Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fate of open schools, home schooling students unclear

Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times,Mumbai, April 19, 2012 Contentious issues continue to cloud the Right To Education (RTE) Act, even as the Supreme Court last week decided on the 25% clause issue. A petition filed in the Delhi high court last August had alleged that the act’s move to equate schooling with education discriminated against those who opted out of formal schooling. The RTE Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2010, makes it mandatory for every child (from the six to 14 year age group) to be enrolled in a formal school. Petitioners have argued that individuals have the right to choose the mode of education for themselves, including home schooling. At a hearing on Wednesday, the court asked the respondents to reply to the petition within four weeks. The court also posed two questions to two of the parties: would the central board of secondary education (CBSE) not enroll for exams those who come through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) system? It has also asked the NIOS to clarify whether it would be shutting down following the deadline for the full implementation of the act from next year. “It is a contradiction that on the one hand the state is begging for funds and on the other it is saying that people who want to, can’t be home educated,” said Somnath Bharti, advocate for the petitioner. Respondents, however, see in the home schooling petition sinister designs to wreak havoc unto the education system. “Non profit groups will be able to run unrecognised schools and will child labour also become home schooling?” said Ashok Agarwal, an advocate party to the case and an RTE activist. The next hearing has been scheduled for July 18. City parents see this as an invasion of a personal choice. “I believe it is the right of parents to decide what is best for their children,” said Mathew Peedikayil, who has been home schooling his three children for the past seven years. Peedikayil is part of a home schooling group in the city comprising 15 families who have opted out of the formal schooling system for various reasons.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NO PLACE FOR US - A LESSON FROM EVS TEXT OF STD V NCERT.

Jatryabhai was sitting at the door with his daughter Jhimli. They were waiting for Sidya. It was almost night but Sidya had not come home. Two years back Jatrya’s family came to Mumbai from Sinduri village. Here, they only knew the family of a distant relative. With their help, Jatryabhai began to repair torn fishing nets. But the money he got was not enough. They had to pay for the medicines, food, school fees and rent for the house. Here, they even had to buy water.
Young Sidya also had to work in the nearby fish factory to earn some money. From four o’clock till seven o’clock in the morning, he cleaned and sorted the big and small fish. Then he would come home, take a nap, and go to school in the afternoon. In the evening he would wander around the vegetable market. He would help some memsahib (lady) to carry her bags, or go to the railway station to pick up empty bottles and newspapers to sell to the kabadiwalla (junk seller). Somehow they were managing their life in the city.
It was night, but Sidya had not come home. Jhimli was watching a dance on TV, through the neighbour’s window. But Jatrya did not like watching TV. Here, everything was so different. The day would pass running around for work, but the evening brought back old memories.
Thinking of old days
Jatrya was born in Khedi village, in the middle of thick green jungles and hills. His people had been living here for many years – even before his grandfather was born.
There was peace in Jatrya’s village, but not silence. There were so many soothing sounds – the gurgle of the flowing river, the murmur of trees and the chirping of birds. People did farming. They would go to the nearby forest, chatting and singing together, to collect wild fruits, roots and dried wood. While working with elders, children also learnt many things – to dance together, to play flute and dhol, to make pots of clay and bamboo, to recognise birds and imitate their sounds, etc. People collected different things from the forest for their use. Some of those they would sell in the town across the river. With that money they would buy salt, oil and some clothes.
It was a village, but people here lived together like a big family. Jatrya’s sister was married in the same village. People helped each other, in good and bad times. The elders would arrange weddings, and settle quarrels.
Jatrya was now a strong young man. He worked hard in the fields and caught fish from the big river. He and his friends would go to the forest to collect fruits, roots and plants for medicines, and fish
from the river, to sell these in the town. During festival time, Jatrya would dance and play the drum, with boys and girls of his age.
Across the river
One day the people of Khedi heard that a big dam was to be built on the river. For this, a big wall would be built to stop the flow of the river. Khedi and many nearby villages in that area would be drowned under water. The people would have to leave their villages and their lands, on which their forefathers had lived for centuries.
After a few days, government officials along with the police started visiting these villages. Small children of the village saw the police for the first time. Some children would run after them, and some would get scared and start crying. The officials measured the width and length of the river, the fields, forests and houses. They called meetings with the elders of the village.
They said, “Villages on the bank of the river would have to be removed. People having land at Khedi will be given land far away, on the other side of the river. They will have everything there – a school, electricity, hospitals, buses, trains, etc. They will have all that they could not even dream of here in Khedi.”
Jatrya’s parents and most elders were not happy about leaving their village. Listening to all this, Jatrya would get a little scared, but also
feel excited. He would think that after getting married, he would take his bride to the new house in the new village. A house where he would just press a button for the light and turn on the tap for water. He could go by bus to see the city. When he would have children, he could send them to school. They will not be like him, who had never been to school.
A new place
It was a summer afternoon. Jatrya was feeling faint in the hot sun and wind. His feet were burning on the coal tar of the pucca road. There wasn’t a single tree to offer some shade. Just a few houses and shops. Jatrya was on his way home after buying medicines. He had an old tyre on his back. These days, he had to light his stove with just these rubber pieces of old tyres. These caught fire fast, and also saved some firewood. But the smoke and smell of burning tyres were terrible!
In this new Sinduri village, they had to pay money for everything— medicines, food, vegetables, firewood, and fodder for the animals. They could just not afford to buy kerosene. But from where to get the money for all this?
Thinking of all this, Jatrya reached home. The roof made of a tin sheet made the house hot like an oven. Jatrya’s wife had high fever. His daughter Jhimli was rocking her little brother Sidya to sleep in her lap. After all, there was no other older person with them. Jatrya’s parents had been so sad about leaving Khedi that they had died before he moved here.
In Sinduri there were only eight-ten families he could call his own, those from his old village. The whole village had got scattered and people had gone wherever they had been given land. This was not like the new village Jatrya had dreamt about. There was electricity, but only for sometime in a day. And then, the electricity bill had also to be paid. There were taps, but no water!
In this village, Jatrya got just one room in a tin shed. It had no place to keep the animals. He also got a small piece of land. But that was not good for farming. It was full of rocks and stones. Still Jatrya and his family worked very hard. But they could not grow much on the field, and could not make enough money even to buy seeds and fertilisers. In Khedi, people did not fall sick often. If someone fell ill there were many people who knew how to treat them with medicines made from plants. People felt better after taking those medicines. Here in Sinduri, there was a hospital but it was difficult to find doctors, and there were no medicines.
There was a school here, but the teacher did not care much about the children from Khedi village. These children found it difficult to study in a new language. The people of Sinduri did not welcome the newcomers from Khedi. They found their language and way of living strange. They made fun of the Khedi people by calling them ‘unwanted guests’. Not much of what he had dreamt had come true!
Some years later
Jatrya stayed for a few years in Sinduri. The children were also getting older. But Jatrya’s heart was not here in Sinduri. He still missed his old Khedi.
But there was no Khedi now. There was a big dam and a big lake of collected water in and around Khedi. Jatrya thought, “If we are to be called ‘unwanted guests’, then at least let us go to some place where our dreams can come true.” Jatrya sold his land and his animals and came to Mumbai. Here, he started a new life with his family. His only dream was to send his children to school, to give them a better future, a better life. Here too, things were not easy. But he hoped that things would get better.
Jatrya started saving money to repair his one-room shack. His relatives would tell him, “Don’t waste money on this. Who knows, we may have to move from here too. In Mumbai there is no place to stay for outsiders like us.”
Jatrya was scared and worried. He thought, “We left Khedi for Sinduri, we then left Sinduri for Mumbai. If we have to move from here too, then where can we go? In this big city, is there not even a small place for my family to stay?”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making Reading a Pleasure

A well-planned home library does not take over an entire room. Create an inviting, clutter-free library corner in your home, either in the playroom or study or even the children’s bedroom. Opt for freestanding bookshelves which can also act as a partition, separating the main area from the cozy corner chosen for the library. Low spaces under windows can also be used to arrange shelves for kids’ books so they can get to them easily.

To brighten up the room, add a colorful bedspread over a quilted mattress or over a rocking/arm chair and place it in your library corner. A reading lamp, strategically placed, creates an inviting ambience at night as well as aids in reading, especially when the kids are asleep.

Choose a corner that is naturally well lit during the day, but remember to keep the books away from direct sunlight as they will fade and eventually deteriorate. If there isn’t enough light, add incandescent lamps. Avoid using fluorescent lights as they can harm books.

Place the books horizontally or vertically with the titles outwards so you can find the one you want easily. To break the monotony, you can arrange figurines, photographs, etc in between stacks of books, much like you would with book ends. Keep the books with adult content on higher shelves, well out of the reach of curious children. Invest in a cordless dust-buster and some lint-free cloth to keep the books in mint condition.

Finally, for music lovers, keep a player mounted nearby with a selection of your favorite soft instrumental music, and voila, your room is ready for some soulful reading.

In our home, we have one room exclusively set aside for study as we homeschool our children. In it, we have a study table which doubles up as a bookcase. There is a coir mattress to curl on and read, flanked by soft toys. A computer table is our work-station and the gateway to the world for our kids. One drawer of a huge wardrobe serves as a library for our treasured Enid Blyton collection. We also have a variety of books, ranging from Readers Digest condensed editions to books on spirituality, all around the house, but these are hidden away in closets for want of space.

The reading habit is one that every child must get addicted to; parents should wean them away from deadly addictions to computer games or TV viewing. The skill of rapid reading will undoubtedly stand them in good stead when they have to understand textbook content in school and college. Knowledge through books is something you don’t get by passive TV watching as you have to exercise your imagination when you read. It improves vocabulary too since you see the word as you try to pronounce it. Your grammar and composition skills will improve by leaps and bounds as well. And playing Scrabble or doing the Crossword won’t be so tenuous a task anymore.

Give your children the joy of meeting the ‘friends’ you had when you were their age. Introduce them to the ‘addiction’ of reading wholesome, soul-satisfying books and you will surely discover your childhood once again as you help them connect with theirs.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Festival of Colors

Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, also Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other. On the first day of this festival, Hindus participate in a public bonfire. Prior to the event, men prepare for this by collecting extra wood. The fire itself is lit near midnight, as the moon rises. The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, is celebrated by people throwing scented colored powder and perfume at each other. This is why Holi is given the name “Festival of Colors.”
In Bihar, Holi is known as Phagwa in the local Bhojpuri dialect. Here too, the legend of Holika is prevalent. On the eve of Phalgun Poornima, people light bonfires. They put dung cakes, wood of Araad or Redi tree and Holika tree, grains from the fresh harvest and unwanted wood leaves in the bonfire. Following the tradition people also clean their houses for the day. At the time of Holika people assemble near the fire. The eldest member or a purohit initiates the lighting. He then smears others with colour as a mark of greeting. Next day the festival is celebrated with colours and lot of frolic. At some places people also enjoy playing holi with mud. Folk songs are sung at high pitch and people dance to the tune of dholak and the spirit of Holi. Intoxicating bhang is consumed with a variety of mouth watering delicacies such as pakoras and thandai to enhance the mood of the festival. Vast quantities of liquor is consumed alongside ganja and bhang, which is sometimes added to foodstuffs.
Holi is a part of Goan or Konkani spring festival known as Śigmo, one of the most prominent festivals of the Konkani community in Goa, and the Konkani diaspora in the state of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala. Śigmo is also known as Śiśirotsava and lasts for about a month. The colour festival or Holi is a part of entire spring festival celebrations.
In Maharashtra, Holi is mainly associated with the burning of Holika. Holi Paurnima is also celebrated as Shimga. A week before the festival, youngsters go around the community, collecting firewood and money. On the day of Holi, the firewood is arranged in a huge pile at a clearing in the locality. In the evening, the fire is lit. Every household makes an offering of a meal and dessert to the fire god. Puran Poli is the main delicacy and children shout "Holi re Holi puranachi poli". Shimga is associated with the elimination of all evil. The colour celebrations here traditionally take place on the day of Rangapanchami, 5 days after Holi, unlike in North India where it is done on the second day itself. During this festival, people are supposed to forget about any rivalries and start new healthy relations with all.
The Legend of Holi:
In Vaishnavism, Hiranyakashipu is the great king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed "during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or in the sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra". Consequently, he grew arrogant and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping Gods and start praising him. Now Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned by Hiranyakashipu, but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu's attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on a pyre on the lap of his demoness sister, Holika, who could not die because she also had a boon. And a boon which would prevent fire from burning her. Prahlada readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed, the burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.
Traditional Holi
The spring season, during which the weather changes, is believed to cause viral fever and cold. The playful throwing of natural coloured powders has a medicinal significance: the colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors
As the spring-blossoming trees that once supplied the colors used to celebrate Holi have become more rare, chemically produced industrial dyes have been used to take their place in almost all of urban India. In 2001, a fact sheet was published by the groups Toxics link and Vatavaran based in Delhi on the chemical dyes used in the festival. They found safety issues with all three forms in which the Holi colors are produced: pastes, dry colors and water colors.
Their investigation found some toxic chemicals with some potentially severe health impacts. The black powders were found to contain lead oxide which can result in renal failure. Two colors were found to be carcinogenic: silver, with aluminium bromide, and red, with mercury sulphide. The prussian blue used in the blue powder has been associated with contact dermatitis, while the copper sulphate in the green has been documented to cause eye allergies, puffiness of the eyes, or temporary blindness.
The colorant used in the dry colors, also called gulals, was found to be toxic, with heavy metals causing asthma, skin diseases and temporary blindness. Both of the commonly used bases—asbestos or silica—are associated with health issues.
They reported that the wet colors might lead to skin discolouration and dermatitis due to their use of color concentrate gentian violet.
On a personal note:
It seems like coincidence that elections in Goa ended on a colorful note as rival groups enjoyed the revelry of this beautiful Festival of Colors. Just as all the colors of the rainbow merge to form the color White, which represents peace, may we all put aside our personal and party grudges and unite to bring True Peace to Goa. Let not our efforts be mechanical like the synthetic colors used nowadays for this may lead to permanent blindness and unending unkindness. Lets use the traditional colors of piety (saffron), peace(white) and prosperity(green) of our National flag to usher in a new Goa and hopefully a new India!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

RTE: Homeschooling too is fine,says Sibal

But States Must Ensure Education For All: Minister

Homeschooling parents can continue to educate their children at home now that HRD minister Kapil Sibal has clarified the ministrys stance.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act,2009 wants every child to be in school, but if somebody decides not to send his/her children to school, we are not going to interfere. The compulsion is on the state, not on the parents. Parents are free not to send their children to school, but teach them at home. We cannot be micromanaging, Sibal told TOI on Tuesday.
The Act stipulates eight years of formal education for all children between 6 and 14 years of age.Homeschooling parents believe in individual skills and want to nurture them in their children at home rather than in schools.The Act,outlining the duties of the parents, says, It shall be the duty of every parent or guardian to admit or cause to be admitted his or her child or ward,as the case may be,to an elementary education in the neighbourhood school.
The 25-odd city-based homeschooling families and scores from other cities have been looking at the implications of the Act and seeking clarifications over whether it is a punishable offence. Educational expert Alok Mathur said homeschooling is not punishable under the Act. Mathur,the director of teachers education at Rishi Valley school in Andhra Pradesh, which imparts alternative education, was part of a group which met Sibal a few weeks ago in Delhi. The meeting was initiated on behalf of a Delhi-based homeschooling parent.


Homeschooling: Legal in India
Homeschoolers in India received great news when they opened up their newspapers this past week: The Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal (with responsibility over education) officially recognized and affirmed homeschooling as a legal educational option in all of India.
While homeschoolers in India have largely been left alone in the past, a new education law came into effect in April 2010 that mandates compulsory attendance in schools. Since the law did not address alternative education options, homeschoolers were left to wonder how the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 (RTE) would affect them.
Homeschoolers and alternative schools in India had petitioned the government in favor of a parent’s right to choose the form of his child’s education ever since the RTE became law. In April 2010, the Indian High Court heard a case regarding whether the RTE infringes on the freedom of parents. The court dismissed the petition, but gave parents who homeschool or send their children to alternative schools eight weeks to make a presentation before the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Homeschoolers met to draft a presentation, as well as a letter to the Minister of HRD, asking that he accommodate homeschooling in the RTE Act or, at the very least, clarify its stand on home education. Minister Sibal’s statements offer the official clarification that homeschoolers in India have been waiting for since earlier this year.
In a statement released through The Times of India last Tuesday, Minister Sibal states that the purpose behind the compulsory education requirements of the RTE Act is for “every child to be in school.” He explains, however, that the RTE places responsibility on the state to create schools and not explicitly on the parents to send their children to the schools. The Act requires the state to ensure that reasonable, quality education exists for all children in all sections of society, especially the poorest and most deprived sections. The Act is not meant to compel school attendance when parents have decided that the best form of education for their child is instruction in the home.
“If somebody decides not to send his or her children to school, we [the government] are not going to interfere,” Minister Sibal clarifies. “Parents are free not to send their children to school, but teach them at home.” The Minister says the government cannot be micromanaging, and “if parents wished to and had the means,” they can homeschool their children. HSLDA applauds the Minister’s philosophy in this regard and is encouraged about the prospect of home education continuing to grow in India.
Since homeschoolers are not required to register with any government bodies, there are no official numbers of how many homeschooled students are in India. India has a total population of over 1 billion, with roughly a third of its citizens under the age of 14, so the opportunity for a robust homeschool movement is strong. In recent months, homeschooling appears to be a growing choice of parents. Homeschoolers in India have actively pursued organizing themselves via online means, as well as working to gain favorable media attention.
Check the link http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/India/default.aspfor more articles on homeschooling in India.