Is it worth living in big Cities anymore?

Is it worth living in big Cities anymore?

A heavy Mumbai traffic gushes through the road and my car was stuck amidst. A very usual situation for Mumbai and I was vaguely concentrating on the happenings outside while thinking about something at office at the back of my mind. Someone knocking the door and my driver trying to politely drive him off catches my attention. A small girl it was and to my surprise there were more than many children knocking many other cars. My driver points me towards people living under the bridge.

People come to big cities for work and money, leaving peace back home and end up living on the road under the bridges. Moreover, they start begging as for some reason they couldn’t go back and let their children beg too. It becomes a network and they form a team at many places mostly close to the traffic signals. Some die during the heat and some during the cold season. You could see this scene almost in every big city in India but majorly at Mumbai and Delhi. People come for a better living to major cities and lose their lives cheaply.

Not only the situation of the downtrodden but same is the situation of middle class and upper middle class in bigger cities and to their respective living standards yet nothing better than their own native towns and tier II cities. Especially with the internet bringing worlds closer, tier II cities like Pune, Jaipur, Amritsar etc prove to be a better and safe option. People live a lavish life in these cities as compared to metropolitan cities.

Trains are a nightmare at Mumbai for new comers. Traffic and drainage systems during rainy days shall take you for a ride at Delhi. Real estate rates have become crazy at Mumbai and Bangalore. Power problems can still hold your life back at Chennai. In addition, there are risks of terrorist attacks, road accidents, pollution etc etc.

So why do people come to bigger cities? Education? Yes, partially. Education, nowa days is better in smaller towns too. The main reason is exposure. One gets exposure in terms of handling competition, pressure, big details, big money in whatever field and situation. Is exposure a good reason to stay back in big cities these days? Not anymore.

With technology and developments, everything is possible from everywhere. In fact, population from the small towns have more clarity in thought than those from the big cities.

It is time to go back to developed tier II cities and smaller towns. If they are still not developed, it is time to develop them and have a peaceful life than getting sunk into lifeless bigger cities. It is not worth anymore to lose touch with families chasing money. At the end of the day, money saved in big cities will prove to be the same or lesser than in towns and expenses tend to increase with very little peace in bigger cities.

School Homework – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

School Homework – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

HomeworkFew teachers would say, “It’s part of my job description. I must give homework.” They support this point by stating facts that show how kids benefit from homework. Most teachers today believe that homework helps sharpen the minds of kids when they are away from the focused learning environment – that is school. Giving homework also helps teachers understand the capability of each child, thus making them concentrate harder on the children that are slow in learning. Some schools are making this job easier for teachers by categorizing sections in each standard based on the children’s learning ability.The sad truth is that homework, for most teachers, is seen as a crude attempt to finish the vast syllabus before exam time approaches.

Some teachers believe that excessive homework would lead to unhappy results and feel that homework must be given in moderation, say a few times a month. “Think about it”, a concerned mother pours her thoughts, “out of 24 hours, kids only get 6 hours as time off. How can they get homework done every day in these 6 hours”? She even goes a step further by saying that practical homework sparks off great wonders as it keeps the kids amused and engaged throughout. Teachers, who are also parents, understand that, the quality of homework is much more important than the quantity.

Parents have a larger role to play when it comes to managing their kid’s homework. “Homework is like a basic skill builder”, today’s parents say. Studies have indeed shown that basic skills like writing, reading and understanding develop at quicker rates in toddlers who are assigned homework. Even values like responsibility, time-management and self-esteem are shown to grow in them. This makes it natural for most parents to feel that they must put pressure on their children in completing their homework on time. Most parents look at homework as something that will aid kids in re-learning what has been taught at school. This way it helps them to understand the subject a lot more clearly.

But what happens to the social part of your lovely home? Parents are starting to feel the pressure of homework as much as their kids are. “They hardly have time to spend with me”, says another mother. Parents even say that they hardly see their children smile, sing and dance during school days. Stress levels increase as homework keeps piling up which could directly affect the child’s behavior at home. It is necessary for every child to have a social life. After all, not every skill is learned by digging your nose in a book.

How children approach homework entirely depends on the teacher’s and the parent’s method of handling it. Children perceive homework in two ways: 1.They take homework seriously, considering it a valuable learning process, or 2.They do it out of fear of getting pulled up by the teacher. For some kids, most of their time is spent blindly copying homework from another kid’s book. Few kids would argue that homework helps them revise what is done in class, so they don’t forget it. But how much of homework is actually being done? Not every child in a class is able to finish it effectively. Those who do, most often have parents at home helping them. The other kids may have responsibilities at home that could occupy all of the remaining 6 hours they get. “Only a few subject teachers overload us with homework. Other teachers give us less homework or no homework. We like those teachers the best who do not give us homework at all ”, say a bunch of innocent school kids.

To end this, we can say that, regardless of homework being given or not, it is how much children are able to grasp, learn and apply in their life that matters. When students love what is taught in the class, they either don’t need homework or will enjoy doing it.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”- Albert Einstein  

Satish Chathanath is a Writer, Teacher and a Communications Consultant with Twin start-ups. He specializes in bringing creativity to Education and Communications

A common man’s view of developed India

A common man’s view of developed India

I grew up being told that India is a developing country and I was dreaming of India as a developed country by the time I grow up and become an adult. Probably it is too ambitious to think of becoming a developed country in a few years. In history, 100 years look so small. So while it is fine and being considered as one of most upcoming economically developed nations, there are hiccups that make us think about basics that has to be built up on without which we will not move ahead. I present a common man’s views of how India might develop by setting right certain basics.

India is already a powerful country in terms of manpower being the second biggest populated country in the world. The world depends on India’s manpower and skills. Major part of the world’s software Industry has Indians as their brains which include the latest appointment of business executive, Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft. Moreover, the corporate companies of the world are rushing in to set up in India being one of the world’s biggest markets.

Still, the scenes that come in as a picture when I travel across the roads of any major cities in India make me feel horrible. I stop with a red signal and I could see a lot of beggars moving around asking for help. There are some beautiful bridges throughout the country which helps smooth traffic. Under the bridges live the poor and needy as encroachments. When the going gets tough they die of heat waves, cold waves, floods, diseases etc.

A highly populous country and managing the entire population is not easy in a culturally diversified land. Assuming our policies are the best and that we follow when implemented, let us forget politics and businesses of the country for some time and just focus on what is that these people are missing and what could change the situation as a common man.

I was taught in school that the basic needs have to be fulfilled for an average human. Exactly!! These people miss the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. If we could find a way to solve this problem we cross the biggest hurdle and the mindset of these people are changed for good. Can the government find a way to accommodate them? The central and some of the state governments are already trying to do it.

But our worry is about those people who still manage to live on the roads. Perfect. There come few questions with this policy as this could make people lazy and it is a problem that most of the developed countries face these days by providing basic things including living cost to the needy. Well, there are ways to handle this like imposing compulsory work plan, facilities based on social status etc. Above all there is a big solution which is providing education to the mass.

We are of course adding up a new agenda but it is worth taking the pain. Educate a country and the nation builds by itself. The major objective here is that once education is fed in, they are out of this support system and they will be on their own. If you are thinking of unemployment in your mind, that is a different topic than this. So the more they get educated, the better for them and the society and our issue is eradicated over a period of time. Sounds good but implementing this will be a lot of efforts.

What is being missed here in the above discussion is healthcare. Hell yes! If you don’t offer them healthcare, the whole effort goes in vain. Now if I provide everything free of cost or with a basic cost, why does someone work? What is the motivation to move ahead than to sit and enjoy these basics? Education directly and indirectly will play a role here. People get facilities based on their education and the more educated someone is better are the chances that he realises the importance of work. It is a challenge by itself but not impossible and if it helps us grow as a nation, why not try it? It is much better than having a major chunk of population under the bridges and as beggars. It will be a massive drive and will take a lot of time to get it implemented with changed policies and practises. But it might change the core and it will make a lot of difference to the society and the country.

So we spoke about food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare. Is this only for the needy? No. It has to be for everyone and the money comes from the government and the taxes of people like you and me. Of course, we believe that the taxes will be utilized with due respect to tax payers.

Now, this country which is extremely diversified with culture, religion, languages etc has another basic problem. Discipline among population starting from following rules, following time, Instructions etc. Problems occur because we also have people of different social status like have-not, haves, down-trodden, lower class, lower middle class, upper middle class, upper class etc. I leave the job of segregating classes to Karl Marx and his friends. So a particular message will be perceived by different classes of people differently. The only way to solve this problem is to bring people of different classes together i.e. trying as much as possible to reduce these sects and bring them very close to each other.

Am I talking similar to the Swedish concept of LAGOM? Lagom is a Swedish word for which there is no exact English translation but could be explained as moderate, adequate, just right, balanced etc. Well, yes. I am talking something very similar.

All the above concepts are fine and might sound very good. Who will implement it? It is only the government who is powerful enough to take such steps. NGOs and voluntary organisations can help, support and act as per the government’s instructions. It is about rebuilding the entire basics of a nation and I believe that unless we build them strong, we are not going to move ahead and be tagged as a developed nation in the near future.

Pranab Mukherjee: Education is the only solution to keep away from violence

Pranab Mukherjee: Education is the only solution to keep away from violence

Chhattisgarh, Nov 8 (TruthDive) : Emphasizing the need  of education, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said that education is the  only solution to keep people  away from violence, partiality and bloodshed.

The President who laid the foundation stone for the hostels of tribal students in Chhattisgarh, which has been badly hit by the naxal groups, said that people should have trust in human kind, which would help the country to move forward and find an appropriate place in the human race.

“Education is completely surrounded with harmony, broadmindedness and civilization and is also applicable to society. My dear friends, this is your time to prove yourself. Opportunities coming near you should not be ignored,” said the President after visiting the ashram of Ramakrishna that is situated in the district.

Advising the younger generation to put their efforts in developing the country, Mukherjee stated that our country is short of doctors in villages, as no doctors are ready to go to the villages. In India, there are six lakh villages where  seventy percent of the population is living. He requested the younger generation to take efforts in helping the rural people from inner hearts and do most of their service in the villages.

While recalling his childhood days , he recounted on how he obtained a postgraduate degree  by paying a fee of Rs 268 in Kolkata, Mukherjee said that today’s generation wants to become IIT engineers, IIM graduates, but deny working in villages.

He also said that the government should collect taxes and develop a number of institutes such as IITs and IIMs that might help people to get hold of the essential skills. Mukherjee addressed his speech in Hindi that received applause from the people which included many tribals.

President Pranab Mukherjee also appreciated the excellent services carried out by the ashram people for the progress of the Abujh Marh tribal people.

Why this Kolaveri ?

Why this Kolaveri ?

Shocking news, Class 9 student of Chennai gruesomely murdered his Hindi teacher in the class. A shock, dismay, and outrage not only palpable & triggers a question, “Why this Kolaveri” ?

So far, we have heard such violence happening only in western countries/ institutions. This incident is perhaps first of its kind – kolaveri against class teacher in our region. We have also experienced John David, another Kolaveri against junior – all these reminds my grandma’s frequent punch line, “Kali muthiduthu” – means “Kali yug is reaching its peak”.

I don’t get down to vertical nitty-gritty of this episode, perhaps age 13 does not have the intellectual, emotional or cognitive ability to premeditate planned murder. This is a serious alarm to teaching community and the parents must certainly do something about the stress they give to the children, throwing too much of academics creating emotional imbalance. Let them live their childhood fearlessly, treat children like children & not learning machines.

Tightened movie censor board paves way to violent movies, for god’s sake, these trend-setters increasingly portray atrocious, barbaric, blood-chilling characters  and story lines that sow virulent seed in tender minds. Undeniably, most of us do not hesitate to watch the latest movies with family in-spite of upsurge in vulgarity and violence.

High time our education system also compulsorily makes students involve in more outdoor activities, giving more room to live their childhood, to experience defeats, wins, losses and humiliation. If possible, embed counseling indirectly in subjects and gauge psyches time to time. Key Performance Indicators must be drawn out for teachers, not just for handling regular stream but also for value education.

This  is not another murder episode, it is a tragic story of a deprived childhood.

Chennai Corporation utilized Rs 35.05 crore for unauthorized works

Chennai Corporation utilized Rs 35.05 crore for unauthorized works

Chennai, Feb 6 (TruthDive): The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on Saturday revealed that the education department of the Chennai corporation has utilized just half of the funds received through education tax and Rs 35.05 crore was diverted for works not sanctioned under the Elementary Education Fund (EEF).

The report observed that, according to the guidelines issued by the state government, 25 percentage of education funds must be used for yearly maintenance of school buildings, but the report revealed that these funds were misused, therefore hundreds of students continued to study in decrepit buildings which lacked safety measures, cleanliness, and manpower.

The report said, “Annual expenditure incurred for maintenance of school buildings was just 5-8% of the 25% allotted, despite the fact that several schools needed repairs.”

The guidelines clearly state that funds must be used only for repair and maintenance of schools, but the corporation instead diverted Rs 35.05crore to lay roads and repair streetlights in the  locality of the schools.
It was noted that primary schools in Alwarpet, Strahans Road, Kodungaiyur and a middle school in Coronation Nagar required urgent attention, but these schools were not included in the list.

Out of 697 priority works requested by the education department between 2005 and 2010, only 79 works were carried out. The report also said,“Schools with more than 1,500 students were functioning out of decrepit buildings. There were also instances of roof collapse, electric shocks due to damaged wiring, and lack of water facilities and restrooms in the school.”

The CAG report said that in 29 out of 79 schools from where samples were taken, provision for purified drinking water was not made. Students consumed water from open sources such as water pumps, wells and water lorries, where as rules say that drinking water via reverse osmosis system should be provided in all schools.

As per norms, corporation schools must have one flush toilet per 25 girls and 50 boys, and six urinals per 100 boys. The report said, “Seven out of 79 sample schools did not have toilet facilities and 18 schools had no urinals at all.”

The study said that no corporation school had obtained building licence under The Tamil Nadu Public Buildings Act of 1965 and also did not have adequate fire safety measures. In 26 out of 79 sample schools, the fire extinguisher had not been refilled for two to three years.

The report said, “The educational officer of the corporation did not take action on reports of inspecting officials which led to shortfall in maintenance of buildings.” All though inspection was carried out by educational officers, the department has no data on required maintenance work.

Chennai parents lodge complaint against eight schools

Chennai parents lodge complaint against eight schools

Chennai, Feb 5 (TruthDive): Eight private schools in the city were lodged a complaint by parents with Justice S.R Singaravelu, chairman, private school fee determination committee, saying that schools differentiate between students who pay the fees fixed by the committee and the one who shield out fees set by the management.

Nearly hundreds of parents gathered at the DPI campus, saying that they would go on an indefinite hunger strike in the coming month of July if schools fail to refund surplus fees that they had collected and still continue to charge more.

A parent of a private school in Alwarthirunagar, said the school had received an order on November 11, 2011 from the committee to refund excess fees collected by the management. “Till now, the management has not yet returned the excess amount collected in the beginning of the year,” he said.

Mr K. Sridhar, secretary of parents and students welfare association of a private school in Pammal, said, “The school management collects Rs 3,000 as fees for IT course every year. Students who decline to pay the fees fixed by the management are left out in the class room and others are taken to a different section and are provided IT education. All this happens during Science or Maths sessions. Why should two sets of students study different courses?” he questioned.

Mr S. Arumainathan, president of the federation of Tamil Nadu students parents welfare association, said, “Everyday, parents from different schools meet Justice Singaravelu and lodge complaints. We need a proper solution for this issue. If schools continue to charge excess fees and refuse to refund the amount as directed by the committee, parents across the state will gather at the DPI campus and go on an indefinite hunger protest in July.”

Mr K Sulaiman, a parent said, ” My child has a hesitation in going to school these days due to the ill-treatment given by the school, as we refused to pay the fees fixed by the management.”

IIT-M & CMRL introduce PG diploma in metro rail engineering

IIT-M & CMRL introduce PG diploma in metro rail engineering

Chennai, Feb3 (TruthDive): The IIT-Madras has in progress, a postgraduate diploma programme in Metro Rail Engineering and Management in association with Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL). The first batch of students of this modified course will pass out in a few months and join CMRL.

“We need qualified people who can handle both the technical and management sides of the operations. The one-year course will help us get a talented workforce for the future,” said a senior CMRL official.

“There are a lot of management lessons and I can apply whatever I learn as soon as I start working,” said Ganesh, a student.

R G Robinson, associate professor, civil engineering, IIT-M said, “It is a highly   specialized field that needs engineers who have a good understanding of civil,        mechanical,electrical,and electronics and communication engineering.The technical aspects are equally important.”

Retired Indian Railways professionals have been roped in to offer training in signaling and station design, apart from IIT professors. The IIT –Delhi too offers a similar course, which has been running a programme in alliance with Delhi Metro Corporation for nearly two years.

For more than a decade, the IIT-M has been running an M Tech programme for transportation company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T). Mr. Robinson said “L&T is a huge company and needs people with training in technical and management components.”

Only students with a B Tech in civil, mechanical, electrical, or electronics and communication, can apply, as metro rail engineering is a specialized course and candidates are short-listed based on their score in the Graduate Aptitude Test in engineering and a qualifying examination. Those selected are provided with a monthly stipend of Rs 20,000 from CMRL.

MR R G Robinson said, “The first batch, which will pass out in July 2012, will have to work for CMRL for the next five years. Students find it attractive as it is a core engineering area and the metro system is coming up in many Indian cities.”

Students can hope for many opportunities in this field. “There is also scope for the students to work abroad later as most major cities have metro rail systems,” said a senior official.

Three-fold increase in India’s educational aid to Sri Lanka

Three-fold increase in India’s educational aid to Sri Lanka

Colombo, Jan 22 (TruthDive):  India has promised Sri Lanka an increase in educational assistance amounting to LK Rs 2.5 billion in grant to deserving students.

Under the three-year programme, the number of scholarships and self-finance slots for undergraduate, masters and doctorate courses are being increased from the existing 113 slots to 270 per year. These scholarships will cover the course fee, cost of books, boarding and lodging as well as a monthly stipend to the students.

“I am confident that the expanded scholarship programme will go a long way in further cementing our educational ties,” said the visiting foreign minister. “This marks a three-fold increase, and includes 120 slots for undergraduate courses, 25 seats for IT engineering, 50 slots for masters-level courses, and 40 slots for a highly-subsidised self-financing scheme,” India’s External Affairs Minister S.M Krishna  added.

Several schemes under the initiative, launched by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010, would cover various categories of beneficiaries, ranging from school students to university researchers and teachers.

The two leaders had agreed that India would expand its scholarship programme in Sri Lanka to assist scholars not only in regular undergraduate studies but also to pursue higher research.

India also decided to select 150 deserving students, six from each district of Sri Lanka, for monthly monetary support for two-year duration under the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship Scheme’ to complete the GCE Advance Level studies. Students under this scheme will also be able to pursue higher studies under scholarships in India.

The Corpus Fund of the Ceylon Estate Workers Education Trust (CEWET) has also been doubled to support the education of over 350 poor students from Sri Lanka’s Tamil majority upcountry area.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M Krishna concluded his second visit to Sri Lanka in fourteen months on Friday. Behind the ceremonial events of handing over houses, bicycles, medical equipment, railway lines etc and signing numerous bilateral agreements, lay weightier purposes of nudging Sri Lanka towards a political settlement with minority Tamils, as part of the reconciliation process following decades of conflict.