have faith on you and can easily communicate their problems to you.
·         Facilitate: instead of providing 24 hour internet connection and play station, make sure that they have facility to play outdoor games and if possible evening walks with friends and family members where they can discuss current issues or their day. Teachers can help them express themselves in verbal and written class activities giving them a chance to express.
·         Engage: instead of expensive foreign trips make sure that kids can spend a healthy weekend with the parents. Spend dinner time or lunch time together and express your feelings to the kid and give importance to their ideas and opinions.
·         Listen: sometimes we need to simply listen to their regales without giving lectures and philosophizing. This helps them lighten their hearts and you win their trust and it makes them easy for them to come to you in the times of trouble.
·         Inculcate: instead of lecturing them on moral values we will have to show them how to respect by setting examples. We can teach them the principles of honesty, reverence, hygiene, integrity by doing it themselves.
·         Set Examples:  “Effective parenting requires being the grown up version of what you want your children to be. Why? Because example is the most compelling superpower.” 
― 
Richelle E. GoodrichSlaying Dragons.  Well, this point is self explanatory. If you want your kids to be ideal, be an idol. If you want them to be well read, read. If you want them to be sensitive, sensitize. If you want them to be well mannered, show them how it is done. If you want them to use internet judiciously, limit your use of the gadgets at least in front of them. Tell them the wondrous aspect of internet comprising coursera, dictionary.com, ted talks, grammarly, quiz apps, blogs and so on.

Evil is lurking in every nook and corner but I stay positive about the future because lotus blooms in murky waters. The youth of today has the potential to be this lotus flower. We cannot blame such games, technological advancements or western influence only for the present scenario just to hide our short comings. It’s time to gain perspective, realize and take responsibility. I would conclude with this quote:

“Raising children uses every bit of your being - your heart, your time, your patience, your foresight, your intuition to protect them, and you have to use all of this while trying to figure out how to discipline them.” Nicole Ari Parker.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Help Children Achieve Freedom From Erratic Lifestyle

“Think in the morning. 
  Act in the noon.
  Eat in the evening.
  Sleep in the night.” William Blake

You might wonder why I am dealing with an issue related to health and lifestyle. The reason is that we are what we eat and it is a matter of concern that the food habits of kids are changing for the worst. I was recently going through certain statistics that show the hike in consumption of junk and processed food by kids of 10 to 15 years of age and this hike is alarming. What made me skim through this data is the recent scenario of in-activeness among kids.

It has been a constant feedback by the teachers that students are inactive and many of them are drowsy in the morning when they come to school and hence find it difficult to participate in classroom interaction and extracurricular activities. Quite a number of them are generally tired. Many students (especially the ones in middle and high school) do not eat breakfast due to some obvious reasons. To understand and perform better the kids need to be active listeners and concentrate in the class. When we tried to find the reason, it is mainly improper food and sleeping habits. Some students say that as they go to sleep very late so are not able to get up early in the morning hence tend to get late to the school due to which do not get time to have breakfast. In some cases as no one else in the family gets up early so they do not get the breakfast prepared at all. Also the quality and nature of the food served has changed (processed food) and contribute negatively towards the health of the children. 

As processed food is easily available and convenient to cook, even the parents these days have switched to it. Packed food items and junk have become the smart and easy way to breakfast and brunch. Kids are depending on milk and a bowl of cereal for their breakfast, the meal of the day which is supposed to be the richest. Even in their lunchbox they bring fried stuff and oily preparations which are quick to prepare. They make the kids sleepy and lethargic.

The routine/schedule of all family members have undergone a sea change and late going to parties/ eating outside in restaurants has become very common (in some cases almost this is a daily routine). The children have their dinner very late which results in going to bed late. They most disappointing attitude here is that of the parents. They are solely responsible for providing them with such food items and junk. Outings and weekend get-togethers are no more about arranging a picnic or an athletic sport or spree in the park but it has become all about going to a restaurant and eating pizzas and burgers. Parents need to remember that it’s their responsibility to make sure that their kids eat healthy food at proper time and also make their kid realize the importance of balanced diet. Not everything is learnt from the theories of science book but by practice.

The lack of proper and adequate sleep is hampering the performance of students in class and they experience constant fatigue and drowsiness. They are bound to attend and be a part of late night family functions and parties. Even the parents have adopted a lifestyle where they go to bed in late hours and indirectly encourage the children too to do the same thus disturbing their schedule/routine.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”. “The lack of sleep is also a result of constant stress the students are facing due to burden of tuition homework and 4 to 5 hours of coaching after school. This becomes so stressful that the brain comes to saturation and makes it impossible for a child to perform well on both these platforms i.e, school and coaching centers.

“There are data that sleep loss leads to learning and memory impairment, as well as decreased attention and vigilance,” says Dr. Kushida. “In the student-age population, studies have found that factors such as self-reported shortened sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, late bed and rise times, and poor sleep quality are negatively associated with school performance for adolescents from middle school through college. Thus, there is ample evidence to indicate that the lack of adequate night time sleep can lead to disturbances in brain function, which in turn, can lead to poor academic performance.”

The parents here need to realize that the environment these days asks for better food habits and sound sleep so as to be more productive in this competitive world.
I believe that parents need to make nutrition education a priority in their home environment. It's crucial for good health and longevity to instil sound eating habits from an early age”, said Cat Cora and I believe this should be the way to go. Parents should adopt a healthy lifestyle and food habits for the kids to emulate. They should take care that the kids eat proper breakfast and brunch with maximum amount of protein. Physical activities should be encouraged and junk should be strictly avoided from a very early age.

The schools and the teachers also need to take this responsibility of educating the children about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Not only students but parents should also be made aware of all the food groups and the importance of incorporating all of them in a day’s meal plan. Students at school should be appreciated if they eat healthy food and others should be encouraged to the same. At Maria Montessori Magnet School in Rockford, Ill., parent group members have got together to ensure that the students get only wholesome food to school.  Some parent groups purchase food and exercise journals for students, offering journals to other family members, making the food log concept a whole-family activity. The process of calculating calories burned and calories consumed can double as a math lesson too. Kids should be encouraged to turn junk into healthy food options themselves as they should be encouraged to experiment with chapattis tacos and wheat crust veggies stuffed pizza, fruit cream salads and homemade shakes.

AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medication) is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research. It has provided the following tips to help students get the most out of their sleep:
Go to bed early 

Children should go to bed early enough to have the opportunity for a full night of sleep. They need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Get out of bed 

If you have trouble falling asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
Stay out of bed 

Don’t study, read, watch TV or talk on the phone in bed. Use your bed only when you go to sleep.
Limit naps 

If you take a nap then keep it brief. Nap for less than an hour and before 3 in the afternoon has been found helpful
Wake up on the weekend 

It is best to go to bed and wake up at the same times on the weekend also as the children do during the school week. If you missed out on a lot of sleep during the week, then you can try to catch up on the weekend. But sleeping till late on Saturdays and Sundays will make it very hard for them to wake up for classes on Monday and Tuesday’s morning.
Avoid caffeine 

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and at night. It stays in your system for hours and can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
Adjust the lights 

Dim the lights in the evening and at night so your body knows it will soon be time to sleep. Let in the sunlight in the morning to boost your alertness.
Wind down 

Take some time to “wind down” before going to bed. Get away from the computer, turn off the TV and the cell phone, and relax quietly for 15 to 30 minutes.
Eat a little 

Never eat a large meal right before bedtime. Enjoy a healthy snack or light dessert so you don’t go to bed hungry.

If this appears to be impossible for the parents and children to follow then the government should change the school timings appropriately and it can be from 9 AM to 3.40 PM so that our children do not suffer from lack of sleep and proper food.


I hope my thoughts on this topic will be taken in the right spirit and healthy lifestyle would be prioritized by parents as well as students because all know it very well that a sound mind resides in a healthy body. I would conclude with this quote by Lord Buddha, “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”