In the mellow glow of twilight Shrouded in solitude and fear Sight dimmed with unshed tears
Grandfather in autumn of his life
Spring-children born to mothers
Cry hurrah for the Principal
Who carries a bag of rules
And cane for pinch-hitting
Boys, whom he treats as mules.
The boys are well-sheared and kempt
The Principal hair-conscious but bald
To select a day at random and call it ‘Children’s Day’ is mankind’s datelined hypocrisy. Every day in man’s life is authenticated by bubbling joy of children and the scream of infants in overcrowded maternity wards. National statistics reveal the mockery of an aging population in Sri Lanka as retribution for the injustice meted out to children. Yet the Book of Proverbs (17: 6) says this about children: "Children’s children are a crown to the aged and parents are the pride of their children".
The plight of children in Sri Lanka is perilous as far as education is concerned. The media carries frequent reports of the defects and shortcomings in the system of education: ill-conceived syllabi, poor quality text books, substandard teachers, and muddled question papers. Add to this the agony of the parents who wish to get their children into a school. We crow about right of a child to education, yet this right is subject to their passing an admission test. What is the fate of those innocents, who fail the test? What of the child whose father’s treasury cannot afford a fat donation. This is only a part of the story.
Children are hustled and hurried in the morning half asleep without a proper breakfast. I have seen mothers feeding their children on pavements while waiting for the vans that take them to school. Set this scene against the hypocrisy of the tall foreign-fertilised weeping willows in our society, who are pre-occupied with the proverbial white van. They are subject to corporal punishment that forces them to believe that the solution to any problem is to be found in the use of violence. The symbol of cancer in our society is the girl who took her life in her hand and transcribed her force-fed guilt on a cell in a phone. I can say no more than quote a few discontinuous extracts from what a poet once said.
"There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day
Or a certain part of the day
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years…
His own parents, he that father’d him and she that had
Conceived him in her womb and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him…
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture,
The yearning and swelling heart,
These became part of the child that went forth every day and
Who now goes, and will always go forth every day".
(There Was a Child Went Forth: Walt Whitman)
If consultants and counsellors say that a school is a child’s second home, can that object become a part of him for the day or a stretching cycle of years as a pleasant memory?