Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Sasi and school.

Schooling is simply a way of making vast and beautiful and wise villages second raters, and serfs and clerks for us. That is the intent and result of schooling.

The knowlege and strengths in villages and in village children are too vast to be provable in the limited schooling system, and to be judged by the marks therein. In the schooling system,  those from educated upper class families have all inherited strengths. And there these village children of their multiple wisdoms are judged on the single yardstick of their literacy and book skills. They fail. A village needs a world outside of modernity, outside of the centralised, industrialised system. They need the gram swaraj. 

Sasi, from a landless poor village, aged 11, is too wonderful to end up as an also-ran, and as a clerk to one of the children from educated families who will be the managers.  He has his million strengths from climbing trees, to making catapults, to fashioning images from the clay in the tank bed, to caring for the cows, to knowing about all medicinal plants, to being the natural leader for all village children, to an infinite and unpremeditated generosity. He is from those children with deep inherited community values, who co-operate and share, and help the slowest to run faster, and never think of personal 

aggrandisation over community well being. With all this, we try to strait jacket him into a schooling system where competition counts over co-operation, where a single dimensional learning is the norm, and where he will be a mediocre or poor student.

But because modenity requires those qualifications for success, and the traditional and rural world is crumbling, so schooling has become the be all of village children. And there they struggle their way to success or failure.  Usually to failure and unemployment.

Sasi’s story
A young and very responsible officer had come from Hyderabad and stayed with us as she looked at the unemployment situation here. She and Sasi with his infinite charm  became friends. Sasi is an orphan, and brought up by his grandmother, herself wise and wonderful, but poor and assetless and blind in one eye.

One day, in the midst of her million responsibilities the officer called me to ask whether Sasi, Eashwaramma's grandson, should not go to a hostel now. That at this age, with nobody to control him except an old grandmother he may go haywire. That worry which had been nagging me for a while now, she articulated. She said she would look for a good government hostel for him, and I asked that it be within the district so that Eashwaramma could also go and see him. She asked me to immediately send a writeup on the child that she would follow up on.

I asked Eashwaramma, and she assented wholeheartedly saying that this was what was worrying her too and that at this age he could easily get into habits like drink and so it would be best to place him in a good   place. I sent the note on Sasi to Sowmya. There were some phonecalls from government officials from Hyderabad, and I was requested to have Sasi come to the AP residential school near Piler.   This was the best possible option, and I gave Eashwarama the money to get things ready. She got the caste certificate, the TC, the trunk and bedsheet, and went and admitted Sasi.

Day 1.
I called up Sasi, Eashwaramma's grandson, at the residential school he has been put into at class 7. The headmaster  called him on line. I reassured Sasi as well as I could. Last night he had called up Varalu and wept asking to come back to the village. He is feeling totally lost in an English medium setup from his Telugu medium school. He said the acedemics was too much for him. It is possible other children look down at him, his poverty, and his academic backwardness, and his SC status. I hope they do not, and that they are kind.

An anger wells up that a child from a community with inherited strengths in agriculture and animal rearing and much else should have to prove himself in the school setup which is alien to their many million strengths. I hated schools then in a cold and dispassionate manner.

Day 3
Eashwaramma called me  to ask if I had spoken to Sasi thro' the headmaster.  I told her I had not called the headmaster again after the first day when he was so distressed, and that he would settle down, and to not worry. And all my own worries, carefully supressed came to the fore again.

Day 7
I called up Sasi, and it semed he wept thro’ Sunday as his grandmother Eashwaramma did not come to see him. It seems he developed a fever. He sounded so subdued on the phone that it broke my heart.  The village world and employments have died a thousand deaths, and the children from there have to adapt to systems that can kill their naturalness and vivacity and sparkles.

And I continue to hope that he fits into the school. We have failed to create a vibrant village with livlihoods for all. It is our collective failure.

 My Sasi …

We got him a new cycle, and the envy of his classmates filled his heart with unspeakable joy. He immediately moved to the SC hostel near the school where we had been registered. Later we heard from the other kids that he was ‘earning’ money thete by loaning the cycle to other kids for rupees three per hour of ridinh/ Such initiative and entrepruenership I needed to nip in the bud because I was worried about the cycle ! When confronted with his deeds and misdeeds he stuck to the age old device of  children facing implacable adults – stout denial. So the cycle was duly confiscicated for two days. Here Sowmya is trying to get further details of this venture from him, and only hearing the same stout deniel.

… Over the phone, I was updated by other children about his latest. On the way back from school, he gives his cycle to Vinay to cycle on from from Bandakaadapalle to our village, and hops behind his sister's cycle. That poor child Kavya has no choice but to pedal with him behind. He leaves his bag on his cycle, and Vinay cycles with that bag, and his own bag uphill, and pays the 2/- that Sasi demands for the privilege.  So Sasi is back into his entrepruener mode - and what happenns to the poor cycle is anyone's guess. I think I have met my Waterloo. Finally at this age.

… As Velu came in the auto to take us to Kothapeta the usual smiling well beloved faces came to see us off. Sasi hopped into the auto as his cycle was punctured as always and is grandmother had stopped trying to supply the 5/- for the puncture repair. When we saw him off I gave him 5/- to buy some sweet, and he ran and got a chart for himself which was needed in school. In these times getting an extra 5/- at home was hard, and the 11 year old gave up his sweet without a thought. And so village children live.

... and when he made the Vinayaka image with his gang, he used 
Please dont miss the puff in this hairstyle !
his only five rupees that a relative had given him towards kumkum and turmeric for the image. No one had taught him that owning up an activity meant first stakeing one's own for it - the first lesson of ethical management.

(One day Sasi brought an old discarded pipe and called me out. And this was the nusic that flowed from the pipe.)



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