They (0-16 years) may be 43% of our population but they are 100% of our future. Not all of them are fortunate enough to weave their fantasies or think of entertainment beyond Doordarshan and many of them are not fortunate enough to fulfill the basic needs of hunger and think beyond Parle G biscuits as their main source of milk and energy. Childhood for them is not as rosy as childhood should be; they are born as adults to serve us and at times to feed their parents.
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They are found everywhere. The child who is sleeping on the woman’s lap the whole day while the woman begs on streets, the child who sells the newspaper on the streets, the child who work in roadside stalls or the child who steals food from stores and get beaten up as thieves, the one who washes our cars – all of them walk on the tightrope of life just to find the end to their journey of hunger.
Some of them end up to be criminals –
Some of them end up on streets and get further exploited –
Some of them are sold to others to serve them for life. In this tightrope walk of the life balance gets disturbed these children end up being in the age of darkness. Education is only a distant dream for them. At times education is unnecessary for them –
No wonder why the rate of change in India’s literacy rate is decreasing –
The situation is worse for boys as the dwindling percentage of literacy among them shows. There are a ministry and a national commission to take care of girls’ needs, but there is nothing to take care of the needs of the boys. That is reflected in total person-years in schooling for Indians-
No wonder why India is still below 100 in global ranking in terms of human development.
If capitalism has done anything significant in our lives, that has widened the gap between the rich and poor and these poor children are continued to be considered working hands and not as cultivating minds.
The hunger is thus both ways for these kids. Hunger for food and hunger for knowledge. Because, no education is complete in empty stomach and without proper facilities (schools, teachers, books etc.).
These pangs of hunger are interrelated and when the hunger for food forces one to be out of school for the search of one’s daily bread, hunger for education keeps one away from the search of food. So it is important to satiate both these fits of hunger together. So that those little hands don’t sell newspapers on the streets or sell tea in tea stalls, they use Nataraj pencil to color their dreams and get wings of imagination.
Our Govt. has already taken the initiative to alleviate their hunger through mid-day meal schemes but this has turned out to be yet another scam in this corrupt nation. The people responsible for delivering quality food in schools supplied poison to the hungry children and as a result, many of them have died. What can be more shameful than this?
This issue can be tackled only if the school authorities take full ownership of the quality of food supplied in their school premises. For that, the teachers of the school will have to eat the same food that the children eat there like we do at our home. Only then teachers will make sure that the quality of the food is kept up to the mark. The errant NGOs supplying below standard food need to be severely punished if found guilty. We have the funds, we have already set up the facilities, let’s bind them together with a strong will to satiate every empty child’s stomach so that they get the energy to study.
But the hunger of stomach is not the only hunger these children have. They have a serious hunger for education as well. With an archaic education system where books are written for spreading political agenda, the search for true education becomes an eternal quest. Many poor souls can’t even get to that level for lack of basic study materials, books, and learning aids. Those who reach become unemployable even after university degrees.
There is only one way to eliminate this hunger for knowledge and that is to enable these kids with books, study material and vocational training to empower them. The books that we don’t read anymore, the education aids that become useless after we pass over that stage of education can be passed on to these poor kids to satiate their hunger for knowledge. These may be school books, may be fiction or simple hobby books. But all such books can make a positive difference in our lives and can save our knowledge from getting destroyed by termites.
It is thus not enough that we think only about eliminating physical hunger in the classroom, it is time to think of our intellectual hunger as well. Let’s satiate both types of hunger and create a world to make a difference. Because –
When there is a will, there is a way.