The children of our school have started their half-yearly exams. They are super busy learning, excited to get everything right and looking forward to next week, when all exams will be over. While Ramona helped Pranshu, one of the boys living at our Ashram, learning for one day’s exam, she flipped through his notebook and found a question which she couldn’t believe was in the schoolbook: ‘Whom are you most scared of at home?’
It was a question in the subject ‘Moral Values’. This is a subject which we in generally see as helpful and important for our children. It gives them basic ideas of how to deal with each other, our environment and ourselves. There are lessons about being polite and respectful, others about valuing everyone’s work and about how we should solve conflicts in class. The only problem with this subject is that the book as well as the teacher will inevitably add a subjective view on these topics as well – and that may not always be one that I would agree on.
In this case, it was the book that explained in a lesson that everyone at home was important. The grandparents who could tell stories of their time, the parents of whom one or both go to work to earn money and also the children who can help in the house and help the elderly. So far so good. But then there were these questions for the children to explain their own situation: How many members does your family have? Who does the homework in your house?
And ‘Whom are you most scared of at home?’
It shows very clearly that what I have always been writing about the situation in India’s homes is true: there is violence and there is fear. Parents think that their children only listen to them if they are scared. They have to be afraid in order to learn manners and behave. They get beaten if they don’t. And what would be the standard answer to this question? Of course: the father.
The whole day long, mothers, aunts and grandparents will threaten the children of the house: just wait until your father comes home! Or ‘I will tell this to your father!’ with the promise of being punished physically for it.
How would a father ever develop a healthy relationship to his children? He is not there the whole day, working to earn money and when he comes home, he is expected to be the executioner for the day’s punishments! What do you create in the child’s mind?
As a father, I find it horrible and in my family, nobody would even get the idea of saying such a thing to my daughter. Fear is not a concept of education here – but it unfortunately is for most Indian families and thus also in schools.
In our school however, we have now made sure that this question is crossed out of the school book and that teachers also know why: children should not be scared. Their home and their school are safe environments and their parents as well as teachers are those who love them and want to see them happy.