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Summer holidays can help children

Summer holidays can help children
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It is how time is utilized that makes the difference! The choice once again lies with the parents and community because it is a collective...

It is how time is utilized that makes the difference! The choice once again lies with the parents and community because it is a collective responsibility which cannot be ignored for a month or two at our convenience. Times have changed, lifestyles have changed, people's priorities have changed but there are some things which haven't: the innocence, curiosity, enthusiasm and wonder of childhood. Just as a sapling grows and bears new shoot the more it is nurtured, our youth and young also show promise. There is no day or time in a year when parents and community can take a holiday from this caring supervision. What ten months of regular schooling might inculcate in a child can be furthered through umpteen new avenues of experiential learning in the 'few' summer holidays given to 'enjoy' and 'relax' or there can be an 'unproductive', 'boring' vegetative phase which can derail or undo what all the school had endeavored to cultivate. It is how time is utilized that makes the difference! The choice once again lies with the parents and community because it is a collective responsibility which cannot be ignored for a month or two at our convenience. When I see what some responsible communities are planning for their kids to do in summer, not just for those with 'silver spoons', I realize that we too can achieve many wonders during the summer holidays, even for our majority from the middle income groups as well as for the disregarded and neglected children who are truly the ones who need more of our attention here. For the latter, no school means no mid day meals and more child labor naturally. Can we shut our eyes and ears to these facts and still dream of equity ?I feel that some of my observations abroad, my interaction with parents and teachers and several NGOs at home can be shared for better planning with minimum financial strings. Moreover, if we realize the benefits from having a different kind of learning experience, an edutainment, an infotainment, we should not hesitate to invest our time and money here, for the purposeful ends reachable. If research declares that life skills , leadership qualities, ability to think independently, make friends, coordinate with others, accept responsibilities, understand ones social surroundings as well as the bonds with nature and environment ,culture, music, dance, identify ones latent talents in creative thinking and expression, see the real connection between what one learnt in the 'classroom' and what one sees and does outside, sharing, planning , organization, teamwork, empathy...and much more can be developed through the various summer activities like camps, workshops , special courses or programmes, can we afford to overlook them or be content that the 'fortunate few' even in India are already enjoying the benefits? When I read what all is promised in the brochures and advertisements by some international schools in our metros, for a limited number of children in their summer camps, starting from outdoor adventure, swimming, horse-riding, trekking to painting, clay moulding, special classes in computers, mathematics basics for Olympiads, theatre and fine arts group-wise activities etc, I feel thrilled as well as pained, for every child deserves such exposure. For children from the 'aam admi ' category ,in today's world where the joint family setup and grandparents' story times are extinct for different reasons, where swimming in the village pond or playing outdoors with cousins and nephews in the orchards is but a thing for 'films', we need to simulate something at least half as good. The municipalities, local libraries, NGOs, educated mothers in colonies, missionaries and even media can share the responsibility of providing some organized activities which engage the extremely active minds in a positive and memorable way .In the USA, Canada, Europe and many other countries, planning for the summer activities is taken seriously, well in advance, not just by schools but by all the above mentioned stakeholders in any community. It is towards this aspect that I wish to draw our attention. Local libraries can conduct reading competitions or activities and award small tokens of appreciation like stickers or labels and some local sponsorers can give the kids a chance to exchange them for some stationery they love to use in the coming academic year. It would enhance the skills as well as give a sense of achievement. The books read need not be what they normally read in their 'syllabi'. They can be allowed to set their own time or pace as doing it for pleasure is the goal. It need not be a month long monotony; it can be for a limited time in a day for a week, giving the kids a chance to go to other skills they would like to improve as well. It would give opportunity to more number of students too. For students studying in the so called schools, be they aided or unaided, in multi-storeyed buildings without a hint of a playground around, the town leaders can come up with an activity based routine utilizing the infrastructure facilities, gyms, grounds, stadia available in the city or town, by roping in both the public and private facilities from colleges as well as schools, for this noble cause. There can be games, sports, chess coaching, football coaching and other athletic activities for children from the nearby localities. Who can ever estimate the invaluable pleasure derived by children who play and run like wild? Can any amount of watching these sports on TV be a substitute? The benefits of such physical activities need not be reiterated here, and no edu-sports packages which convince the customers that kids can be happy while playing within the four walls, can replace the thrill of real running and rolling in sand. Once the children's potential is identified, they can be encouraged further. There are many unidentified sports stars among our rural kids going unrecognized for want of such encouragement. Sharing the responsibilities can be rewarding even if it were for all the children from a few neighboring apartments. Mostly the parents as well as kids know each other. Instead of gifting the kids with play stations or buying DVDs of latest films to watch as a family, the elderly can take turns to assemble them and start a story telling hour, give the kids a chance to narrate and improvise, watch some inspirational anecdotes and discuss, visit an orphanage or an old age home and learn some bitter facts about life. In our country as well as abroad, Sri Ramakrishna mission offers free courses in communication skills; personality development, computers, Indian culture and spirituality . They organize such courses throughout the year and increase them during vacations. It would be appreciable if more and more NGOs took the cue and reached out to the needy children, needy because time is power, time is knowledge, time is health and the precious days of summer lost unproductively for millions of kids would retard the nation's progress proportionately. Just as the 'Vandemataram' NGO organization planned and encouraged hundreds of rural students to excel in the Board exams, programmes can be chalked out to foster the all-round development of children from rural areas through identification of feasible summer workshops or camps. The Stagecoach schools in U.K provide opportunity for students all over U.K to participate in their dance, drama, music classes for free, as they go round and perform. We don't need another 'Slum Dog Millionaire' to identify the untapped artistic talents of our slum dwelling kids if we can rope in the local arts schools and artists to run at least a weeklong workshop for the local kids . Similarly well-established colleges with all facilities to boast can do their bit of social responsibility by opening their labs and museums for a day to each school and make the tour memorable by showing some awesome experiments which can motivate the kids to aim high . By the way, offering some snacks could make the trip fonder. The media can promote such activities by covering them .If so, many colleges preparing for NAAC re-accreditation would be quite willing to do this activity at least to satisfy the norms. Entertainment in summer can be healthy, educative and complementary to what the kids learn all through the academic year. It can show the kids the true value and purpose of education in a memorable way. Let our plans for summer holiday edutainment be inclusive and let not our less privileged children be excluded.
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