Friday, 28 November 2014

Belated Children's Day Thoughts

What exactly is it like to be a child in India outside the cushy, protected confines of the Indian middle class? My travels to some of the most deprived districts in India allow me a glimpse at childhoods so awfully far removed from yours and mine- diseased, excluded, deprived and so bereft of everything you and I take for granted and consider normal. 

Forget far away rural hamlets, our own cities and metropolises are chock-a-block of horrifying stories of child abuse, molestation and rape. The Bangalore rape recently brought some of these issues to fore, but last year, Tehelka had done a well researched, comprehensive but horrifying story on child abuse

There are many instances where the political powers to be colour the content in textbooks to further their political agenda. The recent imposition of Sanskrit as a second language, comes bang in the middle of the academic year. Indian school kids go through enough pressure to memorise and score marks, as it is, and one can only imagine what this change will mean to the thousands of school kids, who suddenly need to shift gears before their annual exams in March/ April next year. It is outrageous that social science texbooks are written and edited according to the whims of one political party or the other, these texts are often children's first windows to deeper social and political issues, and it is so unfair on innocent children to tamper with textual narratives.

Just as I was drowning myself in gloom and doom, I reminded myself of some of the silver linings this Children's day. 

i) Vibrant Civil Society: The messy democratic that is India, thankfully has space for a vibrant civil society movement. Recent Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi's exemplary work is ample proof of the this. I loved reading this glimpse into his work. I also think Bal Panchayats are supremely cool social experiments, many of these have succeeded in literally stopping child marriages.

ii) 'Child Stunting drops sharply': The Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) confirmed some good news on Children's Day. This is definitely among other things, a governance success story. Encouraged by his recent visit, Lawrence Haddad writes optimistically on malnutrition in general, despite the barriers.

iii) Google Doodle: Shallow and small as it may seem, I loved these 12 finalists' google doodles. Nothing except hope and optimism can come out of such talent, and I'm restless for these kids to grow up and spread their art and talent far and wide. 

iv) Project 100: I suppose this could technically be clubbed under Vibrant Civil Society, but I felt these incredible stories from a Teach for India classroom in Mumbai, deserve a bullet point of their own. Every time, one of these stories pop up on my Facebook feed, I feel a rush of happiness and a sense of hope. 

With kids like Aryan around, how can India's future be anything less than exciting, huh?

Hamsini Ravi - IDS Alumni Ambassador in India

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