Stories of Change Brought by Children in Bundelkhand: An Example For Us All

Posted on May 27, 2012 in Society

By Ankit Dwivedi:

‘The will to improve can’t be enforced, it must flow from within’.

Education is a key to development. It broadens our vision and enlightens our mind with infinite possibilities.  Children are blessed with purity of mind and heart and a strong willpower. This not only helps them to learn more from surroundings, but also urges them to implement what they learn.

If a child is told not to harm pets, s/he could be angry with mother if she kicks the pet.

In ways, children motivate people to do what they fail to do by themselves. When they feel lack of self-commitment, children work as the binding force. However, in some cases elders take a lesson from younger ones as an insult and not only fail to make a change, but also end up making situations worse for the younger ones.

Bundelkhand, like any other territory, faces a number of social shortcomings. One such social evil is smoking and alcoholism. Both are man-made troubles that seem easy to tackle. However it is not easy on the part of defaulters to change themselves for good when they are already used to a particular habit. Hundreds of NGOs and many government agencies are working hard on fighting these social demons; however they have attained only partial success.

In ancient India, children went to Gurukul, and were guided by their Gurus to work for the betterment of society. Self-service and motivation by performance were key aspects of training these students, who were often sent to colonies to serve mankind.

Some stories of change:

In Jakhlaun, a town in the heart of Bundelkhand, Mr Konte, a journalist and principal of a junior high school urged his school children to quit any sort of addiction of tobacco products. In addition, he asked them to channelize the message to quit tobacco products and alcohol up to their parents. Initially children found it uncomfortable to discuss such issues with their parents, but gradually they asked their parents to quit chewing tobacco. The change was not instantaneous, but by every passing day elders realized that their children were unhappy when their demands were not met. Further those who already quit also gave them a moral support to go an extra mile. Finally, most parents admitted that their chewing tobacco or smoking or drinking is not only harmful for their health but also reason for a lot of family problems and committed to quit these habits. Children further kept a watchful eye and prevented any further defaulting on rules.

Considering it a success on the part of children, some girls further took the initiative of hanging a slate or pasting a handwritten note on the gate or walls of their houses that nobody from their family smoked or drank alcohol, and in their premises, no one would be allowed to do so.

The campaign, though without a strategy or a preplanned schedule or objectives proved a great success, but went unnoticed in the mainstream media. Who cares for little initiatives in little places, however I could witness that their dedication was far more than people who have the responsibility for such moves.

Another such experiment was in the city of Lalitpur, where majority of the population constitutes rural migrants of nearby villages. The city was facing a crisis of waste management, for people usually threw wastage in open fields or empty plots instead of municipal vans. In absence of strict action against those who acted irresponsibly, the city was full of polluted lands especially outside hospitals, temples and other public places. A few months ago, a few schools started an initiative to bring children out of school and started cleaning campaigns. Children were taught about the importance of cleanliness and how community action could ensure cleanliness of a locality. Though it had a parallel objective of promotion of the school in mind, it still proved as an act of whistleblowing for the residents.  People felt ashamed when they saw young children cleaning their waste. A number of people came out and joined children in their deeds. However, a disappointing thing is that a few weeks later things went back to how they were earlier. Though the change failed to sustain, but this doesn’t in any manner discredit the children who made it through by their efforts.

Another initiative worth mentioning was taken by the scouts and guides of Lalitpur, who served chilled water of handmade pots to the passengers on the railway station in the extreme summers. There is a scarce supply of chilled water on railway platforms and passengers suffer a lot in summers due to this. The stopping time of trains in the station is also not sufficient for people to step out to buy a drinking water bottle, and not everyone can afford a packaged drinking water bottle. These children managed pots at a place and moved along the platform to serve chilled water to people, in return for the blessings of thirsty travellers.

These initiatives were among the hundreds that children initiate and take part in every now and then all over Bundelkhand. Their ideas and their work is worth appreciating, sharing and applying, even amongst us.