Friday, June 26, 2009

Meghalaya kids in RSS schools in Karnataka

The current issue of the magazine Tehelka has a horror story on the plight of indigenous chidren from Meghalaya studying in Karnataka in schools run by the "Hindu revivalist organization" RSS.

I'll just stick to one aspect of the outrage - the language side of it. Excerpts from "A Strange And Bitter Crop" (Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 26, Dated July 04, 2009):

"In all the schools that TEHELKA visited seeking information about children from Meghalaya, the school authorities summoned the children from their classes and instructed them to introduce themselves in Kannada. For the authorities, it was a matter of great pride that children who had no association with Kannada had been taught the language well. That students who did not know a word of Sanskrit earlier now recited Sanskrit prayers with great clarity. In... BG Nagar, Mandya district, the headmaster, Manje Gowda, flung a Kannada newspaper at a student from Meghalaya, ordering him to read it. Obediently, in a low voice, devoid of any expression, the boy proceeded to read a few sentences, before quietly folding and placing the newspaper back on the headmaster’s desk. Till he was sent away, the boy never looked up. In school after school, the same scene unfolded with variations in the demonstrations of skill and familiarity with Kannada and Sanskrit....

"A consequence of completely immersing young children from Meghalaya in a Kannada-speaking environment was visible at the Deenabandhu Children’s Home in Chamarajnagar district. A caretaker at the Home described one child’s growing familiarity with Kannada, “Sibin [one of the children at the Home] has picked up a lot of Kannada in the two months he has been here. During a phone call from a relative back home, he kept answering questions in Kannada which obviously they did not understand at all.” In a shocking display of insensitivity, the caretaker burst into laughter at what she thought was a hilarious incident and added, "For 45 minutes, a woman, I assume his mother, kept trying. Sibin, of course, had no answers since he had forgotten his own language." She giggled. The caretaker then proceeded to teach Sibin the Kannada word for dinner."

Earlier we are told that:

"In a chilling admission, an RSS worker in Shillong... told TEHELKA that care is always taken to ensure that any siblings are separated from each other. "It is easier to discipline them if they are not together. We have to control them if we have to mould them. The lesser the contact they have with home, the better it is, really," he stated."

Not surprisingly, the author says, "The physical and mental impact of studying in school environments diametrically opposed to their culture, language, religion, and food habits has been devastating."

For a detailed account of how the children are taken from their homes and communities, and a completely frank admission by the people doing this of their intentions, do read the entire article.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Language discrimination in Mizoram

"The teachers in Chakma areas [in Mizoram] are Mizos who do not stay in the village of their appointment, and are unable to teach the Chakma children who do not understand either the Mizo tongue or English. Clearly, the appointment of Mizo teachers is not benefiting the targeted populations (at least in the case of the Chakmas), and hence is a futile exercise." Paritosh Chakma, "Mizoram: Minority Report" (PDF file), EPW, 6 Jun 2009.

Nor is this all. As Paritosh Chakma reports in his blog: "The state government of Mizoram has passed several Recruitment Rules where "working knowledge of Mizo language at least up to Middle School standard" has been either made a compulsory requirement of educational qualification or as a "desirable qualification".

As I commented on this post: [This] rule ... goes against the National Commissioner of Linguistic Minorities (NCLM) "Safeguards for Linguistic Minorities". The safeguard in question is the following:

i. No insistence upon knowledge of State’s Official Language at the time of recruitment. Test of proficiency in the State’s Official Language to be held before completion of probation

Using the NCLM's various Reports, Mr Chakma came back with another post on his blog, this time with a thorough indictment of the state government's practices of language discrimination.

In Mizoram, Chakma is not the only minority language discriminated against, of course. NCLM's 43rd Report (2004-5) (DOC file) recounts a visit to a Nepali-medium school in Aizwal which revealed that, "[since] Mizo was not taught there up to upper primary standard.... those desirous of joining the [government] services are at a disadvantage."

As Paritosh Chakma concludes, "the discriminatory Recruitment Rules must be scrapped to remove the language hurdle for linguistic minorities in state employments."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reforming Pakistan's textbooks

"Awaiting changes to a syllabus of hate", Nirupama Subramanian's excellent op-ed piece in The Hindu (9 June 2009) argues that "the education imparted to Pakistani children is flawed and encourages extremism, intolerance and ignorance."

She cites the influential 2002-study of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad - The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan. The SDPI report details how the curricula of government schools systematically indoctrinate young minds, and just how urgent the task of curriculum-reform is in Pakistan. The report resulted in a new curriculum being drafted, but this has not yet been implemented.

Subramanian cites one of the authors of the SDPI report in conclusion:

Compared to the 1.5 million who study in madrasas, an estimated 20 million children are enrolled in government schools. Dr. Nayyar laments that in the five years since the publication of the SDPI report, children who were 11 years old at the time have completed their matriculation. They read the old textbooks, and learnt a way of thinking about themselves and the world that will prove hard to change.

"Another generation has been lost because the process has taken too long," he said. And until the new textbooks are introduced, millions of children will continue to learn in their Urdu lessons in schools about the differences between Hindus and Muslims in a hatred-generating way, about "India's evil designs against Pakistan" in their Social Studies, and that Bangladesh was a result of a conspiracy by India with assistance from "Hindus living in East Pakistan."