Worry over safety of girl students on campus – SCHOOLING IN SAFE CONFINES OF HOME
Vidya.Iyengar @timesgroup.com TWEETS @BangaloreMirror
India group For Homeschoolers and Alternative Education has received 160 enquiries -60 per cent from the city -since the rape of a six-year-old girl student came to light
Following the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl student at an upmarket school in the city, the last two weeks have seen a sudden increase in the number of parents wanting to homeschool their children. Dr. S. P. Mathew, the Mumbai-based group administrator for the India group For Homeschoolers and Alternative Education, says he was surprised at the “sudden increase in the number of enquiries”. Previously, he would get around five enquiries a day, of which only one would be from Bangalore. Ever since the rape incident came to light, though, Mathew has received a total of 160 calls -60 per cent of them from the city.
“To homeschool one’s child is a major decision”says Mathew, who homeschools his three children aged 15, 11 and eight. “But seeing what’s happening in Bangalore, parents are beginning to feel homeschooling might be a safer option”
Rekha (name changed on request), a software professional, is one such parent from Bangalore, who reached out to Mathew for help. Her six-year old son is a class I student at the same school where the six-year-old was allegedly raped in the school premises by a staff member. While the school is set to re-open next week, Rekha is still debating whether to send her son back to school. “The school is saying that they will install more CCTV cameras and enhance security,” Rekha said.
“But how does that assure the safety of my child?” Already having paid an annual fee of Rs 25,000 and the fee of Rs 18,000 each for two quarters, she says that changing schools “now would mean shelling out a lakh of rupees”.
But money is not the main criteria for Rekha to think about homeschooling.
“We have lost confidence in the school,” she says. “They are so unethical.” For instance, she points out that there is no clarity as to whether the sports and performing arts activities will be continued at the school. “They offer skating classes. The instructor wanted us to buy a new pair of skates. And when I asked my son what he had learnt in the last one month, he says that they were shown videos on skating. Is that what I send my son to school for?”
Rekha has reached out to home school support groups. “My son wants to go to school. But with the same staff and management, I’ll never be at peace. With what faith can I send my son to be taken care of by the same coordinators under whose nose this (rape) incident has taken place?” Rekha, who has been contemplating quitting her job for a while now, is now seriously considering that decision. “Although homeschooling has several advantages, one of the reasons I’m taking time to decide is because my son is an only child. I don’t want him to get lonely,” she says.
In the last three years — between nursery, LKG and UKG — Rekha has spent Rs 3 lakh on her son’s education.
“I don’t see where all that money went. I myself could have taught him all that he has learnt in school.” She feels that the school has “washed off its hands” and shirked its responsibility. “We got a circular from the school on Friday stating that they will cooperate with the police and management to ensure that the culprit is brought to book. Even so, my problem is that they are not shouldering any responsibility. Now, it’s time for decisions; to think about alternate schooling.” As per Mathew’s estimate, in India between 1,000 and 2,000 parents homeschool their children.
WHEN PARENT TURNED TEACHER
When Rohini George, a medical physicist with the University of Maryland returned from the US three years ago, she felt that schools in Bangalore were too “business-oriented”. So convinced was she about it that she refused to even send her children to playschool.
Today, she homeschools her son fouryear-old son Isaac and three-year-old daughter Ziva .
George, who is part of homseschool support groups — India Group for Homeschoolers, Swashikshan —says that other parents who homeschool their children post their suggestions on these groups and the corresponding social networking sites and “it’s for
parents to pick up the books/methods they recommend.” At George’s home, school begins between 7 and 7: 30 am “with some bible time”, where her husband reads the kids a story and asks them questions after that. “My husband is also involved in teaching the kids,” she says.
During the first half of the day, they work on activities — threading beads, colouring, painting, playing with blocks, writing — and twice a week, they attend dance, art and soccer classes.
While George feels that she can manage teaching some of the subjects, like maths and science until class 10, she says that she might need to get a tutor for English and the languages.
“The results have been great. My son is happy and like most other homeschooled children — independent.” George insists that her children are not growing up in isolation. “Not at all.” She reasons that the children meet with many friends at the art, dance and soccer classes. Besides, they interact with adults at home.
“I don’t understand why children always have to be with those their own age. When they start working, they will have to work with those younger and older than them,” says the 37-year old mother.