the great divide

I got a message on Facebook this morning. It was from one of the innumerable friends I have and came as answer to a series of pictures of my grandchild I had posted. It said: I always remember you in final stages of pregnancy taking classes sometime between 1979-82. You were inspirational and lively. I was always five point someone (Chetan Bhagat) type of a student (one of the hindi belt one) but you were never prejudice and sometimes more considerate. That was encouraging. Till this moment I had not realised that this friend was one of my students from my JNU days. She was referring to 1981 when I was expecting my second daughter and teaching French in the Centre for French Studies.

I read and reread her short message. Was there a hidden message? Was it the sign I was looking for? The bottom line was that even after almost three decades nothing had really changed. Invisible and impregnable walls still divided our society one of them being the one that separated those who spoke English and those who did not, the former having a head start in any race they ran. Never mind how intelligent or smart you were, how good your marks were, how motivated and serious you were, if you had not mastered the lingo of those who had ruled our land for a few centuries, you were doomed to be left behind. Was not teach my child English, the first request formulated by parents when we began our work. Even the most illiterate parent knows that, and even the most illiterate person will try his hand at English!

It is unfortunate that though we began with spoken English classes we somehow lost our way. Maybe it was because we all felt that keeping children in school was far more important and spoken English took a back seat. Our children passed their school exams year after year and many passed out of school. And though they cleared their English exams, they sadly never mastered the language and thus could never break the glass ceiling.

It is time to help them do so. And as I wrote in an earlier post it is time to mutate. We at project why must look at quality and not quantity and ensure that no child feels he or she is a five point someone type!