All parents wish to give their children ‘a good education’. However many parents including those in politics may not know even hazily what a good education is or the contents of a good education. Many think that if they can admit their child to a prestigious school or the best one that is within their reach, a good education can be assured. Once the child is admitted, they think their biggest problem about educating the child is over.
There are parents who are employed. They have someone else to look after their children. They may be grand-parents of the children, stay-at-home brothers and sisters of the employed parents, a relative, a nanny or even a domestic helper. Most often such a caretaker is a female.
Employed parents who have to manage everything by themselves, often have recourse to a relative who will care for the children or ‘day-care centres’ to care for their children until parents fetch them on their return from work.
The eldest child, of employed parents, who is about fourteen or fifteen is often entrusted with the care of his younger siblings, at home, till the parents return. In these instances, some parents have so arranged for the children to attend extra tuition in some of their school subjects or some lessons in music or to be occupied in some useful activity after school. Or the children engage themselves in play in the neighbourhood, while the elders in the neighbourhood are aware of where the children are about.
There are working mothers who rise at 4 a.m. and prepare breakfast and lunch for the whole family, packet take-away breakfasts and lunches for the children and themselves, send the children to school by 6.30 a.m. while they themselves leave home at 7 a.m. to return at 7 in the evening, and still supervise children’s school work.
There are mothers who stay at home, while the fathers on their way to work take the children to school. These mothers too hasten to school to fetch even their teen-age children to accompany them home that they may not fall prey to uncongenial company if they were to travel by themselves.
The smaller children in both urban and rural areas have to be taken to school by parents or some elder while there are older children who can fend for themselves to and fro from school. But do parents and authorities approve, tolerate or close their eyes to children travelling, with their school bags, hanging on the foot-boards of trains and buses? Is letting school boys and university students to take this manner of risks that could end in tragedy part of education?
Parents struggle to give their children an education hoping it will stand in good stead and be a support to them as well in their old age. Yet many parents face disillusionment when their children remain unemployed even after a university degree. Contemporaneously there is also the phenomenon of availability of work for disciplined and skilled persons who could contribute towards advancement and development in many a field. If statistical indicators are periodically available regarding the needs of the country, that will help young people to prepare themselves with certain careers in view and also parents to be collaborative towards that end. Not many parents are challenged to think of the varied needs of the nation for which well trained, well motivated and disciplined persons are required. The firm foundation of overall national development has to be a solid education the success of which can only be assured with the active cooperation of the parents of those being educated.
Categories of Parents
The aspect of much needed parental care and oversight of children though taken for granted needs not only to be emphasized today but also clarified to them as to the manner and quality of that care. Parents should ask themselves about the values and discipline, development and critical assessment of thinking, the sense of responsibility and a realizable vision for a united and peaceful Motherland that they wish to inculcate in their children as they go through their schooling and gradually grow and mature towards adulthood. In any case, there are three broad, not rigid categories of parents, in which there could be many subdivisions:
1. Parents, among whom are also single mothers and even illiterate parents who are mindful of the mental, moral, spiritual and healthy physical development of their children’s minds and hearts and who follow them up to assist them to live a useful as well as a virtuous life. Many of these parents could also be among the very poor and helpless. They generally consider the school authorities – the school heads, teachers, sports masters and even the minor staff of school who serve there – as those who are supportive of them in caring for their children. These parents know to advise their children how to conduct themselves at home, school and at play. They teach them to read and think and discover, to question, to obey, to behave especially when away from home, telling them how and when to exercise self-restraint, how to observe manners and how to respect elders and those in authority and be considerate and courteous to others. They have a firm hold on their children and do it all in the course of their upbringing, instruct them also to be active and not be lazy knowing that learning and educating oneself should be a life-long process. They are in touch with the teachers of their children through their parent-teacher contacts. Children grow to be happy with parents and parents are contented with their children.
2. Parents who follow their own warped values and live according to their personal whim and fancy who indirectly yet very strongly influence their children to follow those same base values. Such parents who presume money and influence to be all powerful are only superficially influenced by the values of religions, if they follow any religion at all. Rather they are parents puffed up with their own self importance often as a result of newly acquired riches, who presume that their children should be accorded the same recognition that they think is rightly due to them. Such like parents exert undue pressure on school authorities in matters they are hardly qualified to deal with. These foolish and short-sighted parents wish to insert their warped values sometimes even to the schools their children attend.
3. Ignorant, indifferent, and irresponsible parents who are unaware of parental responsibilities about the upbringing and education of their children. The ignorant may not be as culpable as the indifferent and the irresponsible. Nevertheless these parents are not fully aware of the defective and faulty moulding of their children due to lack of proper parental supervision nor of the lasting negative impact of their own disoriented, confused, aimless and indifferent lives on the children they have brought into the world. Parents are unaware that children get into bad habits, associate themselves with questionable characters and enter into a rhythm of life inappropriate to their age. Parents are taken by surprise when it is too late and a sudden calamity has befallen on their children.
Politics and Education
The impact of the whole of the political, financial, socio economic, cultural and religious environment is very significant on education. Politics is the prevailing dominant influence that directly or indirectly embraces all of society and exercises decisive authority almost at every social zenith. Those engaged in the political field and determine the destinies of the country must return to healthy and sane political options and stances. Many measures of the political, social and economic environment bring about cultural distortions and are a challenge to the traditional humanizing influence of the religious element in the lives of the people. Allocating a comparatively paltry sum for Education shows the importance politicians attach to education which is not only incomplete but of which the standards have fallen to undesirable levels.
This is the reason why those who enter politics and are elected as people’s representatives should themselves be just and well educated persons of the highest caliber and unblemished character, who understand well and appreciate the importance and central place that education should hold in the national scheme of affairs recruiting only qualified and suitably prepared persons into the teaching profession. Only such political persons would be able to see national problems objectively and take decisions without bias. Only highly responsible persons and not time servers will prioritize education and allocate sufficient funds to it, cutting down unnecessary and wasteful expenditure on flamboyant projects that only serve to bloat the ego of some politicians. If those who govern nations are not persons of good character and of the highest integrity, that nation cannot have any hope of a bright and unclouded future.
Politicians have to be respectful of the dignity of the human person and therefore human rights, right to life and liberty, right to association, right to health, education, knowledge and truth, and the pursuit of personal progress, integrity and satisfaction. They should be able to prioritize the most urgent needs of society and attend to the needs of the vast mass of poor who wish to uplift themselves by giving their children an education that could be called a wholesome education if it included the formation of a good character in which the elements of justice, equality and fair-play, honesty and sincerity, courage and compassion, and a selfless caring and thoughtfulness of others are well integrated. It will be those who have had a wholesome education and learnt those lessons themselves who will be accountable to their fellow citizens and set right the course of human affairs in this country.
Unfortunately, such a prospect is not presently discernible on the political horizon. The most evident characteristics of the main political parties are the greed for power, unashamed selfishness, dishonesty, corruption, and disregard of impartiality or adherence to principles. There has to be a change of heart and new thinking for the system to veer towards a vision that envisages a concern for a wholesome education for the whole country and not to some favoured pockets.
A Concerned Citizenry
It is only a citizenry that has acquired a wholesome and disciplined education and is concerned about the overall progress and development of the whole country and all its people that is capable of electing the most suitable and competent persons to govern the country. Among these citizens are parents of over 4 million school children and roughly over 23000 students in institutions of higher education, with several thousands in private and professional institutions.
Among women over 5 million among whom are over 4 million mothers need to be paid attention to and conscientized also about the maternal responsibilities in educating their children. From the attitudes of male politicians it might have to be concluded that they need to be conscientized about the importance of an increased proportion of representative women in the legislature to represent the views of women and mothers on issues of interest to the women of this country as well as other issues on which women will perhaps have saner views than some male politicians. There is a particular service to the nation and to humanity that women can give. This is further reason why the girl child needs to be given special attention.
It would be wise for them to know how crucial and central an issue a wholesome education is and that it should be given the highest priority by those elected to govern this country. Therefore, it follows that the citizens should not be swayed by less important considerations when electing representatives to govern but elect only those educated and competent persons who will have the foresight and wisdom to give the utmost importance to education.
Ultimately, all should understand that there are but two powers in the world, the power of the sword, or the power of naked force and the power of the mind, and in the end naked force or the sword will come to be looked upon as uncouth and uncivilized and treated with contempt and disdain and will be defeated by the mind. In our present context however, the question arises as to how far in the future that ‘end’ is going to be when finally ‘swords will be turned into ploughshares’. Presently the minds of power-holders are not only disoriented and willfully distracted by side issues, side stepping the central ones and are at war with all and sundry and much of the land is in disarray.
Yet hope springs eternally in the human breast. It would be a national tragedy if new generations have their hopes dashed due to selfish clashes among politicians that mar the peace and progress of the country. If past generations had blundered and not learnt their lessons it is for this generation to think with a clear and compassionate yet courageous mind and bold spirit and chart out a path towards humanity and brotherhood, unity and peace and thus bring about that well blended and happy environment in which all citizens of every race and religion, culture and language can live and work in harmony as children of one Mother Lanka. Sooner rather than later they should surely perceive that it is far better and more constructive to develop wholesome, wise and noble minds than to spend vast sums of money on producing ever sharper and violently destructive swords. Noble minds result from good upbringing, right thinking and wholesome educational training.
Clarity of vision, political courage and foresight, utmost selflessness and wisdom and great dedication are presently needed on the part of political authority to even attempt to persuade parents to understand what a really good education is and to provide for a whole nation the professionally qualified and morally upright personnel and the educational structures that will be able to meet the need for a good education that will rehabilitate and recreate this country.