By Mr. Sumangal Haldar
Podcast by Ms Anukriti Awasthi
The connotative sense from phrase ‘back to school’ will take you deep into nostalgia, but today, I would prefer sticking to the literal sense. After a long time, I was back to a school which was delving in the aftermaths of a long pandemic lock over. Left to be a building, half under construction, stopped long back, was a witness to and a symbol of dejection and rejection. I wandered in the corridors, amidst cobwebs and tried to imagine the echo of children attending classes in the play section. I held the door handle and tried to push in, the door was locked. But wait, I went ahead and saw the door half ajar. And I was lost. I saw children playing and singing, some were even busy exploring their tiffin and sharing it with others. That little girl with white shirt and a navy-blue tunic was wiping her face onto the handkerchief pinned nicely near her shoulders. Her mother might have pinned it, must have reminded her when she was leaving for school, to use it as and when required. A little water bottle to her side and a hot tiffin carrier for the lunch period. Then, there was a boy, munching from his lunch box, wearing a gallis fitted half pant, wiping his face mostly on his half sleeves. I could estimate how much time his mother would require to clean up the sleeves and make it as white as the other one. I thought of stopping him, but was hindered by the sheer enjoyment of seeing him do it.
The noise outside the window shifted my focus. The slides, the see-saw and the lush green play ground full of kids enjoying and chit-chatting. The queue for the slides, the moment one would slide to the ground he would stand for his turn in the queue. There were certainly some naughty fellows who would rather try out to climb from the sloping side and disturb the flow of the queue. Then there were others who would put their utmost pressure to their side of the see-saw and keep the other person hanging up to the point he would feel like crying. The yellow-colored buses standing side by side in the corner, and some playing hide and seek there. And all of a sudden, all was gone.
I was left with the empty room and the cobwebs around me. The pandemic has taken one year of school life from the kids going to school. Children are easy to getting in sync with the new habits, but random change will not be just as easy to accommodate. Some parents have been able to get in terms and have settled amicably, but there are many who have not succeeded so well. The struggle for a settlement is on, but the loss is majorly put to the share of children. Can we bear and share this loss?
To do it we need to be like children and be back to school. Ask a child how he feels about this pandemic and its spill-over effects. Each child will have his own story to tell sans grievances. Ask an adult about his experiences and all he will have to say is that with pandemic or without it they have been living with constant horror. Horror of thought processes that aggrieve us and keep us on our toes, to jump to next thought process and be reactive. Living in doldrums, we seek solutions when we are not on hold of things. Lot to learn from children, who know how to live in present and shun thinking about things that are not in their control. So can we GO BACK TO SCHOOL?
The author is an educationist and trainer involved at various levels of teaching and educating students.