I grew up in a township named Duliajan in upper Assam, which is a cradle of natural resources. This meant I grew up privileged. I grew up exclusively among engineers, doctors, geologists, chemists and scientists! This, in turn, meant a great deal of competition among future citizens!
As this place is influential, it is lucky enough to have reputed CBSE affiliated public schools, which otherwise, were mostly available in Guwahati which is 500 km away or else in the nearby other districts which have petroleum, oil, and natural gas resources. I am very proud to call myself a product of DPS! As a school going girl, I was extremely active in quizzing and literary activities and it was always a dream to connect with other fellow DPSites from across India!
My dream had come true. I made friends from across Delhi, Ranchi, Nagaland and Himachal Pradesh to name a few. It was because of this passion that my teachers were extremely supportive and encouraging, and helped me balance my studies quite well along with all the extra-curricular activities. Eventually, in my last year at school, I was appointed as the ‘Activity Captain’ for the year 2010-11. It surely was a proud moment for me and I am extremely thankful to everyone till date who thought I was capable enough to lead.
My school, every year, produces impeccable results. Many students end up going to IIT, IIM, LSR, LSE, Purdue and other elite schools across the globe and many who have been really successful. It has also produced upcoming Bollywood actors! In fact, my school was so particular about results, that it wouldn’t compromise with it and happily detain students, or at times, bar them from taking their board exams. Reason- they couldn’t perform up to the mark in their pre-boards and this made the teachers and also the parents believe that they would automatically fail their boards! All those people who were detained, are successful today, and most importantly happy! The results of class X and XII boards were announced recently. My school has performed tremendously well yet again. Few of them have scored a perfect 100 across a range of subjects! How beautiful, isn’t it? A couple of days earlier I saw some of my teachers sharing images of the toppers, advertised in the school notice board, on Facebook. It surely was a proud moment as it involved the hard work of so many people!
I graduated from class XII in 2011 with 81.2% in the Science stream. During the same time, my brother was in class VI. He had a very difficult childhood where he was constantly bullied by his fellow classmates. He was always made a soft target, so much so that it affected his personality quite adversely! This further reduced his socializing skills. He was made to sit alone in one corner of the classroom.
Oh, wait! Actually, he was made to sit near the teachers’ podium as it would be easier to have an eye on him! Worried, my parents would consult his teachers as they failed to understand why such sort of behaviour was meted out against him? His teachers would reply- “that is what the fellow students’ parents wanted!” They wanted their children to be away from my brother as he was under-confident, as he would stammer, as he was a slow learner! Some teachers were so concerned about my brother that they would often remark- “Why are you like this Junaid? Try to be like your sister! Don’t you feel ashamed in front of her”? To which he would reply- “Yes I do. But I am very proud of my sister!”
He was in class IX when the school decided he shouldn’t get promoted to Class X. He had performed poorly in one paper. He was allowed to take a retest and he performed badly again. When we asked for his mark sheet to be shown, the school outrightly refused as it was against their ‘policy’. We had requested several times to the head of the school to not detain him as he already had learning difficulties and failing him would demotivate him to the core! Our requests were denied over and over again despite knowing the fact that he was the only student in the entire class who needed the greatest motivation! These were the exact words of the head, “Sorry we cannot promote him to class X as our results would get compromised next year and our reputation would go down. You make him repeat class IX again and then we will see!”
My mother felt terrible that day. She said, “I have been a teacher for more than 20 years now. I have ensured that students in my school pass with flying colours. I give scholarships to the needy who come from poor backgrounds and who make it to IIT. Why am I facing so much difficulty to make my own son clear a class?” Her words were filled with utter sorrow. During the same time, my father was posted in Venezuela and he was away from all of this, almost on the other side of the globe and would remain extremely disturbed!
We decided to change his school and that was the best decision we had ever taken. We shifted him to Kendriya Vidyalaya, Duliajan, which is equally known for its impeccable results every year and surely is one of the best KVs in the whole of NE in particular and India in general. There was a great shift. From uniform to teachers to language. My brother took time to cope up as he was battling depression and anxiety and a fear of what if he fails again?
Oh, I forgot to mention, my ex-school took great pride in promoting the English language and if anyone was found speaking in a vernacular language they would get called to the Principal’s office or would happily see their names on the defaulters’ list! But the most important shift that we witnessed was the ‘class’ shift. There were many students in his classroom who came from a humble background, some were Dalits and most importantly, many of them could not afford the education offered by private schools! All this was happening in front of my eyes but I was never able to see it. The best part was, he was now slowly able to mingle with people who came from diverse backgrounds cutting across caste, region, religion, language, etc which was earlier missing out in our ex-school.
Ironically, my ex-school was appreciated a lot for opening Shiksha Kendras which were mostly afternoon or evening classes for the poor. We would happily donate our school uniforms to the Shiksha Kendra students. In fact, the school would raise money for these kids during Children’s Day through the much awaited Carnival of the year! But never did I see an effort by the school to promote one bright student from these Shiksha Kendras to come and study with the privileged! I will be happy to get corrected if I am wrong here. At least, that never happened during our time.
During the same time when I was studying, I had bright students from my batch who were equally privileged and chose KV over DPS. One of them cleared UPSC last year and has joined the Indian Police Service (IPS). When I had congratulated her last year over the phone, we talked for long hours and obviously the talks centred around school, college, studies etc. She told me something very disturbing that day. She would often get mocked around by our fellow friends from my ex-school who said, “Toi tu Nani-maali r baccha r lagot porho.” (You study with the kids of our nanny and gardner). Back then we were naive and we would often choose to ignore. But not anymore! These comments are extremely insensitive and send out a very wrong message. Such statements are a testimony that caste and class discrimination is everywhere! Sometimes, it’s right in front of our eyes. But I fail to understand what exactly happens in the process that we get so blinded to this division? Most importantly my ex-school had utterly failed when it came to being inclusive! Be it in terms of class, caste or even in terms of different mental health issues.
My brother cleared class XII this year with flying colours because his new school (KV Duliajan) was inclusive! He scored an excellent 67.2% with English, Hindi, History, Geography, Political Science and Painting! Today, he is more confident, more patient, tries being a part of discussions, questions things with logic. Most importantly he is happy! A few days earlier, a Facebook post by a mother had gone viral who was extremely happy about her son’s 60% in class X boards and it inspired me to pen this down. A particular newspaper ended up reporting that the northeast region of India is the ‘lowest’ performer of Class XII boards this year. This headline inspired me to write this article. Most importantly I waited for four years to pen this article down because I had full faith in my brother while my school didn’t!