“Education is the greatest tool of a society” said Chanakya almost two millennia ago. Little did he realize that it will not hold true about two thousand years later. He did not take into account the shackles our society places on individuals and communities. Or may be he did and it is only I who is being cynical about it all. But how can I not be?
I see children shaping their view of the world every single minute. My duty is to ensure they are able to make the right choices. I can sit any of my kids down and ask them about the various values they hold dear and how they can make sustainable changes in their class, family and society at large. They will give me answers that might very well put a saint to shame. We discuss equality of gender, religion, communities etc., to a large extent. They all articulate it well enough. But is it their perspective or is it their answer? I can never know.
Living in extreme conditions, emotionally, physically and mentally, I believe the kids find themselves at cross roads very often. For half a year I have struggled to just have them reason with themselves before choosing a course of action and I see some of them internalize it very well. But is it sustainable for them? I teach them honesty. But is it feasible for them? Is it feasible for us even? Does their livelihood allow such “luxuries”? I teach them to respect one another but just outside the school gates they find themselves in a world filled with blood and gore. I teach them to stand up for their rights but that very day they see their mothers give in to their fathers’ atrocities. Where do they see my teachings work?
While I idealize situations and try to push them there, they are being tortured with chilli powder in the eye for speaking loudly. While I speak of gender equality, they succumb to peer pressure outside and molest their own classmates. While I speak of equality of religions, they are making conscious efforts to convert/humiliate their peers. While I sit here and worry about the charge on my laptop, the kids out there are fighting battles of survival. No matter what I do or say, their truth is going to be different, someone else’s influence is going to be stronger. For the kid, its my word against their world’s. Education is not simple. It involves aspects that are beyond our control. I can preach all I want to but when they get back to their streets, I am merely an illusion they enjoy being with in the classroom.
Having dealt with molestation and parents torturing their kids (while thinking it is okay), I have started sinking into the abyss. I don’t know if education is the answer any more because very evidently, the teacher can’t do jack shit. Will these kids ever be able to see beyond their horizon? Will they ever accept what I teach as a way of life? I fear that they might all get sucked into this twisted violence filled hole or maybe they already have been. They learn what they see, not what they are told. And I can never change what they see or fight the contradiction that exists outside.
What then is the solution? “Be the change you want to see in the world” Gandhi said. Yes, I shall change. Then what? What about my kids and their communities? Will they ever change? Will they ever want to change? Will they ever even know that they have to change? As I try to piece this puzzle together, the hope inside of me is slowing slipping away! I need to find something of value here but I fear there is none!