As Indians, we’re pretty famous for our lack of respect for other people’s time. But when it’s about education we have this strange hurry ingrained in our system. We are pretty sure we want to get educated at the earliest possible. If there is an option to send our kids to formal education at the age of three..we will take it. Parents have been criticized often for this, there’s certainly no glory in it. But here’s my view on one of the reasons this urge may have evolved. Two of the drastic changes in the urban Indian family has seen are 1) need for double-income 2) unit family. Doesn’t take a lot to put these two together and consider the absolutely deplorable provisions made in our society for working women with kids. There are never any good day-care centers close to either home or at work. If there are, they would be for half a day, forcing the working mom to compromise on her professional responsibilities. Unless the other half is spent at school (and hence the hurry). Even these day care centers, will not shy of letting you know how you could have been a better mom if you’d stayed at home. Welcome to free advice, sometimes at your door, at an exorbitant price. And since this is not being offered by the government, does it in effect mean that the government does not want young mothers to work? Not officially, I guess but they certainly haven’t bothered about making a working woman’s life, convenient. They’d rather use it patronizingly, when justifying their choice while not recruiting them. Each day India’s middle-class woman of today translates into a silent scream of emotional, financial, professional roller coaster. Apart from a few good men, the others don’t even want to acknowledge that women have changed faster in this country than they could handle. I’m hoping that when Modi spoke in the parliament about creating a women work force, he (and those he wants to assist) do a good job of it.
A good day care center is where a bureaucrat/politician/common man can all send their kids to. And why do I make a constant reference to ‘good’? Well, because we all know what kind of teaching/ care and facilities are provided (or accessible) to children who go to the other government venture – primary schools. Additionally, these provisions are most required by those who currently can’t afford the ones that are ‘good’. Any politician/bureaucrat who says that they have provided free education for the economically underprivileged will not even let their own wards enter the premises of such schools. Every time I start talking of education in India and want to take it higher, I’m dragged back to the most basic provision of actually implementing the Right to Education, correctly, to every child. Equally. Of having a similar school within a radius of three kilometers of everyone. Of paying the primary school teachers to work and not knit, or offer private tuitions. Of employing teachers, purely on merit because 100 others depend on it. Of actually putting the fear of losing job in those government teachers who get paid enough but don’t teach. There are more underpaid private school teachers doing a better job of teaching than many other government ones. Who keeps a tab? Who pulls the string? Should we give up on government schools, found in far greater frequency, and diminishing quality? ….We can’t. We can’t because while its easy for us sitting in urban luxury to say so, private schools will not bother to subsidize for the rural areas no matter how magnanimous they may sound on paper.
Getting back to what I consider as the least discussed but extremely important link between developing a good women workforce in the country (as the Modi government promises to bring about) and one of their major limitations, I’m yet to come across a world class day care center being automatically included in the premises of government or private institutions. Or even if they do, they’d be very few. I know, mine, an academically premier institution in the country, doesn’t. The request to set this up was seen as a prerogative of the young moms themselves, like a favor being bestowed upon them. Which in effect would have been a remote, fungus ridden room to revamp. Insensitive and brushed aside. Already struggling to make ends meet between time at work and home, this administrative responsibility gift-wrapped in red-tape meant nothing. Another grim reminder on how things always look better on paper.
This article was meant to be for higher education but I’m still clawing my way around basics.