Away from home

Monday Musing

[ Karyir Riba ]

The concept of sending children away from home has been in practice since time immemorial. Among other reasons, it has always been mainly for the children to attain some or the other kind of skills, knowledge and training, and for the children to be groomed and acquire formal education.

In the modern world, this practice is being carried forward by schools that provide hostel/boarding facilities to their students all over the world.

If we have to take our own state into consideration, there are still areas that have no schools, meaning no proper education for children residing in these areas, especially far-flung interior villages.

These parents are left with no other choice but to send their children to hostel facilities far away from home. This arrangement can have its own merits and demerits. While the parents send their precious ones with a heavy heart, they do it for the sake of their future. On the other hand, the little children have struggles of their own, and no feeling can be more terrible than a child’s longing to be with his/her parents and siblings, to be home.

But as it is said, life goes on and the children somehow teach themselves to live away from the warmth of their families, amidst strangers.

With time, everything falls into place and the child adapts to this new way of living. They get accustomed to fending for themselves, and in the process become independent individuals. They learn to be disciplined from following the tailored daily routines of their institutions.

Speaking from personal firsthand experience, there can be a downside to growing up in a hostel. When you are used to being constantly surrounded by only a certain group of people, you tend to get so comfortable in that environment that it can get extremely difficult for you to get out of that shell. You may end up becoming a socially anxious introvert.

Another possibility is that a child who has spent all their growing years in a hostel, may become emotionally disconnected from their family. The love is of course intact, but when you are only allowed to stay at home during your annual 45 days’ vacation, you tend to lose that connection with your family at home. If you look closely, the difference between a hostel and non-hostel kid in the same household can be evident when it comes to their relationship with their parents.

As someone who grew up in a hostel since a very tender age, I confess to still having nightmares about going back. These nightmares are so vivid, I tell you, I wake up terrified from feeling all the emotions that used to run through me whenever the vacations were over and it was time for me to go back. Go away from home, my parents, my brother and sisters. That sinking feeling is not fun at all, and when I wake up to realise it was all a dream, the relief is unexplainable.

Of course I am grateful to my parents for always choosing the best boarding schools for me with the best care possible, but a hostel is a hostel and no child wants to live in one, do they? I remember how I used to cry each time they left me there (even as a teenager), but when you meet your friends you feel better, and a couple of days later life is back to normal.

Having said all these, I have to add that there is no right or wrong about sending off children to boarding schools. One can only imagine what the parents must be going through after leaving their child in the care of other people. They do it with an intention of giving better education to their kids and securing their future. When both parents are working parents, a boarding facility could mean the best option for their child to receive proper care. When the parents are government servants and a place of posting has no proper school, sending their child to a boarding school would mean the only option for receiving proper education. Like so, there could be many reasons that could leave parents with no other choice than to look towards boarding schools.

As for the child, they become more disciplined and most importantly, they become independent very early on. They learn how to make their own decisions. They become strong and confident individuals.

There is no need for making parents feel any kind of guilt for not keeping their children at home. On their part, the parents should ensure a safe and homely environment when selecting any hostel facility for their little ones. Good nutritious food, cleanliness and hygiene, provided by a facility should be taken into consideration. Parents should pay visits to their children at times, or as permitted by the hostel management, to help their child to maintain that emotional bond with their parents and siblings. It’s important to make them feel loved and wanted. Being in constant touch will bring the child closer to you and make them open up about certain problems they might be facing in the hostel. If they share any such problems with you, do address it with the hostel management immediately to at least learn about the issue, or to put an immediate stop on whatever is causing those issues.

Living away from home instead of being nestled with their loved ones, in itself is a terrible experience. Sleepless nights become longer, thinking about what made your parents send you away from them, wanting nothing more than being at home snuggling with your parents and siblings. Whenever these children come home for their 45 days annual vacation, it’s important to make their stay seem like the most anticipated time of the year.

Giving proper education to your child is important but the journey to doing so should not necessarily include scarring your child emotionally.