By Shoaib Hashmi
If you are sensible and civilized,
and therefore a fan and follower of the comic strip
'Calvin and Hobbes', you will know that Calvin is
the supreme flag bearer of that great truth which
every six year old knows by instinct, viz., that
summer vacations are for goofing off. For lounging
around all day doing nothing and getting bored out
of your butt, and loving every moment of it! So
what is this I hear about 'holidays home-work'??
For one thing, as any red-blooded Lahori schoolchild
will tell you the proper pronunciation of the word
is 'Honework' -- with an 'n'; just as the word for
the stuff ladies use is 'Nake-up'. But apart from
that it is obvious that 'Holidays' and 'Honework'
are contradictions. I do not ever remember ever
doing any 'work' any summer in my schooldays, and
I got educated. And now one hears mothers of kids
all over are up in arms at the amount of homework
they are supposed to do. Is nothing sacred any more?
As it is the heart bleeds each time one catches
sight of a kid trudging his way to school. They
are barely above the grass, and they have schoolbags
the size of a house. It seems eight year olds have
to study twelve 'subjects', and the bag is crammed
with a dozen textbooks and two dozen 'copies' --
one for rough and one for fair work each. I was
twenty before I found out you have to choose a 'subject'
for your master's!
It seems with all this hype about intensive education,
school teachers, to impress the administration and
awe the Higher Education Commission, vie with each
other to give vast amounts of work for pupils to
do at home. For the ten weeks of Summer Vacation
each student is required to prepare the equivalent
of the Principia Mathematica!
Schools put together and print 'workbooks' which
the kids are asked to slog through over the summer.
Of course the parents have to buy these 'workbooks',
and then some schools also prepare special note
books in which the work has to be done, and these
are sold too.
Much of the work, I am told consists of simply copying
the stuff in the workbook into the notebook! Why
don't they just print two copies of the workbook,
charge the parents for both, and keep them as homework
done? Especially since it is clear that the teacher
of each subject gives them enough work to keep them
slogging all summer, and doesn't give a damn what
the other teachers have given them to do.
I was reminded of very different times recently.
You see the Aitchison in Lahore, with another one
in Dehra Doon, was constituted as the 'Chief's College',
designed to give schooling to the children of the
Princely Houses, and the Talukdars and landed gentry.
Four of the princely families had 'State Houses'
within striking distance of the place; Nabha and
Bahawalpur on Queen's Road and Mozang Chungi, Chamba
across the road from Lawrence Gardens inside GOR,
and Patiala had a large tract of land on McLeod
Road and rented a house somewhere near where the
PC is now.
It was part of the school culture to show off your
antecedents, so the prince of Patiala rode to school
on a jet black and shiny steed; the scion of the
house of Nabha rode an elephant -- there was a 'Feel-Khana'
or Elephant House for all of them opposite the Governor's
House; and the kid from Chamba was carried to school
in a 'Palkee' by two, or maybe four bearers!
The heir to Bahawalpur rode to school in a camel
carriage escorted by a platoon of lancers because
he wore a gem-studded turban. But they were proper
times -- or maybe they were scared of the Brits
-- and at the school gate he exchanged the gems
for the unadorned blue turban of the school. The
gem studded coronet was placed on a silver platter
by minions, locked in the camel carriage and driven
back to Chungee! Somehow I cannot believe that any
of this lot spent their summer holidays slaving
through workbooks. None of their shenanigans in
later life hinted that they thought much of holiday
homework! As I said those were easier times! (Courtesy