It’s not just a school building
Ranjeet ji – A teacher in the government school of Delhi is planning a city tour for some of his esteemed guests. This time, he has included his school as one of the places where he wants his esteemed guests to visit along with other tourist attractions of Delhi. He is very much excited and is explaining the story of the turn around of the Delhi government schools to his guests. He doesn’t forget to show the newly built swimming pool, multipurpose hall with centralised cooling system along with the upgraded classrooms and labs to his guests.
There are many teachers like Ranjeet ji, who don’t want to let their guests go out of the city without visiting a Delhi Government School. He himself has studied in a government school and whenever, he compares his own student life in government school with that of his students where he teaches now… he doesn’t believe about the changes that he sees in the school. The only words that he utters are-’It’s phenomenal’.
Unfortunately,Indian society has been deeply divided on the line of class and caste. Though the constitution of India prohibits any kind of discrimination on the ground of class, caste etc, we see a variety of schools and the most prominent division one can notice is on the line of class. For rich people, we have schools with great infrastructure. For poor people, we have schools with poor infrastructure. In this context, the new school buildings in Delhi have broken the dichotomy of rich and poor school.
Historically, we have shown a kind of apathy towards the educational need of deprived sections of the society. For centuries, women and people of so called lower castes were not allowed to have access to education. The constitution of independent India promised its people to do away with such practices and gave universal access to education to all its people. However, the deteriorating condition of public education shows that the historical apathy towards the deprived sections has found its route through constitutional democracy in India. And the evidence is the decline of public education. Even the state claiming to have gained the status ‘Developed State’, doesn’t talk about the status of public education.
What does the school building symbolise?
We find a pattern in the history when a new ruler comes into the power, they construct some buildings and these buildings have significant messages for the society. Throughout the past, we see a reason behind the construction of these buildings. It is to show the ambience and dominance of power. Through this, the new ruler gives a message about what they value. Rulers, in the past, have constructed temples, mosques, churches, statues of famous personalities and of some famous animals as well. Is there any evidence from the past where the school buildings were constructed as a symbol of dominance and power?
It’s the concretisation of love and respect for the poor people
For many, the respect for the poor is a political statement only. By making the statements, we respect poor people. The poor people in India have been respected several times by hundreds of leaders. The new school buildings in the capital city of Delhi show a great sense of respect for the urban poor who have migrated from different parts of the country, also for the people from the minority community, for the Dalits because it’s their children who study in these schools in large numbers. It is the concretisation of love and respect for the poor people. I also see it as a deep sense of respect for the traditionally deprived teacher community. “Government is making our work-place better. We feel proud of working here. We can proudly ask our friends and relatives to come and see the place of our work” said a teacher, teaching in a government school.
The building symbolises; what we value as a society.
If the corporate office is bigger, it shows that the society gives more value to trade and business, if temple, churches and mosques are bigger, it reflects that religion has the central value in the life of the people. But, if the school buildings are bigger and brighter what does it symbolise. It symbolises a society, where knowledge is of utmost importance. It’s the concretisation of our belief in a knowledge society. It conveys that the government has faith in the rational thinking of its citizens.
Investment in India’s future
Today we are reaping the benefits of the investment made in IITs and IIMs in the decade of 1950s and 60s. We are leading the world in IT sector. All the promises of new India are hollow unless India vows to spend significantly in its public education. There is one common characteristic among the successful people from across the disciplines that they all read. Similarly, there is one common feature across the developed nations that they have a strong public education system. The investment in the school building is the real investment for the future of India.
Hope for the lower middle class and middle-class people
These school buildings have started creating hopes in the lower middle class and middle-class population. The middle-class population is under tremendous pressure of ever-rising fee in the private schools. They are crumbling under the huge financial pressure. The new school buildings are seen as a ray of hope in their life. At least, on the first sight, it seems like a guarantee of high-quality education. I feel that one of the major reason middle-class population move their children from government school to private school was the shining buildings of the private schools.
It’s a credential of secular India
If one has to think that what would be the best possible expression of a secular country in terms of monuments, I think it cannot be better than a school building. At a time when the secular identity of the country is at the receiving end, these buildings mean a lot. It reposits the faith of millions of Indians who believe in secularism. It conveys, all have not lost, we still have political forces in our country which can revive the core constitutional values.