I am a teacher and I like teaching and learning. Here is something you taught me in the last three months.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. You were really tough when COVID was making it tougher. It is not easy to lockdown a country of our size. I learnt that even in a democracy, you can enforce discipline.
When our Honorable PM inspired a billion people to ring bells and light lamps, I learnt that when our lives are at risk, even simple acts of faith can reinstate belief in life.
When migrant workers were in distress, I saw how citizen initiatives, government measures and acts of kindness from many individuals relieved at least some of their misery. I learnt that collective responsibility can make a huge difference to the society.
When Central and State Governments released funds to support daily wage workers or run trains for transporting migrant workers to their respective states, I learnt about the concern and capacity of governments.
When PM requested the landlords and house owners to not trouble the tenants for rental payments, I learnt that one may be a leader of 1.3 billion people, but one should remember issues of a common man.
When state governments ruled out annual fee hike of private schools, I learnt about their concern for parent community and their economy. I also learnt that their concern is for migrant workers to white collared workers but not for teachers in private schools. Nor even for those who run schools to make an honorable living.
When governments dictate the fee structure of private schools, I see their concern for parent community. Though the same concern does not extend to controlling the cost of toys, games, devices, entertainment or clothes that parents buy for their children. Or even on the fee of coaching classes, Cricket, Tennis, Music etc., etc.,
In COVID times, they have given free license to parents and cautioned private schools by saying ‘Don’t insist on fee payments’ besides the roll back. But the same government did not tell the private hospitals to not insist on payments nor did they ask for roll back of costs. They did not even explain how private schools can pay their staff if parents don’t pay the fee.
Parents who neither join their children in government schools nor ask government’s counsel while seeking admission in a private school, will suddenly make use of this free license and quote government for not paying fee.They may curse government for everything else, but in this case, they worship.
With high levels of awareness and transparency owing to technology, parents can very well protect their interests. Moreover, they can choose a school which is suitable to their budget or preferences.
Un-aided private schools means, no funds are given by the Government to run the schools. What comes as fee is what runs the school and it’s staff. Whether to purchase the land or construct the building or even to start the school, no financial subsidy or aid is given by the government. But, rules and regulations, especially on fee structure are stringently enforced by the government.
Another victim of COVID is the 'sanctity of schools'. COVID may pass soon but schools will remain and so will education. All those who are drafting petitions against fee payments and negotiating with schools, need to remember that children are listening to us. A generation may grow up with the idea that schools are also places where you bargain and get what you want. Schools are a need of the society. A civil society, where parents send their children to get educated and make a better world. And they deserve a respectful place and importance both by society and government.
Screen Time welfare
Some of the recent welfare measures of a few state governments have indeed taught me interesting lessons. Although they don’t dictate TV channels, movie makers or media for making inappropriate programmes for children, they make it a point to ban online schooling for children. Suddenly, screen time of children has become a government’s concern. I learnt that government can also assume parental role where required.
One state CM says, ‘no school, no fee’. This politically motivated dialogue becomes the license to parents. And they stop paying the fee. I learnt that governments are great parents to parents and step parents to private schools and teachers.
While protecting the interests of parents, governments forget that people who run schools are also citizens of this country and the teachers in those schools are architects of the destiny of this country.
That private schools contribute to the quality education in this country and create a critical pool of teachers and students, is ignored and bias is conveniently built.
A few commercially oriented schools cannot tarnish the rest of the sincere schools who consider it their ethical responsibility to continue the learning journey of their students.
Pandemic or no pandemic, the show must go on, say the spirited teachers of this country and they deep dive into technology to use it to reach out to their students.
I learnt that:
The Constitution of India may have included education in concurrent list, but governments rarely concur with anything proposed by private schools. Constitutional provision may allow private schools in the country but each succeeding state or central governments interpret the constitution to suit their agenda. I learnt that constitutional provision is no guarantee for the realisation of any sincere effort, most of all of private schools.
But I, as a teacher will still teach that Constitution is a sacred document of democracy and education is a need of the society and schools are temples of learning and that destiny of this country begins in it's classrooms ( even if it is virtual). And that governments are essential bodies to govern the country.