12.12.2007

Indian society has finally arrived.....at Western doorsteps.....

It is a matter of coincidence that today morning when I was coming to office I saw two luxury buses. Well, nothing out of extraordinary except that these were SCHOOL BUSES. So what is wrong with that, some would say. Something, which even I deliberated with myself before forming an opinion. I mean, times have changed, mobiles were a luxury, now they are a necessity; mobile phone calls used to cost a bomb "back in early 90s", now they are practically free (if you take the right plan). So stop being someone at the older end of the generation-gap.

Well, I would beg to differ. Let us look that the main part of the issue; because seeing the luxury school bus was a coincidence. The actual incident is that of a shootout at a school in Gurgaon, India. We used to hear about campus shootings and deranged or frustrated kids and teenagers only in the US. When did the malaise travel the seven seas and start knocking our doors. Sorry, but knocked only once. Now it has barged into our lives persona non grata.

Two school boys studying in Euro International School, Gurgaon, pumped 5 bullets into their classmate. This school is supposed to one of the many international schools mushrooming all over India. Replete with all avenues for extra-curricular activities, they promise parents with an all round personality development of their kids. I am sure they did not foresee this development.

Quoting
Chandra Shekhar Balachandran, an alumnus of Kent Sate University (USA) who spent several years teaching geography in American universities before returning to India in 2000 and promoting the Dharani Trust, an education research and advocacy organization based in Bangalore "Over investment in infrastructure is an extreme reaction to traditional schools with their spartan buildings and grudging sports facilities. But redefining schools which are institutions of learning into five-star hotel-like institutions is an over-reaction. Inevitably it has translated into high tuition fees, which only the super rich can afford. Little wonder that international schools, unlike even the most expensive traditional public schools, don’t attract students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. This is bound to have some negative social implications".

Liberalization's children have bequeathed the responsibilities of their children to these international schools which, leave alone, develop the kid's personality, is actually pushing him into depths of degeneration. I strongly feel that parents have their share of blame to take in the Gurgaon campus shooting. VII standard students getting access to a imported .32 Harrison pistol, that too in a country where gun laws are not yet lax.

Discussing with a colleague, my thoughts lined up in this manner. Families that can afford to send their children to these international schools are mostly those where both the parents are working. They are more often than not unable to spend quality time with their kids. By quality time I mean time when they themselves are relaxed and are genuinely interested in what is going on the school, at the playground and in life as such. They misinterpret the old adage "Time is Money" and try to compensate the lack of time through money. They give in to every demand of the child, without weighing the pros and cons. The child's demands are often dictated by peer pressure rather than actual need. Schools today, with an average strength of around 45-60, do not consider themselves equal to the task of individual attention. In such a scenario expecting them to help kids with their personal problems is foolhardiness.

In the pre-liberalisation days when things like cut-throat competition (at an individual level) and attrition where unheard of, people had time to devote to their families. Kids looked upto their parents are role models and not as mere ATMs.

This friend whom I was talking to narrated an incident that he witnessed at a mobile phone showroom in Delhi. He was browsing for some phones along with his friend when a boy entered the shop. He saw the phone in my friend's hands and checked out its features. The phone was costing around 40,000 Rupees. The boy who surely was still studying in a school and already carried a considerably good phone, called up his father and literally commanded him to send the driver with the money.

I am ready to treat this as an exception rather than a rule and would rather pray that it be the case. But looking around me and on seeing the kids, I just wish that along with the latest gadgets they also start appreciating things like literature and nature. Let the Gurgaon shooting be an alarm bell for us, especially parents, to wake up and steer our cars away from the materialistic highway on which they are currently hurtling down.

Then I read comments like
"They should have metal detectors at the gate, and more security guards to check on students," - a father who sends both his kids to Euro school.
"Tax consultant Anil Sharma, who sends his two children to Euro International, says he will pull them out if the school does not step up its security."

(Comments taken from BBC news item)

This shows that we are not even close to recognising the malaise. Metal detectors being used for VIII standard kids. I am sure there are solutions that are better, more fool-proof and civil than that.

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