Sunday, September 21, 2008

The art of not learning

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, September 22, 2008

The Other Half

Even as we ponder the randomness of life and death as serial bomb blasts hit our big cities, and we live with the chilling reality that India stands second only to Iraq in the number of people killed in terror attacks since 2004, we also cannot forge t that every day people, including little children, are dying because of the terror of poverty. That people are being killed just because they belong to another religion. That women and girls are dying because they bear a triple burden of work and have little access to health care. These too are perennial Indian realities — a constant state of teetering between life and death.

Perpetuating inequality
Another reality is the entrenched system that perpetuates inequality. Thus, while mention of reservation for schedule castes and tribes and OBCs in institutes of higher learning leads to demonstrations and heated debates in the media, the pathetic state of primary education continues virtually unnoticed and unaddressed. And millions of Indian children still go to schools without buildings, without books and without teachers.

Filmmaker Umesh Aggarwal has made a brave attempt to balance the reservation debate in his documentary “Divided Colours of a Nation” that premiered at the Open Frame International Film Festival in Delhi last week and will be shown shortly on Doordarshan. Whether he has actually managed to strike a balance between the extreme positions on this contentious issue could be debated. He has tried to push home the point that the question is not whether reservation is right or wrong but whether the “creamy layer” within these disadvantaged groups should continue to claim the benefits of reservation.

However, the most striking footage in his film is of the village schools he visits. By focusing on the disheartening state of primary education, he has actually struck the right chord. For, whether there are seats reserved at higher levels for the disadvantaged matters little if they continue to be deprived of quality education at the entry level.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link above)

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