class of 2010

This our class of 2010! It is a matter of pride for me to write about them on the very day the children of India have finally got the right to education after waiting for sixty three long years. This class beat all odds and made it in spite of all those who took almost four generations to get their act together.

Today everyone is taking the kudos for this land mark legislation or as our Minister calls it "tryst with destiny". The Government in power, the politicians, the educationists et al. I feel a little uncomfortable at all this as I wonder why it took 22630 days for the powers that be to realise that the future of any country lay in the tiny hands of its children. I also feel uneasy at the tortuous route that we as a nation chose to take to get to this day. Why did we allow our state run schools to run into a state of such despair that even the not so privileged had to go for the private option thus opening the gates for a new and very lucrative business: education! Were not our erstwhile leaders in various fields proud products of the government school system? That we allowed schools to become a lucrative option somewhere spelt the doom of the very free and equitable education for all we have so painstakingly brought about. Wonder why we chose this road and allowed this to happen?

We can celebrate to day, and have cause to but the battle is far from won. There are huge hurdles and they will soon appear. Let me share some. The new law states that no child can be failed till class VIII. How will be ensure that children get from class to class with the right knowledge. This needs sound systems and committed teachers. We all know the real situation! The Act is supposed to ensure education to 22 crore children (6 to 14). Out of these 1.1 crore are not in school. And the moot question remains: who pays the bills? Let us not fool ourselves, nothing will change overnight.. let us hope it does not take another 20 000 days to get where we want. And I am not even venturing into questions like what about those under 6 and above 14.

As I said, we chose a convoluted road to get to this day. Had we walked another path, the one that seemed to have been chalked out by our past leaders, we may have been able to realise the dream of a level playing field kind of education. A quick perusal of the city shows that there are state run schools in every nook and corner, with prime land. It is another matter that the buildings are often dilapidated. Had these schools been made into centres of excellence, the journey would have been easier. Today the road chosen to provide supposedly inclusive education for all is to force private schools to reserve 25 5 of seats for the poorer children. Reservation again, it seems that we as a nation can never get over this word. Now the private schools are up in arms and in court. We are talking business here and not education ideals, who will pay for these 25%. Then if the system mooted is followed it will take 12 years for a school to have 25 of poor kids as we start in 2011 with class 1. That is another 7665 days.

I read an interview with the Minister of Education and my heart skipped a beat when he said in answer to a question on the common school, something many of us think is the answer to education for all: Obviously we can't nationalise education. As you know that we have neither the will nor the funding. The will Mr Minister, not the funding. One always finds funding if there is a will. Rad the interview and you will agree that the day when all children of India get their constitutional right to Education is still very far away.

And yet it does not take much to change things on the ground. Our valiant class of 2010 and their committed and passionate teacher is proof of the fact that if there is a will there is alwya a way!