Who is There to Hear?

Sibu Dhakal 

Early in the dawn he wakes up with the ear-bursting sound of the alarm followed by his mother’s rushing words. At times, he is dragged off the warm bed and knocked down on the floor of the washroom. Awaken, he concludes morning undertakings in a haste. He is bound to take a fistful of food despite having no appetite. Laden with a bag of half of his body mass that contains a tiffin kit and water flask besides the textbooks, notes, assignment files, diary, dictionary, atlas and the like; he is then rushed to the school as the school vans which ply like the ambulance are always in a hurry. Upon reaching his school he is welcomed by his teachers with a professional smile and then stuffed in a narrow waiting room. There he is not allowed to complete his unfinished home assignment. He passes idle time in despair as he is prescient about the day activities.

By the time his first class begins, he is already worn out. Tired of the dragging, stuffing, rushing, carrying and jerking. With a lost curiosity he pretends to be learning. Nothing is found interesting and worth-learning for he cannot link it to the real world he lives in. His teacher teaches him books not what he sees around him. He is unaware of what lies beyond the hill. He has never gotten there. In fact, he has never been taken there. He has no idea of what his vicinity is composed of. He has no time to visit his neighbourhood. When there is tent installed at the gate of his next-door neighbour he cannot find out whether it is a wedding or a death. Things get worsened when he is punished for not having completed his home assignment. An assignment that needs to have been done by his parents. His father arrives home late, tired. His mother cannot make out the problems. Furthermore, he is entangled in the class assignment. An assignment that neither builds attitude nor sharpens skills. He wonders why such classroom activities are given in the textbooks. He has no interest in listening to the lecture. The teachers boast their knowledge. They teach the lessons to the students as if the latter knew nothing. However, he has found the other sources of knowledge. He has access to abundance of knowledge. What he requires is the application of knowledge. Classrooms are not life skill labs.

He feels a little relief during the recess break. However, he cannot enjoy the freedom to express himself with his peers and the teachers as he has to abide by certain rules and regulations that hinder his expressions. He feels lack of syntactic and semantic ability. In a way he manages to communicate but the teachers turn a deaf ear. He is made to kneel down on the floor for using his mother tongue or scolded for his grammatically incorrect sentences. He often has to pay fine for the same. During the recess, he is not allowed to play in the ground. Nor is he permitted to touch the swings, sliders and other play materials. He does not know that such things are only for public show.

Surprise tests are no longer surprise for him. He is asked beforehand to prepare for the same. He is so used to taking them that he no longer bothers to prepare. He has no idea whether such tests are for assessment or evaluation. Terminal examinations bring him misfortune. He gets punishment if the target grades set by the teachers are not achieved. The condition worsens if the expectation of the parents is not fulfilled. He wonders why everyone is after the grades or just numbers. No one seems to be willing to measure his learning.

Project works make him feel relief though they are not a cup of tea for him. As such works are done by his parents he simply enjoys watching them. But once he saw a school staff burn such project materials. Since then he has lost his enthusiasm on such project material. What is annoying to him about handwriting is the teachers who force him to write in a prescribed form. Since he does not have attractive handwriting he cannot satisfy the teachers’ demand. He does not bother to improve either. He is good at moving his fingers on the keyboard. He has heard of paperless learning but his teachers focus on paper-based learning. He uses digital books, pdf notes, digital dictionary etc. When it comes to the materials that the teachers use in the classroom, he finds them rather outdated. At times he laughs at the drawings made by the teachers on the white board. He cannot ask why they make such drawings when they know they are not accurate. Instead they could use the screen. But this is not his home. Even the replicas do not interest him. Yes he loves the digital materials. He looks up a word more quickly on his device than the teacher does in a manual dictionary. He wants to vent his anger when he is made to carry the manual dictionary in his bag. He does not know why the teachers have him carry the big atlas when the whole Geography is on his device.

After the formal classes are over, he is kept in tuition class. The same things are repeated there too. He cannot learn anything new. There is just repetition. Repetition sharpens memory; however, it does not create new knowledge. He shuns mechanical repetition. Contrarily he likes creation. He enjoys the creativities that are always outside the classroom. He often peers out through the window and gets punished for not paying heed to the studies. This is his tragedy. After tuition class, he is rushed back home in school van. By the time he reaches home it is already dark. He then sits for doing his home assignment. Most of the assignments are for the parents. Things become troublesome when his mother does not take her head off the mobile set or shows her inability to solve the assigned task. What he finds useless to do as home assignment is the copying of long texts in his homework copy. It is much time consuming. He asks to himself why the teachers assign so much task. They could have assigned to copy a single paragraph in order to improve his handwriting. His language teacher has assigned him to copy a complete story from the textbook. The Mathematics teacher has asked him to write each multiplication table from two to fifteen ten times. So is the homework of Science. The Social Studies teacher has assigned him a task to visit his ward Chairperson and find solutions to a certain social problem. He also has to draw fifty wall clocks showing different time. He also has to prepare a first-aid box. He finds no one to ask whether a student can complete this burden of homework in a day. Sometimes he raises voice but there is no one to hear it in reality. He often screams in his dream. He is fed up with the fixed things. His aim has been fixed by his parents. His grades have been fixed by his teachers. He follows a fixed routine. Furthermore, he lives a fixed life. He works for his assignments till late night and goes to bed to be awaken with the earn-bursting sound of the alarm.

Holidays, especially long vacations, are more sickening. He is assigned with a double load of work. He cannot go for holidaying. By the time he completes his homework staying at home, it is time to resume his fixed routine. His parents have cancelled vacation plans several times owing to his homework. His mind is always engaged. He has no time to think of himself. He has no time to talk to himself. He has no moments to play with himself. Thus he cannot think of self exploration and self revelation. He does not realize what he is good at. How can he be good in so many subjects? He finds a teacher good at only one subject. How can they then expect a single child to be good in multiple subjects?

He finds the adult people authoritarian. The teachers impose strict rules at school. They are all-powerful. They are dictators. Why do they not handle the soft minds with conscience? Even the parents are quite authoritarian. They enjoy freedom to do whatever they like but the little ones are always controlled. There are so many dos and don’ts for them. When the adults spend hours on the television, the mobile set, or any other electronic device; there is nothing wrong. But when he uses the mobile it becomes an issue. The parents make a complaint to the teachers and vice versa. It seems to him that the world is made only for the adults. The children are just extraneous. Is there anyone to hear ?