Let me recount some of the more interesting moments of ‘learning’ from my school days, that in other words I like to call, “When I did time”
• Rote learning all the rights enshrined in the Indian constitution without fully understanding or appreciating any of it.
• In a sex-ed class on menstruation, boys in my class were asked to leave as we were about to discuss a “girly topic”
• My history teacher saying on repeat while she read us through the Mughal era, “Hindus have never forced anyone to convert”.
It’s not so much the reasons why these stark incidents stand out in my memory. I just never remember asking (or being asked) ‘why’, whatever I was “taught”. What I do remember is teasing kids in my class who asked “too many” questions, calling them ‘Keen Kumars’ much to their natural resentment. Despite being on the honor roll, I believed back then that the mark of a good student was in reproducing answers, verbatim as manufactured by our education boards.
The ancient relic that I am, I thought kids and teachers are much smarter today, given how schools have become more pro-active and sensitized. But it was shocking to watch this student from a Bangalore school talk about getting bullied for asking ‘why’.
Not only do children have the right to education but more importantly, the right to quality education. Quality education is about imparting knowledge in a way that challenges your worldview through open-ended discussions, not only on all subjects but even the medium of education. Enshrined within quality education is the human and fundamental right of every child to express freely (Article 19 of the Indian Constitution) and for his/her peers and teachers to treat it with dignity and respect.
In a highly commercialized atmosphere of education today, most schools pride themselves for being on the list of toppers – be it studies, sports or extra curriculum. With such high demands from children, schools often make the mistake of de-prioritizing human rights as softer skills to develop. However, Amnesty International has wonderfully shown how these schools in Bangalore have used them as building blocks of learning and education.
Amnesty International India has been working with 80 very diverse schools in India to adopt human rights education in an approach that best fits their curriculum and values. Kids as young as 5 years of age to children who started out as a part of the National Child Labour Project, are learning about their rights as equal and respecting human beings.
Tara Rao, Director of Human Rights Education, says in the video – “It wasn’t like Amnesty was saying that here’s the prescribed formula for human rights education. It was more the school saying, “Right! This is what we want!”
So whether it is today or in a future where kids will jetpack to schools, the most important lesson for any student would always be to ask ‘why’ without inhibition or fear. After all, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people who don’t ask them.
To know more about the human rights education programme, visit here.
If you want to take human rights to more schools in India, here’s what you can do.
The views expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Amnesty International
This article is a part of Amnesty International India’s ‘Proud to Be Indian’ campaign.