Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A walk from the school

‘I used to walk miles to attend the school,’ said my grandfather whenever I sat to listen to his stories. Never I imagined, how it’d be to travel long distances to attend the school. My father ensured to take a house near the school no matter how long he had to travel for his work. I never had to travel to reach school nor walk long distances to go to school.  I always heard about the distances traveled and the difficulties faced in attending the school. 

‘That’s only during his time,’ I thought during my childhood. ‘Children have to cross the river to attend the schools,’ flashed the news at times but, I never bothered to look at it nor imagine the hardships one faces to attend the school.

Not until I had walked and observed the children who walk long distances to attend the school, did I empathize with the children and reality.

Even today, children walk on an average of 5kms every day to commute between school and home. Today, I decided to walk with kids from their houses to the school.

I began my walk and I realized my bag is heavy, thanks to my ignorance of loading the bag with too many of journals and books.

Compared to the bags Kids carry, my bag seemed a feather. I continued the walk wondering how these kids carry the baggage daily. On our way, we had to block our noses to escape from the foul smell of a dead body of an animal.

I continued the walk, watching the 1st class kids walking all the way carrying their small bag. I do not remember the last time, I walked this long during my childhood.

We were walking on the muddy path. I was frustrated as the sand and dust got into my crocs. No sooner I saw a kid walking barefoot, I wondered how privileged I was. 

Kids were walking in groups discussing what happened at their homes. While returning from school, they always walk in groups. ‘Raasta mei Bachho ko Pakadke leke Jaathe kuch log’ said one 3rd class with eyes wide open sharing her fear and surprise.

Long and lonely way it seemed as I saw the road without the hustle of humans once the kids left this path heading their homes.

Now, I remember how long the road is to the school. It’s 10 stories long enough. I enjoyed the experience observing the children but, I do not know if I’d be okay with it If I had to walk every day for school. 

Sharing experiences and stories, I continued my walk pondering over how ignorant I was towards the reality.

I always listened to my Grandfather’s walking stories and imagined it of the old past times. I never bothered to think of such possibilities even during the present times.

My first-hand experience on walking to and fro to school on foot made me humble and curious about the various realistic situations across India.

Walking on foot for a long the distance seemed nothing when I read different stories of children reaching their schools in different ways. 

Whenever I walked to school, I came across camels, cows and goats in my path but, there are places where kids walk through forests to reach school.

In one of the articles I read, a woman shared her fears about her children going to school.

“My nieces have to walkthrough the forest to reach their school; they walk three kilometers from our village every day. My first niece completed her 8th standard, but there is no high school here, so she will have to go to one which is 10 kilometers from here. She will either stay at the hostel there or travel every day from here. Because she is leaving now, her younger sister has to go to school alone. She is scared of walking alone because of the forest animals, so sometimes she skips school. She might drop out. In my village, seven or eight children went to school and most of them dropped out. Only my nieces have gone up to this stage of schooling.”

After reading this article, I could no more simply read that as ‘just another article’ but empathized with their families and became more grateful for all the facilities I had during my childhood.  I feel privileged and ignorant as I never thought of the reality and real distances between many children and their schools.

What were your experiences of going to your school as a student?

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