The abuse of a six year old child in a Bangalore School by the gym instructor sent shock waves across the country. Not only the gym instructor, but the security guard and many others were involved in similar incidents in the private school run by a leading group in the business of education.
"He touched my body. But destroyed my soul" Hilal in 'Aleph' said several years later about the abuse she faced as a child. In my review of the above book (read it here) by Paulo Coelho, I reproduced an extract of a letter received by me from a lady who was abused when she was less than 7 years old! After reading the review my inbox flooded with responses from many who shared their horrendous experiences in their childhood. Paulo Coelho posted my review in his blog and it received similar responses from hundreds of hapless women across the world who live with the trauma. I remembered it again when I heard about how a 6 year old kid was abused by the school gym instructor in Bangalore the other day. Read the letter in the link.
There is so much written and talked about the abuse of children by individuals. But very less has been discussed about the institutional child abuses. It is worthwhile to mention about two types of abuses on innocent children by institutions: first, about the direct exploitation of children by the institutions and second, about how institutions nurture conditions and circumstances that are favourable for abusers.Please read my article on the Institutional child abuse here.
A mother who learnt from her teenage daughter
The other day, I got another comment via email from a mother of a 16 year old daughter after reading my article, 'Stop this harassment: A cry for deschooling India'. I thought it is better to share the contents with all the readers of Cyber Diary (with due permission from the sender). Please read it below and share with me what you think about it by posting a comment or through mail ( sibi5555 (gmail))
"Your article on institutional child abuse has been very thought provoking. At every stage in the child’s schooling there has been an influence of abuse at different levels. Yes like every parent I have also sown the seeds of a good education in my daughter’s mind. But I keep reiterating to her the sociological importance of family. The family is an institution by itself. We learn how to adjust with elders and children and balance trying situations at home. I would like to share with you certain interesting conversations / arguments / debates we have at home that ultimately culminate to being good humans than being a double graduate from Harvard or Oxford.Me to my daughter: “Dear, you are constantly glued to your smart phone all the time.....when will u study?...I cannot tolerate anything below 80%....get it”
Daughter: “Enough Amma let me breathe pleazeeeee you wanted me to get a 90% in class X, I procured 92% to make you feel proud of me.....but at what cost Amma?....at the cost of my growing years... my school screwed up my freedom, my creativity all through only to make a mark on the school’s chart of ‘hall of fame’.
I patiently listened to her.“At the kindergarten level when I could barely hold my pencil I was forced to write cursive alphabets..then reeling under the pressure of tongue twisting languages...1st 2nd and 3rd language...so confusing. Then comes pre high school on the threshold of high schooling. Then tuitions for maths and science.. all come with conditions.”When she sees my brother’s son who is just 4 years old bending all over the book just to write “CAT” “MAT” “BUT” “CUT” who then cries out load to say, ‘my fingers pain akka’...my daughter feels so bad. While my daughter was a single kid throughout her growing years with no one to play with and with working parents, she took to her books mostly. But today when she sees her little brother writing cursive alphabets and words of which he doesn’t even know the meanings properly, she feels why so much pressure on a four year old.
When she sees his school diary, it reads “homework in English 3 letter words, homework in Maths – counting, to be completed by Monday”. Sad but helpless again. Every person right from parents to grandparents pressed into action to cooperate and woo the child into writing and completing his homework with special perks if he does so....To our surprise we saw that the child was brilliant in building blocks, identifying illustrations of different kinds, naming different naval ships and war planes with ease and extremely demonstrative in his behaviour, very articulate – but all of it at home. Because we have a so called institution which turns a blind eye and a deaf ear towards a child’s creative mind.
As you rightly said it, my daughter says half the education is wasted if you are not educated mentally. We need to be educated in our behaviour in our acts not just academically. She was very clear that she studied Science in school only to get good marks to get into a good college but she wanted to pursue commerce because it offered less stress compared to those drilling CET and COMED-K exams and vying for medical/engineering seat.She tells me, “Amma let me grow as a person....given a chance I want to do theatre, I want to learn the guitar and parallelly Iwill study to be a graduate. Let me first understand as to what I want from life and pursue what I like to do. I would like to progress gradually and steadily and persistently in life.’I ponder over what my daughter said. All along the school at all levels focussed only on studies, marks, and percentage. While I agree that an institution is needed to certify these qualifications for a child, the actual qualification is when you have achieved what you desired.Institutions have become very commercial these days. Unlike those days where schooling was equal to life’s grooming for a child in all spheres. We are what we are because of our schooling and upbringing not because of education and a degree alone. Unfortunately today’s children have lost out on good things in life, lost out on creativity in life, lost out on the actual innocence of a child.She tells me “Amma I don’t want to be on the top of a Company’s chart of successful people. I want to be on the top of the world of individual leaders, want to be an entrepreneur seeking and sowing the seeds of individuality, creativity and harmony”.
I think as parents we must slowly tune into our child’s likes and accept the way the child is, give her the freedom to think, to speak, to act, to behave with a touch of respect too. Be aware of her surroundings, be alert, be foresighted and support their moves in the right manner.Institutions, schools or colleges and universities may or may not change their way of functioning but as parents we can change and mould our way of thinking and the way we up bring our children.Already due to pressure from all sides, our children are saddled with burdens of all kinds....at least we must be protective and support them and allow them to breathe so that they grow with pride and add flavour in their lives.
Deschooling may not be possible in our country, but we must try to work towards good schooling at home for our children by understanding them and allowing them to think independently under our guidance." Latha
I read the above mail and it gave me fresh insights on parenting. Though we would not like to totally surrender the thoughts and conceptions deeply ingrained within us, we need to break the cultural barriers that prevent us from being flexible to accept the views and aspirations of our children. Please share your views on this.
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Sibichen K Mathew
Read the following articles on the above topic, in case you missed.
My son! Don't watch the news