Conflict of tradition and education

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Wonder why native children of the Northeast and Arunachal are not excelling in academics and other areas vis-? -vis the mainland and other nations? Are there some intrinsic reasons in our lifestyles, house designs that are not conducive for concentrated studies?

Most natives live in long elongated thatched houses on stilts raised about 3-4 feet from the ground. These houses are built from bamboo/wood and generally consist of one long elongated room in which all family members, including grandparents, sons, daughters, and grandchildren reside together. There are no separate rooms to study and the floor creaks/shakes when anyone walks and everyone can hear each other. Therefore most children are disturbed while studying and cannot concentrate properly. There are no attached bathrooms and all members have to use bathrooms located away from the house.

Without separate rooms, there are also minimal provision for tables/chairs to study properly, forcing children to sit on the floor and study. It is difficult for children to concentrate and study for many hours continuously. In addition, there is a general lack of electricity in most villages; traditional houses do not cater amenities like separate lights/fans to study. It is difficult to have access to modern necessities like computers.

In most of our villages, our lifestyles are based on early to bed and early to rise. Most people have early dinner and sleep early to attend to their fields early in the day. The elderly people in the house start drinking local wine shortly after dusk. All these habits are not conducive for a studying environment. Another aspect is about helping in daily chores/work by young boys and girls. Boys from an early age are sent to forage for jungle leaves (?©kkam) to eat, collect firewood, etc. Young girls are detailed for nanny duties to nurse and care for younger children and learn weaving on loin looms. Children share the family workload from an early age and thus there is lesser focus on studies, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Most of our towns and villages lack amenities that help nurture literary or intellectual activities. There is general lack of good playing grounds, indoor stadiums, libraries, literary clubs, swimming pools etc. It is difficult for children to pick up diverse talents like indoor games, sporting events, literary events, reading in libraries, watching movies, etc. Most of these activities help groom children and broaden their knowledge and perspectives. These co-curricular and extra-curricular activities help in grooming young children to be more knowledgeable, thus making them more competitive with rest of the world.

With development and progress ushering in, these issues need to be discussed and taken up by community/village leaders, intellectuals and the government. We must pay more attention to grooming our children who are the future generations. Just schools are not enough; we must start looking at our house designs, infrastructure and lifestyle changes to create a more conducive environment for studies, hobbies, intellectual growth, etc. Do you agree?  (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)