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 The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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