Advocating a "Zero Hour" for the Children

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 3rd April 2014
When everyone is talking about "Earth Hour" for the mother earth, I am advocating this for we, human beings, and first, for the children, who need it badly. What are the rights of the children? An educationist like me would say that getting primary education is the right of every child. A philanthropist would say that getting complete development to adulthood is the right of every child. A school principal would say that getting the best education possible is the right of every child. Can we ask this question to the children? Can we know about what they want? Can we ask them about what they wish? I cannot venture it any more due to my bitter experiences of the past.

Once I was wondering that the computer education for children is really a great gift for them. I thought of asking this to a few children. I was shocked to receive their feedback. All of them without exception classified computer classes as the most boring, burdensome and unnecessary thing for them. I was patient enough and inquired further. I was told blatantly that computer education was the most tedious work that they had to do. They had to literally mug up every command in MS-Word, MS-Office and other programmes and they had to mug up all the theory stuff and read out and prepare answers to questions relating to computers, almost verbatim from the uninteresting text books on computers. When those little children asked me a few questions on computers, which they had to mug up for their examinations, I was shocked to receive E grade for the replies that I tried to give for those questions. The students never worked on MS-office, but just mugged up the answers and were able to cruise through the paper.
advocating a zero hour for the children,school
I received similar responses, when I tried to probe about the utility of studies on moral sciences and other papers. I realised that an ordinary student of a school is losing the charm to read books, to explore the nature and to be inquisitive. An ordinary student is getting over-burdened with the bigger and bigger text books that we offer him and finds it a very dull and uninteresting task to study anymore. There is no addition to the skills that the children have from the additions that we are making in curriculum year after year. Educational planners prepare the educational plans without keeping an ordinary middle class child into perspective.

Children no longer have the privilege of listening to free flowing stories or the opportunity of having a casual discussion on any topic with their teachers. Every teacher is hard pressed to complete the syllabus. Real development of a child can happen though an intensive discussion, interaction and guidance, pursuit of self-goals, preparation of innovative projects etc, which all can happen only if there is a provision for a "Zero Hour" - which doesn't happen.
The child of today is hard-pressed between tuitions, home work, assignments, and school drudgery. He is just unable to get a moment to ponder on the fundamentals of life, purpose of his existence, pursuit of some goals, and acquisition of some skills. His ultimate goals are determined in the rat race of which he/she is also a part. Although most of the schools give an advertisement of a smiling, jumping and growing child - but that is never to be found. Most schools make a false claim of having a great mentoring system. Mentoring can take place only when a child and a teacher can interact in a truly relaxed environment and exchange their understanding of life, the purpose of life and interact about the complex social web around. Can we imagine the child of today to spare time for this? If child labour is painful, the modern education system is almost equally painful. If child labour deprives the child of the opportunities for his growth, development and creativity, the modern education system doesn't guarantee these either. Where is the solution? Who will give the children the right to childhood?

Let the child of today come out of the concrete buildings and experience the nature. Let there be open class rooms, which welcome fresh air and fresh initiatives. I also pray that my discussion should not encourage someone to add another text book or chapter on this issue for the children.
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