Anand Wilfred has devised a new project for the students of Class 7 and 8 – an exercise in opinion-forming – unconnected with the run-of-the-mill academic routine in their schools. When asked to speak on topics concerning sociological problems or political matters, children's opinions often simply reflect that of their parents, except in cases where parents took the time and the effort to enlighten their children through intelligent conversation. Many such parents allow the youngsters to form their opinions too.
Teams of our students fanned out among the folks in their neighbourhoods asking adults for their opinions about their political beliefs and social values. They carried questionnaires seeking ideas and leanings. Presently, they are plotting the results of the opinions gathered from socialism to capitalism on a horizontal axis and social values from absolute freethinking (close to anarchy) through conservatism to stern control on a vertical axis. Some of them will make pie charts or bar graphs to depict their results.
The entire exercise gave them opportunities to discuss the topics with dozens of adults, some of them highly enlightened professionals with clear ideas. They have encountered contradictions, come across differences, seen a rainbow of opinion. It proved to be an interesting exercise, and we are looking forward to the results to be plotted on graphs and presented by the eight teams to their groups one after another.
Elections would be upon us in the State of Madhya Pradesh and also for the Indian Parliament quite soon. These innocents will probably know what to do if they were given the power to vote!
Global Warming & Our Environment
Political opinion apart, one other area on which we lay great emphasis is the protection of the environment. Mandvika Rathore worked on a plan to get the students of Class 5 and 6 (children aged just 10 and 11) to survey their neighbourhoods asking families for information on their petrol needs, quantum of electric power consumed, and garbage management. They have all seen Al Gore's compelling and obligatory movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and their minds are already at work on how each family can contribute to make the environment safer for the future.
We live in a city where garbage remains uncollected for days and is spread around by rag-pickers (mostly very poor children) for whom pieces of plastic salvaged from the garbage will provide the wherewithal for the next meal.
A big motor-car carrying a single student to school is not an uncommon sight. (Ads on buses in Mumbai carry the legend: One bus carries as many people as 48 cars do!)
The act of switching off lights in a room is often considered infra dig among the upper middle class. A sad commentary indeed in a country that has become an economic power house, that has the power to change the global threat to the environment.
Children will have the power to change attitudes in their families, where adults may fail! The planet would be safe in their hands.