Monday, August 11, 2014

Empowering women to witness change

The newspaper reports which keep appearing on almost daily basis related to the crime against women are very disturbing and are appalling for the society in the 21st century. More disturbing are the reasons cited by many people specially dressing of the women and other things including their going out in the night or doing certain things which till date were considered to be the sole right of men only. The question which has been asked is - what is the fault of a girl child who is five or ten years of age?  We need an answer for this. She does not wear that type of clothes which many people find provocative. Though the government has tried its level best to curb this menace but it seems to be having an opposite effect. The media does play its role by reporting such incidents but that too get carried away by some high profile cases and in this process the sufferings of many women is lost in the void because they are not reported so intensely as the high profile cases are.  Though the status of women in the society appears to have improved but the reality is different. The literacy rate among the women is much better than when India got independence. This should have made the difference in the attitude of the society towards the women folk but has that really happened? I might be considered to be pessimistic but just for the sake of not being labeled that way we cannot close our eyes from the reality. I would not like to discuss the numbers and statistics but look at the real examples of the problems and issues faced by the women in our country. I am of the firm opinion that the society in which women are respected will progress and prosper fast and reach greater heights, there would be peace in such a society but our family fabric is such that she is not considered worthy of that respect in many cases. I cannot openly share the identity of the women who have suffered in silence but get scared when I think that she could have been my mother also. When mere thought of this can make me shiver than think about the plight of the person who suffers the same day and night. There are women who are well educated, having masters degree and working in reputed organizations and apparently respected in the office by all but look at the same lady`s situation when she reaches home. The lady will have to work hard in her office and also be responsible for everything at home. She is expected to do all household work, look after the in laws, children and husband as well. I do not know in how many cases the husband extend proper help to the wife in day to day household work. There was a time when women used to stay home and do the entire work and the men were considered to be the earning member. That time it was still acceptable that women were doing almost entire work of the house but now the situation has changed and the women work hard while they study and also after getting a job they have to work harder. The man probably was respected earlier because he was the bread earner of the family but now the woman is contributing equally in meeting the expenses of the family ( though that should not be the only reason of the respect towards the women). The issues which really disturbed me are so burning that I could not stop myself from raising the same here. But I do not want those cases to become so apparent publically, hence finding it difficult to put them straight for you. We must understand that it is not physical assault which our women are subjected to but the psychological and emotional trauma is equally serious. There are cases where the husband does not do anything and the lady is working but still she is subjected to all kinds of abuse in the family especially by the husband. She is expected to do all the work and then go to the work place and do the same when comes back home. In many a cases even after doing so much she is not allowed to breathe freely because there are so many restrictions on eating and other desires she might have. Most of our women suffer in silence for the sake of the children and the reputation of the family in the society. The men can be friendly with anyone including the women but the same is not allowed for the wife. This is so ridiculous and negative when it comes to the equality among men and women. Actually it is a paradox! Men can very easily destroy the respect of the woman by casting a doubt on her character. A lady has infinite patience but that should not be tested unrestrained because she is also a human being and has emotions and feelings and wants to be respected and given proper place in the society. We must pay attention to this issue very seriously. I think laws only cannot fight with this issue but the mindset of the society should be changed specially the male members of the family must be made aware that female members are equally important and be respected. This cannot be preached but certainly be practised. If in a family the husband respects the wife then the children will automatically learn the same. Also the society also should change the mindset of the family tree only in terms of the male members. The female can also take your family name forward. The day society will think in this manner, many of the problems will be solved. Empowering women is very important but equally important is to respect them and realize that it is because of them that we progress well. I salute all women of the society for their patience and devotion to their families but the time has come that they assert for their rights also. They have been doing their duties so well but their rights are to be protected and made available to them by the society, if society wants peace and prosperity in future. The women should not give in to unjust demand of anybody but should stand firm to ensure that their respect and dignity is not compromised. I do not appreciate offensive approach and so we should try to teach our male children that they respect the girls and when they grow with such feelings and learning then I am sure real empowerment of the women will take place. This is an old saying that man and woman are two wheels of life cart and both have got to be equally healthy in terms of physical and emotional strength.
I shared this blazing matter with you all because there have been many issues which I came across in the past few years where I found women suffering in silence for the sake of the children and the family. Though there are many families in which the women are given due respect and that is the reason they progress so well. But there are so many others which require immediate attention of the society and their respect to be restored. Women should fight for their place in the society without dispensing their strength and the quality of patience, as she is the symbol of warmth, perseverance and endurance.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Act of balancing

The recent incidents of the serious crime against children in the schools have astonished the entire society and as usual every body is showing concern towards the safety of the school going children. The ministry headed by Mrs. Menaka Gandhi is very serious about the problems faced by women and children at different places. In a sincere move to save children from being subjected to physical or psychological punishments at home and in the schools, the ministry is planning to implement some stringent laws so that the children are safe and they grow as responsible and confident citizens of the nation. This is a welcome step and had been given a thought before the situation was allowed to reach where it is today that the children suffer a lot in silence. The teachers' response to such a law may be scary but the ones who are not able to control their impulses and involve themselves in scolding or beating the children to the extent that many children become terrified. The role of teachers and parents is to provide a conducive environment for proper and healthy growth of the children. This can be done by letting children learn and do things as per their aptitude and liking. Sometimes the children may not be able to decide what is good for them and for the society; in that case the parents and teachers can play the role of facilitator.
The other issue which is under consideration of the ministry is to reduce the age of juvenile from 18 years to 16 years so that the young male involved in heinous crimes like rape, assault etc; against the women and the children can be tried in proper court and not in juvenile court where they being in the category of the juvenile get a lot of leverage although the crime committed by them demands serious punishment.  Now these two issues left me flabbergasted because to me they seem to be contradictory. I shall put forward my views in a manner that nobody feels offended because the problem in our country is that tolerance to respect the other’s point of view of is plummeting. I consider that the punishment is not necessarily the solution of all problems in all cases. This should be judicious and not based on emotional state of the mind. The children are the future citizens of the society and they should be handled properly and effectively so that the issues like rape etc exterminate from the society forever. Our children should be exposed to such environment where they are safe and they see everybody else safe, irrespective of the gender, caste or religion. If we can do that, then there will be no requirement of any stringent laws. Nevertheless, this is quite a paradox because on one hand the ministry wants to punish parents and the teachers by imprisoning them up to five years and on the other hand bringing down the age of juvenile to 16 years and punishing them too as adults? We should be very clear what our approach is towards crime of different nature.  I think that crime is an offense irrespective of whatever may be the age or reason. Either we create the kind of the society where everyone respects the other by the means of education or fear of punishment. We must have zero tolerance towards crime against anybody whether a child, woman or man.
The problem with our policy and law makers has been that they have been reactive than being proactive. The laws have been ratified in a hurry at times under the threat of the so called NGOs or the human rights commissions. Many people are of the opinion that the existing laws are good enough if enforced effectively. Today we are talking a lot about the issues related to children being bullied in the schools by their peers and punished by the teachers. There are some teachers who give corporal punishment to the children, which is against the law. If the policy of no corporal punishment is implemented by the schools sincerely then this problem can controlled up to a large extent. But many schools do not take it seriously. Due to some incidents taking place here and there, a panic is created and the government is forced to implement another law which seems to be more severe than the existing one. As I mentioned earlier, we should be proactive then being reactive to the situation and the laws enforced should be such that they do not affect the innocent ones. The misuse of the anti dowry law has been realized by everybody including the honorable Supreme Court. This law when enforced, was done with sincerity towards curbing the dowry menace in the society but there should have been protection for the innocent ones. My suggestion to the government and the society is that the same should not be the fate of the other laws related to the children, teachers and the parents. We must understand that no parent would like to punish the child just for the sake of it. Rather, I come across many cases where they express helplessness and want schools to punish their children so that they listen to the parents. Substantiating my statement here, there have been instances where  the parents were right but the child forced them to do what he/she wanted. A child who was 15 years of age asked his parents for a motorbike which was limited edition of a brand and naturally the costly one. The parents did not agree to that and the child stopped eating food and blackmailed them that if they did not agree to his demands, he would take an extreme step. The parents remained firm for 3-4 days and when the child did not listen to them, they resigned to his unjust demand. I do not say that the parents did the right thing but what should have been the right thing in this case, this question is asked by many such parents.
The recent news in one of the newspapers is another side of the problem. A child of class 9th was questioned by a teacher for not having done his homework. The child was so angry that he attacked the teacher outside the school and teacher was to be admitted to a hospital in ICU. This is not one incident of this type and if such incidents keep rising, then will the government enforce another law against the children involved in such acts. Our laws should be balanced and not swinging between extremes which seem to be the case as on today. The teachers, parents and the children all are important and everybody should have a respected place in the society. Though it is the responsibility of the parents that the children are safe and are looked after well at home and in the schools but the children should also be responsible enough for their behavior and the activities in the schools as well as outside the schools. This is a difficult task to balance but is imperative in a somber society. We should be careful regarding the freedom of all individuals but all individuals in turn should also be aware of the freedom and respect for others. My request to all teachers and parents would be to teach the children by their example and not necessarily by force. The children would do what they see us doing. Let us try to develop the respect and love for each other than the fear of punishment and hatred. The relationship between the teacher and student and the parent and the child is so pious that it should not be poisoned with this medicine of punishment. The parents and the teachers can play a significant role in this to happen. May God gives us strength to help our children by our hard work, patience and sincerity without worrying for anything in return, good or not so good.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Seeking honest and ethical minds

A news report related to the students of a medical college in Rajasthan should have disturbed many people in the society including the students in question, their parents and teachers. The case here is that more than thirty students of this college have been debarred from appearing in the examination because they did not fulfill attendance requirement. I am sure the college administration must have warned them and their parent before also (I am not definite about this but this is what is expected) but they might not have taken it seriously. The question arises whether this is an isolated incident or it is there in other institutions also. I came across another interesting issue lately. I tried to think about it critically whether this should be discussed or not because this includes the child, the school and the coaching center. An advertisement published in a daily newspaper had mentioned a regular student of that school who topped entrance examination for a premier institution. The school fraternity was rightly proud of the achievement of their student. After a few days the coaching institute also gets an advertisement published and claims for the success of the same child. The paradox here is that the child was claimed to be the regular classroom student in a city known as the education city of the country because of large number of coaching institutes (unfortunately coaching institutes are being claimed to be the part of our education system which perhaps is not right). Now the question is, how a child can be a regular student at two different places? The two cities (one in which the school is situated and the other where the coaching institute is situated) are at quite a distance from each other. This is not possible for the child to travel from one city to the other city every day. We do not know whose claim is right! Almost everyone knows that this problem is not confined to one city or one school or one coaching institute but it has spread all over the country. The two incidents which I mentioned here should be viewed seriously by all concerned. Does bunking of the classes by the students of the medical college have anything to do with the issue of coaching institute? There are rumors(which may be true also) that there are dummy schools available to the coaching institutes where the children are enrolled in classes XI and XII but they do not need to attend the school and concentrate only on the coaching institutes. This is not something new because the national board of the country had taken action against some schools in the so called education city few years back. The reason the government thought of considering the marks of class XII for the IIT admission was also based on the inputs that the children were in the habit of ignoring schools and focus on the coaching only. The size and number of ads published in the newspaper explains the influence of the parallel industry in the name of education. However, efforts were made to curb the same but this seems to have little impact on this issue. Now the question is who is responsible for the same? I think it is the parents, students, schools, coaching institutes and also the government agencies. But ultimate sufferers are the children and the nation. The children who develop the attitude of achieving things irrespective of the means used by them continue doing the same in their future life also. The concept of the ethics and respect for others becomes meaningless for them. Did the students of medical college in discussion develop the habit of bunking the classes while they were aspiring for medical entrance examination? This needs to be studied not only in this case but in other colleges and universities also. Why should school become the party to something done unethically? I know there are number of schools which do not allow dummy attendance but that number seems to be decreasing now. The reason is that their students leave their school after class X because the ones who are focused for coaching, want excuse from the school attendance and such schools do not allow that. This is a severe problem not being looked at sincerely. I make a request to the parents and the children to ensure that they achieve things and positions by making use of fair means and not resorting to the methods they would not like others to use. I know a few cases where the parents would like high moral values to be developed till their child is in class X but the views change drastically when the child comes to class XI. At this stage they rather demand for dummy attendance in the school and if told no then withdraw the child and put him in some other school which might have agreed to their request. Everyone may make a lot of hue and cry that there is corruption in government department but in reality the immorality originates from individuals. I cannot say much about corruption, but what is this when someone is shown present in the school but is actually absent? I know it very well that some people will feel offended by what I am stating but if they are honest why should they worry. We must realize that the objective of education is to produce citizens who will be responsible not only for themselves but also the society. The service of the society should be placed before self. If our ancestors would have been selfish we would not have been living in an independent country. They sacrificed everything for the cause of the nation and we must be indebted for it.
I was reading the book, Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner in which he talks about what should be focused in education to provide the society with best of the citizens in plenty. I take this more in context of the school education. The first three minds are based on cognitive achievements and the next two are very relevant to the topic in discussion. These are respectful and ethical minds. We must focus on these two minds and most of our problems related to violence and corruption would be solved. These minds can be developed when the parents and the teachers (school) think and are developed that way. In the race of going ahead of others we should not let our children lose sight of respect and ethics. This is not easy but not at all impossible. The schools should ensure that they do not do anything which might put them in an awkward situation if children or parents ask them some uneasy question and vice versa. Education is one of the noblest professions and efforts should be made to keep the trust of the society intact. If we respect all the people in the society then this mad race of pursuits would take a different route. Making efforts to progress is not wrong but the means employed are the ones which make things good or bad.
I did not mean to hurt somebody but raise an issue which should be discussed in the earnest and efforts be made by all concerned to tackle it effectively. Let us help our children develop respectful and ethical minds so that the country and the world are benefitted by them.

Friday, June 27, 2014

All hopes from new government

India has new government in office and the people of the country have lots of hope and expectations from the prime minister and other ministers. The focus of the government might be on reducing the inflation, curbing the corruption and bringing the economy of the country on the right track but other areas are also to be looked into seriously and should be in the priority list. One of those is, the education and in that too the school education. The country witnessed some changes in the form of RTE Act and the reforms introduced by the central board of secondary education New Delhi. I wrote it before also that we must assess the impact of the reforms and the right to education act and must make amendments wherever necessary. Our prime minister said that the countrymen should be ready for some difficult decisions which would bring the desired improvement in different fields. I agree that the government should think for the entire country and all the people and not only for the people in groups. Our country has great culture and the same is to be restored. To do the same, the most important medium is the education. We must move away from narrow thinking of pleasing the people based on their caste, region and religion but have broader thoughts as Indian and important members of the global world. The children at school level need to be exposed to a balanced view of the past and the future and not an inclination towards so called right or left. It is heartening to know the views of the young and dynamic HRD minister in terms of futuristic approach. Though this is too early to say anything about her approach but the people in the field of education have high hopes from her that she will take concrete steps to lift the quality of our education system. She is expected to lead the nation in a manner that all stakeholders feel as they own the education system in force, in the country. She should involve maximum number of the people to revamp the system and no suggestion be considered less important. We must try to explain the motive and goal of the education to all. Should it be the degree only or the skill development also? I am quite impressed by the thoughts of the prime minister that skill development should be the focus of the education at secondary and senior secondary level. The chief minister of our state Smt. Vasundahra Raje has already started working on improving the quality of education in the state. All states should do the same. But this cannot take us to desired goals till the central government sets the goals of education with new zeal and open mind. Everybody understands the importance of education but the goals and objective are to be clarified further in this very fast changing world. We must be clear about the vision and the mission regarding the education in our country. We must clearly know how our education systems will improve the life of the citizens of the country because this is the education only which will eradicate the poverty and bring about the positive changes in the society. Education cannot be and should not be used to promote factionalism but the unity. This should help people come together than drifting away. We expect the government to take care of both the aspect of the education: quantity and the quality. Considering the size of our nation, government alone may not be able to do the most, so private sector should join hands with the government. The concept of PPP should be revived and the lack of trust between private sector and public sector should also be restored.  The entire private sector should not be viewed with doubt though there may be some elements not doing the work honestly. Such elements should be identified and removed from the system. There should be objectivity and transparency in the system. This should be very clear to all concerned that the objective of the education is very noble and this should not be taken as business because schools and universities cannot be equated with factories and offices. The educational institutes do not produce machines but wonderful human beings and the values inculcated cannot be worth any amount of money offered. The Government schools should have better infrastructure and the teachers teaching there should be avoided from asking them to do such work which distracts them from the real job they are appointed for. The promotion and transfers of these teachers should be on merit and the criterion of the same should be well defined and well known to all. This should not be left to the discretion of individuals. At the same time the interests of the private institution teachers should also be protected. The government must ensure that they are paid at least equal to the teachers of government schools. The norms decided for the private schools and colleges should be enforced seriously and any deviation from the norms should not be allowed irrespective of the brand name or the position of the promoters of such institutions. The organizations which do well should be rewarded and the others should be given opportunity to improve. The other important aspect is that the teachers must be given due recognition and regard in the society. This is very important to protect the children`s right and ensure that they grow as confident and respected citizens of the world but the teachers also deserve better place in the society and the concept of poor master should be done away with henceforth. The government must promote teaching as an important and front running profession and not to be the last choice for the people. I am of the firm opinion that if the teachers are respected and valued by the society then they will do the same to their students. One odd case or person who did not deserve to be teacher and did something wrong should not become a general concept that all teachers are of the similar worth. The devoted teachers should be talked about and be given recognition so that many children value them as their ideals and get motivated to choose teaching as their profession.
 The government must try to evolve a system to evaluate the teachers and the institutions in an objective and comprehensive manner. We can take advantage of Dubai government which has made the school inspection mandatory every year and the schools are graded and guided accordingly. The inspection of the schools is carried by KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) and it has helped schools improve the quality. The role of KHDA is not to find the short comings only but to help the schools how to perform better. This way all concerned remain alert and do not take things lightly. They improve in terms of academic achievement and also the confidence of the teachers and the students is consolidated. The ones who are not able to sustain the pressure will have to move away from the system. Such inspections inform the schools about the strengths' and the weaknesses'. Based on this information the schools can design the training of the teachers and that helps in their professional development. But before that the standard and the quality of teachers training institutes must be improved and they should be able to attract the better talent into their folds.
The government has many challenges but we expect them to live up to the expectations of the citizens of the country. But at the same time we as worthy citizens should also be ready to contribute for the development of the nation especially in the field of education. I request the teaching community and the society to respect the very noble profession of teaching and do not take it as a job only. I bring my thoughts to a close here, with lots of hope that our education system will also have good days in the near future.