Its been over three weeks since our small school opened. Two years later; Seeing things coming close to a world more open, towards unafraid times again is nothing less than grace from nature.
A whole generation has changed the way it socializes and even less. We now have more close friends and acquaintances online than any generation ever had. Life, material living has changed for the world, yet we are trying to get back to what felt natural. But the world of kids that saw this Pandemic in their youngest, most vulnerable years has transformed the future that is coming for them.
Almost every kid I met recently was a lion at home but a goat amongst other goats. Pandemic took their freedom. And if not their bodies, their souls know the jail they were in. The fear that oozed from each human silently, projected on a world stage, afraid parents for their children, for themselves, for their family’s future together.
Nations and many a leaders were not ready for this and some could not cope up with this unseen, never heard, deadly, strange and vulnerable threat. It became the reason for the strongest of leaders to be voted out of power; one after other leading economies started defaulting, debts are rising, leading to conflicts and wars. It came as a test of grit and will for any country; many failed, some prevailed.
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But during these times when kids were forcefully jailed as they learnt complex words like coronavirus, sanitising, vaccines- Education of other kind rose. Arose as if new coffins being offered for free; the internet. Children were slowly allowed to binge on phones. Images, creatures, the world moved as they sat eating at one place for hours, days, months, two years. Phones literally snatched their toys away.
A mother with her 5 year old child entered our school premises last week, and the moment they entered, the child almost wildly started making sounds in excitement. So much so that I and couple of teachers from other rooms came out to see if everything was fine.
There were many toys, 5 kinds of Tricycles and a small balloon ball court. He moved around joyously, testing each one after other making wild sounds in adventure. Mother left him and asked about the Admission procedure, when I started asking him about the child first.
He is 5+, said the mother.
I asked her if he has learnt anything at home as there is a short mandatory test. Can he write?
Mother hesitated, umm, No.
Can he read?
Well, he is trying to speak you know. Actually he used to speak but because you know he couldn’t find any one of his age for last 2-3 years, he is just shy.
Silence. I kept listening.
She continued, he used to speak you know, but he does not anymore!
I was intrigued! Taken by surprise for two reasons, first our school is in an underprivileged locality and it is almost impossible to have a parent who comes with a near fluent English. And secondly, I was kind of shocked to learn of somebody who could speak but slowly stopped speaking at all.
Also Read: This little school and how it all started?
How is it possible? I asked child’s name, and started calling him Pradeep. But Pradeep was in his own world. I do not think he was even hearing his name. He kept playing, making long, arduous sounds. I tried to come in front of him, got a ball, threw it softly at him to get his attention but his eyes never rested on mine neither it followed the ball.
Mother spoke, it all happened during the Pandemic, and yes, I feel there is some carelessness on our part. Before Covid, he used to respond and play with us, tried to talk to other kids like any kid does, but to engage him as we both worked from home, we gave him a phone. And he used it over too much. He watched anything and everything from day to night and we couldn’t really stop him. First it took away his attention span. He then slowly started to not look at us anymore and soon stopped talking.
Other two teachers were still there, standing perfectly on either side of BR Ambedkar’s poster under a clock, their mouth open out of shock may be; they both were mum’s themselves.
Pradeep! Pradeep! Come here Beta!
She continued, we took her to the doctor first and then to a Psychiatrist. He said, everything is fine with him, there is no problem whatsoever. He just needs sometime. Well, mam but it doesn’t look like he is even listening, i said. No, no, He is fine, mother said again, and even the doctor said he will start speaking as soon as he will find some company. Its just that over use of phone has pushed him to create his own world. I heard about your school from someone and that you have good arts classes for children and I thought it would be great if he can join.
I kept looking at the kid. Somewhere, I was aghast. It touched me deeply seeing a mother, her hope towards her child. But Pradeep showed no sign of attention or even affection towards other kids who were playing around. During this whole visit he did not look at anyone, not even at the person who must have taken his name a couple of dozen times. It was saddening and somewhere I still wanted to give it a try. But our past experience told me not to. We don’t have right kind of resources for a kid like Pradeep. Because for him we will need a lot more than merely teachers.
She kept quiet this time, all along looking at me, and finally asked, what can I do? My mind ran to solutions i wouldn’t have known, but I felt and said, to start with, please get him a little pet.
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If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste
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