BE THE VOICE

I am writing this article from the beautiful skiing town of Shymbulak situated close to Almaty in Kazakhstan. This mountain town boasts of some of the best ice-sporting facilities in the world and its athletes are among the best in the winter games disciplines. The infrastructure support and encouragement that is given to athletes is quite remarkable, no wonder Kazakhstan has some world class athletes even in regular sports like tennis, cycling, weightlifting etc. It was not just the sporting infrastructure that is praiseworthy, what caught my attention was the fact that the city of Almaty boasted of some of the best music schools of the world, several theatres dedicated to children, activity centers made exclusively for children to pursue hobbies like dancing and arts, museums to encourage curiosity in science and history in addition to the innumerable parks that were spread across the city. Growing up in a city like that would be an amazing experience for children while they have spaces to do a lot of things after school and to pursue hobbies which are normally expensive but are being funded by the state. What’s commendable, is the fact that Kazakhstan got its independence from the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1991 and is just a 25-year-old nation. Yet the manner in which the government has gone about focusing on the future of the nation is quite remarkable. This got me thinking about what we do in India. We have given up on the state for any support to bring up our children, hence the mushrooming of private schools and educational institutions. The state is still in a state of slumber and overall development of children is not even remotely a priority. This has resulted in parents believing that the entire onus of overall development of children lies with the school and they expect all facilities to be provided by the school. Facilities come with a price and more the facilities provided, higher the expenses. This has resulted in majority of our children not having access to sporting activities, art or cultural facilities as their parents cannot afford it! Schools are compensating for the failure of our government by providing facilities to children. Parents who can afford high fees are happy to find selfish solutions only for their children. What happens to the hundreds of other children is not even remotely on their minds! We have created a culture where we do not engage with the government and raise our concerns. Schools and parents are happy finding band-aid solutions by building private infrastructure. Holistic development of a child happens in three places- at home, in school and in the society. No matter what facilities a school provides, they will never be able to compensate for the lack of infrastructure in our societies. Schools need to come together and raise their voices against this. Token gestures like prayers, assembly speeches etc. are not enough. What we need is teaching activism to children, encouraging them to debate and participate in mock conferences of the local democracy for it is all of this, that will go a long way in building the nation. Most revolutions across the world germinate from educational institutions with the seeds sown in schools. How long are we going to keep the real world out of our schools and keep teaching our children vague concepts? By filling the gaps of sub-standard facilities, schools are encouraging corruption and government apathy. Will schools ever be the voice and encourage activism among children?