Some thirty years ago in India, we had a more balanced mix of demographics in government schools. We had rich, poor, and middle-class children studying together in the same school. This is because privatization had not really happened then.
This system of studying together in the same school, with children from all strata of society was, in a way, very progressive. It would develop awareness among the rich students about poverty, hunger, and discrimination from the lived experiences of their poor friends. They would understand the hardships and agonies of the families of their marginalised friends very closely.
Poor students in turn had rich and more well-to-do friends around them which would stimulate them to study hard and be like them. All sections of students would understand the stark class differences and the subtle realities of the world in a much better way. This would help all of them to grow up as more compassionate, considerate, and realistic human beings later in life because of this “transactional social proximity” in schools.
The problem began after the 1990s, with the removal of the middle-class and rich kids from the government schools, and with the introduction of private schools. I consider this to be the biggest tragedy that befell post-independence India. This was the time when the children of this country got divided into the binary of ‘Bharat‘ and ‘India’.
Privileged children from affluent backgrounds got segregated from their marginalised brethren. They entered into the world of glitzy private schools, with all students from the same opulent economic background. All this resulted in a spring of highly opinionated, indifferent, and condescending adults, barring very few exceptions. My generation, including me, has been a victim of this phenomenon.
Most of us cannot even tell what crop it is by looking at it. This is privilege. We live in our own world of blind privilege. We do not know how to produce or farm, and neither do we know any form of art or smithery. All we know are regurgitated slogans, “get a job” and then we claim to “know it all.” All our friends talk, feel, live and think like us. We assume that the world revolves around us. In fact, some think that by paying taxes, they are running the world.
All this began to happen when social mingling and interaction among adults of different social backgrounds ceased completely. Unless we have a school system where students from different walks of life learn together, we are not going to be able to rise and nothing is going to change.