Friday, 5 September 2014

Modi Sir Ki Paathshala

The afternoon of September 5, 2014 witnessed a landmark event: the Prime Minister's address to students across the country. The innovative experiment was largely seen as a success considering it was the first time a Prime Minister had taken a proactive step to engage with students and the masses through spontaneous speech which emphasised on the role and importance of teachers and their role in strengthening the nation as much as the exercise was aimed to engage with citizens to enroll themselves in the democratic discourse.

Children and youth are a valuable asset as the workforce is determined by the talent and knowledge pool of a country. In 1930, shortly after the celebrated Dandi March, Mahatma Gandhi had said that youth are leaders of tomorrow and it is the young who have to be the salt of the nation. If salt loses its flavour, where shall it be salted? An exercise like the Teachers' Day address will go a long way in making students an important part of the nation building process in a manner where the voters of tomorrow would be self-reliant and wise to map the future of the country. As residents of a mature an thinking democracy, an interaction like the Prime Minister's address to students builds a sense of respect and belonging to the nation, which is vital in a country like India.

India is a country where knowledge is worshipped due to its guru-sishya parampara. An attitude of gratitude raises one's altitude in life as rightly illustrated in the example of Totaka and Adi Sankara. Our teachers are known as gurus and we are taught to revere and treasure their immense contribution towards enriching our lives in our quest to be better individuals. Hence, the renaming of Teachers' Day to a more optimistic "Guru Utsav" brings back a sense of pride which effectively summarises India's guru-sishya parampara. 

The primary focus of the exercise was engagement as the Prime Minister also chose the event to effectively summarise the inclusive aspects of India's democratic culture. As the exercise was simultaneously broadcast in schools across the country, the Guru Utsav address is an effective way to begin with the "Digital India" project that the Prime Minister spoke about. In the first interaction by a Prime Minister, the address did emit positive signals which would allow children to think imaginatively in an environment where even a tea boy could reach the pinnacle of success by being the Prime Minister. The simplicity and honesty with which he answered the questions put to him is indeed commendable, thus proving once again that the moral rejuvenation of any society in any period of history only takes place because of the examples a leader of the nation sets.

The current year brings with it a fresh round of optimism with a government which seeks to engage with all sections promising empowered governance and development. It has been a positive start and would be commendable if such engagement is sought from across societies at regular intervals. Inspiring students to think keeping national interest and acting with a sense of pride and responsibility is a welcome step. As we debate the usefulness of the exercise, it is smaller steps which lead to a larger goal. Hence, beginning with a mission to restore balance in our textbooks and working towards reformation of the education system by making schooling more interactive would be ideal. Until then, we can only look ahead with the hope that the practice continues next year too. 

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