I studied at a convent school in Mumbai, barely ten-minutes walk from my home. School began at 7 am so I’d get up as early as 6 am, rush through my breakfast and then dash off with friends to reach school before the second warning bell rang. Assembly was held indoors on rainy days or outside in the small playground in fairer weather. Sometimes, when classes were sent off to their rooms after assembly, a few students were selected to recite poetry, sing or tell a story aloud on the mike.
In those days, we had a simple khaki-hued canvas satchel, washed and reused every year. During the monsoons, we would protect our books with a plastic bag before putting them into this satchel. We wore galoshes during the rains, “gum boots’ they were called. The rubber raincoat, made by the famous Duckback company, lasted us two years and gave us and our satchels adequate protection indeed. School ended at 1 pm with an exuberant exodus of students from the portals, a clear indication that our energies had been suppressed far too long. I would chat with my friends as I walked back home to a hot meal and a siesta before I awoke to the rest of my day AT HOME, completing homework and studying for any test that was scheduled for the next day. We had a 5-day week so we looked forward to the break inbetween which was on a Thursday. Wednesday night was therefore ‘no holds barred’ as we watched Doordarshan or played board games or read storybooks or did anything we wanted till the wee hours of the morning and then woke up late for once the next morning. All pending homework of the week was pushed into that extra holiday. And life was just great!
Studying for me was easy because I loved reading and writing from the very beginning (unlike most of my classmates who hated copy-writing from the blackboard or rote learning for exams). I would read my text books even before the academic year began, like one reads a story book. That gave me an edge over the others in my class for I could answer questions posed by teachers quickly and win their appreciation (a trick all bright students employ to have a cutting edge over their rivals).
As I share my memories of those good ole school days with you, I hope to enkindle a similar nostalgia in your heart for your ‘good ole school days’. What would you like done differently today for your children, that was a pleasure and a privilege to do then? I do so abhor the ‘use and throw’ culture we see in our children’s lives today, don’t you? The products manufactured like school bags, shoes, books are really sub-standard. Our children hanker after branded items; they are hooked onto televisions and computers, and are dropped off to school by cars or bikes. They rush from school, grab a bite and then speed off for tuitions. My heart truly bleeds for them!
And now with the latest RTE fiasco, our children are going to be away from us parents for a longer time. They will hanker after hot homemade meals and instead be offered sub-standard midday meals with rodent droppings. They will have to learn by rote a new ‘mother tongue’ because mine is English. I shudder to think of the day when the teacher takes over and I will have no control over what my child learns and how well or badly it is taught. And when he comes home and educates me on matters that I would never want to learn at his age, I believe it will be time to remove him from public school and instead homeschool him myself.