Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Will you beat me?

We have recently revamped our ‘basti’ library. Xook (pronounced zook) Books is its new name. We are trying everything to spread the word and get kids into the library. We are quite innovative about it too. Our strategy is that we stand on the road, stop kids walking on the road and ask them to come to the library. Does it actually work? Well, it does. A lot of them walk in after asking questions like – "What kind of books?" 
"Is there a fee?"

A few days back, my mother stopped a small boy and asked him to come and explore the library. 
"What's there?"
"It’s a place for you to read." 
The boy was a little skeptical. He asked – 
"I can read anything?!"
"Yes, you can read anything."
"If I don’t read, you will not beat me, will you?"

She was stunned. Speechless. She wanted to embrace him, comfort him and say – 'We will not beat you. Ever!'

Beating children is widespread in India. Everyone does it - parents, relatives, teachers, principals. This report, though slightly old, highlights the issue of corporal punishment. As this article mentions- 

"Despite being outlawed by the Right to Education Act in 2009, corporal punishment continues unabated in India’s schools. Just some headlines from the last few weeks. Jharkhand: "Teacher beats 8 year old to death." Ghaziabad: 6-Year-Old Allegedly Beaten by Teacher For Not Doing Homework. Howrah: "Class Eight Student Allegedly Beaten with Iron Chains by Teacher." One teacher in Kakinada did not even spare visually challenged students, beating them mercilessly."

A couple of days back, a new boy walked into the library. He looked a little lost so our librarian made him sit down and read him a story. After finishing the story, she told him to wander and explore the books. He went through multiple books before choosing one and sat down to read it. It appeared like he was struggling with it. Seeing him struggle, our librarian got up to help him. To get a better look at the book, she moved his hand. His hand automatically turned with palm facing up – prepared to be caned. He pleaded - 
"No. I am reading. Don’t hit me."

When I heard about it, I was disturbed and shocked at the instinctive sense of fear. Violence and fear is ingrained with reading and studying. However, what happened next gave me hope and belief to continue to do what we do. One of our 'Xook-ie' (yes, that's a word) kids looked at him and informed him – 
"Arey! Don’t be scared here. Nobody hits anyone here. You are safe here."

There is just joy of reading here!

This post has also been published on Indiateach - The Indian education blog.

1 comment:

The Illuminator said...

That is amazing :) More power to you and the initiative!!