There have been many instances when we have wanted to retract our decision, but somehow, our convictions drive us on.

Do I have to be a VIP to be applauded for sending my daughter to a govt school For representation only
Voices Schooling Friday, June 02, 2017 - 18:23

VT Balram, MB Rajesh…let’s not leave out TV Rajesh from the list. For the uninitiated, these are three happening, young political Turks from the rogue state of Kerala which stubbornly persists in being a 'mother'-hater (people of the Sangh ideology will vouch for that!). Thank God, I, for one, have never liked the taste of beef. I am now trying to acquire a taste for gau-mootra and cow-dung. After all, one does need the constant oxygen supply, being human.

These young men have been celebrated by the media for admitting their children in government and aided schools with two of them leaving the column for religion in the school form blank.

My soon-to-be nine year old daughter has been studying in a lower primary government school, Cotton Hill Lower Primary School at Thiruvananthapuram, for the past three years. She started her fourth academic year just yesterday, along with the monsoons. But nobody seems to be applauding.

On the contrary, when as parents, we first took the decision to opt for a state syllabus for our only daughter, and that too at a ‘sarkaar’ school, everyone including our near and dear ones labelled us as freaks. Though, of course, they did not say it out loud. Family is family after all.

When we suggested they do the same for our nephews and nieces, we received a grim look that had ‘Hands off the bright future of our kids’ written all over it. “You want to ruin your daughter’s life, please go ahead…but stay out of our children’s lives, no thank you" - they voiced the sentiment without saying a word. The non-verbal does thrive in all families.

The first time I meet someone, it is obvious that they are impressed with my fluency in the colonial tongue, and that they are more than willing to deepen the acquaintance till such time they make a casual enquiry about where my daughter is studying. And there ends the conversation only to be replaced by a scornful, superior look with just a hint of patronizing pity that screams ”Ohh, from the looks of you, no one would have thought you cannot afford a private school…tch…tch.”

Not all are so obvious in their social contempt. A few bravely struggle on, finding it difficult to look you in your eye, and mumble something about how good it is to have people around who think differently. Their relief at the parting bye-byes is palpable even in the retreating footsteps.

The irony is that hardly a few teachers who teach in government schools opt for state-funded schooling for their own kids. Is it because they are not confident enough about moulding their students into humans who will give back to society in future? Or is it to do with a sore lack of infrastructure? I have often asked these questions to myself and am yet to come up with answers.

There is plenty to criticise about schools run by the state government. Toilets more often than not are smelly and unclean, to say the least. Only those classrooms where public dignitaries pose for photographs to be splashed in the next day’s newspapers have creative décor and colourful desks and benches on show. If only they would take the trouble to turn the corner, walk a bit further and see the other classrooms that are not all that bright and sunny!

There have been many instances when we have wanted to retract our decision, but somehow, our convictions drive us on. During such mental tugs-of-war, the attitude of those around us is downright snarky. “What happened…ran out of idealism?” grated a close relative. The ‘reap what you sow’ principle at work, they smirk.

Here’s hence a big round of applause to all those unacknowledged parents who, despite all the odds, continue to do their bit in trying to invest in public education. Education that has the capability to trickle deep into the last rung of society. This will sooner or later transform into a society that is genuinely healthy at the grassroots.

In a wholly unrelated aside, someone told me that the pledge is being rewritten: “Cow is my Mother and all buffaloes and heifers are my brothers and sisters.” Is that so?

Forgive me, if I have got the gender wrong…I'm just getting to know my newly acquired relatives. 

And oh, I forgot to mention that the religion column in my daughter's admission form, too, was left blank. 

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