By Bala Sai:
To the Indian parent, all of education is contained in four simple steps:
1. Put your kid in a ‘reputed’ institution (watch out for the ones that annually parade large vinyl boards filled with passport size photographs of their ‘toppers’ on the back of government buses.)
2. Throw money at them.
3. Watch their grades like the stock market. If they dip, immediately admit them in a similarly ‘reputed’ tuition class. Throw money at them also, until they make the bad grades go away.
4. Gawk or scowl at the final mark sheet (a nearly spiritual entity, more powerful than the astral chart, for it decides crucial factors from ‘America-flyability’ to ‘3-bedroom-flat-affordability’ and ‘beautiful-girl-findability’), and correspondingly over-feed your kid or bleat about the education system.
However, education is more complicated than this simple input-output process. Amazingly, kids continue to live and breathe inside their classrooms, and don’t fall into a hypnotized coma while the teachers inject education into their circulatory systems. A school is more like an environment supposed to nurture a healthy all-round development – academically, physically, emotionally and psychologically. It is depressing to note that the last two factors are usually ignored.
Schools and colleges are dynamic environments. It is a place where hundreds, or even thousands of agile, active minds interact and thrive, forge new relationships, and generally prepare themselves to face the world beyond. What your children go through at school, moulds and shapes their personalities, their thought-processes and their outlook. The problem is, not everyone goes through a flowery childhood.
A recent report on bullying in schools across grades, globally, pegs the prevalence rate of bullying behaviors and victimization at 31.4% in Indian schools. In other words, roughly one in three children aged between 10 and 14 are victims of bullying. 31% of children aged 10 and 25% aged between 10 and 14 have suffered violent victimization in the recent past. An Indian parent is inclined to ask, with arched eyebrows and a skeptical grin, “So what? Children fight. They get up, dust themselves and walk away. What’s the big deal?”
Here’s the big deal. Being bullied is a psychologically horrifying experience. It can range from getting beaten up, being humiliated before your friends, and being left out of groups deliberately to having a group of kids gang up against you. Of late, Cyber-bullying has cropped up like some fancy new disease, relating to unnamable facebook pages and insensitive pictures or comments. Indian children have emerged the world’s favorite victims of cyber-bullying, with 53% teenagers affected, according to a study by Microsoft.
These psychological assaults result in mounting fear, stress, low-esteem, rejection, loneliness, suicidal tendencies, and lo and behold, the horror of horrors – lowering grades. Their troubles do not stop at school. Being victimized at an early stage of mental development can take deep roots and develop into serious psychological problems even in adulthood.
Victims, as adults, still develop frequent health problems, stress-related disorders, and a higher risk of depression and suicidal tendencies. All of these are separate monsters spawned from the same womb. A person subjected to persistent bullying develops fear and self-loathing and begins to view himself as an incapable, lowly individual, unable to feel desirable or secure. It tarnishes beyond repair, their identity and their image of themselves. They feel neglected and humiliated and invariably internalize their experiences, ending up losing their self-belief and confidence.
In the long run, these intensely negative perceptions manifest themselves as interpersonal difficulties and problems in relationships, both social and personal, difficulties pertaining to occupational opportunities, decreased performance, insecurity and anger or bitterness and usually a desire for revenge.
In general, awareness among Indian parents is low, many of them completely in the dark about the existence of such a problem. The affected do not always confide in their parents, their difficulties, and when they do, parents usually don’t pay much heed to it, shrugging it off as a minor issue.
The mind is a delicate contraption. It is complicated and sensitive. It is the cradle of character and attitude. It is very important to respect it, nurture it, especially when the finest strands of opinion take shape and develop. Minds create fate, they create the future and make the world. It is a gross violation of our most vital resource, and a terrible crime to neglect its sufferings, especially if it can be prevented so easily. Just a little attention and sensitivity can go a long way in averting a lifetime of pain and inner turmoil, and we need to understand it.