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Let’s utilize the devil’s workshops productively this winter

Schools across the country will remain closed starting December 14, 2010 with the completion of class 12 and 10 Board Examinations, which started on November 30. Others who were studying in the lower classes are already on a long and relaxing break. To students and teachers alike, it comes as a refreshing break at the end of a fruitful academic session. And to parents, based on where they are (urban or remotes areas), this break either spells extra responsibilities or adds a few more helping hands on the farm.

And the Ministry of Education’s decision to shorten the winter holidays from three to two months came as a relief to many parents in the urban centers, who realize their children would be better off at schools than being idle at home.

What does the break entail? Those days, when we were students, winter break was a time to get busy. Winter is a lean season people say, but that’s all in economics theories. Practically, there is no end to work in a farming community. Even now, for many students in remote areas, this break is going to be a busy time. And this is the only time of the year when children can help their parents fully.

They help their parents on the farm and clear the fields. It is time to gather firewood, collect water from the ponds located far away, and look after family’s cows. It is time to gather fodders and dry leaves for cattle. Some boys and girls in the villages will be working on the construction sites to earn some cash income so as to ease burden on their families in the coming school year.

Down south, it is the season of oranges. And some boys and girls will be helping their parents transport the fruits on their backs. Some students will be involved in breaking stones on the road construction sites. Some will be traveling to towns and cities to meet their siblings, relatives, far cousins and some just for shopping. Some children will accompany their parents to Bodh Gaya, India on a pilgrimage.

For children in urban areas, it is a time to relax and literally do nothing; off from school, studies and books. These are the children of busy office-going parents. For them it is an official time to watch televisions nonstop and browse the Internet for Facebook and other social networking sites. It is time for them to hang out with friends for longer durations and try new habits. And others will remain completely idle like cabbages for another two months from now. Now “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, a wise old saying puts it wonderfully. Are we allowing ‘devil’s workshops’ to be built this winter? What should we do to prevent breeding ‘idle minds’ and make children’s winter break more meaningful and productive?

Parents must play vital role. I see them enrolling their children in some useful and productive activities, I see them registering their children for public libraries, I see them teaching their children write better or better still send them for tuition that teach them creative writings, I see them enlisting their children in sports coaching camps, I see them reading stories to their younger children, I see them carefully observing their children’s behaviors and attitudes. I also see them carefully observing where their children hang out, with whom and for how long.

And conversely I don’t see them visiting bars especially so now their children are home. I don’t see them drinking and making unnecessary commotions at home. I don’t see them gathering at friends’ place to gamble.

Behind the building where I stay, there is an empty road. I call it empty because no vehicles are permitted on this one-kilometer stretch. It is a busy bustling road where health conscious men and women jog, walk and practice yoga in the evening and early morning. At nights, this empty road is a favorite place for the howling stray dogs. And of late, it has become the meeting grounds for youth. I have all the reasons to assume they are students of some schools in the country and may be even colleges. The level of noise they make has even scared and chased away the strays from their barking haven. Heaven knows what they are up to. And I wish their parents know more about this. Busy parents groom busy children, who freely loiter in groups, in undisclosed corners and shadows.  

This is what happens when children have more time to hang out. This is what happens when parents have less time to be with their children. This is what happens when you have least bothered parents. This is what happens when parents leave their children on their own.

P.S: The above piece appeared in Bhutan Times December 12, 2010 issue

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