The elusive peak of learning: Success and agony

Shihab Sarkar | Published: April 05, 2018 21:20:31 | Updated: April 06, 2018 19:54:08

The urge for learning, for that matter knowledge, is inherent with man. This human trait cuts across age, social positions and regional barriers. In the poorer and less advanced countries, this feeling remains subdued or suppressed. The urge is found among the underprivileged children in general. Let's have a look at the Bangladesh villages. In spite of the great strides made by the country in child education in the last one decade, lots of children still remain out of school. They do not even attain the elementary literacy. On the other hand, dropout children can hardly be coerced into resuming studies. Their fate remains sealed.

But there are instances to take heart from. Few in society are aware of an age-old fact: the irresistible thirst for knowledge among many, especially children. As has been seen, these souls cannot accept the prevailing reality of living without being animated by the light of knowledge. The urge to grow to touch the higher levels of learning and knowledge continues to make them restless. Behavioural scientists call this craving for inner enlightenment an inherent virtue. Many have discovered in it a particular genetic drive. Self-taught folk philosopher-bards have been a part of Bangladesh society. One would like to place the mystic bards like Siraj Shai, Lalon Fakir et al in this group. At the mundane level, the urge to attain the nearly magical power of literacy, and later learning, keeps firing the imagination of many children. This is a universal phenomenon.

In Bangladesh despite the prevalence of scores of out-of-school children, instances of many nurturing the dream of being a student are plenty. Stark reality may have blocked their path to school, but the irresistible dream of finding themselves engrossed in a classroom keeps robbing them of their night's sleep. With their aspiration proving unmaterialised, these children, in many cases, emerge misfits in society. In a sense they are also 'dropouts', but this identity carries a distinction here. They are highly deprived, bypassed and marginalised -- in a figurative way. Wilting of scores of such would-be flowers at the very budding stage is a social aberration.

This plight of these children is normally blamed on ignorant parents or adults. Upon looking into the 'great injustice' casually, poverty-stricken parents are found in the dock. But viewing the issue with compassion, many would like to take sides with them. For without the family income being supplemented by the school-age children, fathers or mothers cannot make their ends meet.  Examples are there where parents suffer the pricks of conscience for not sending their kids to school. Ironically, this section of parents may have passed through their own tormenting times in childhood, the age when their path to education remained blocked. However, these parents are few and far between in society, be it rural or urban.

The parents have a massive role in helping realise their children's lofty dreams. But reality is cruel. What prompts many of them to keep their offspring from going to school is a specific circumstance. Not that they are against their children's education; maybe they, too, were deprived of schooling in a similar situation. Seeing under-age children toil away in alleviating familial woes is relieving to many, though perversely. When it comes to bare hand-to-mouth survival, a son or a daughter becoming literate and gathering knowledge means little to poverty-stricken parents. Yet many of them follow off-track courses. They take upon themselves extra burdens, leaving the necessary space for children to concentrate on their studies. Intrepid children are found everywhere. In an age of the pervasive presence of schools, school-going children comprise a great segment of the everyday scenario. Academics and social experts watching child behaviour point to an encouraging development. It involves out-of-school children being inspired by the enrolled child learners. It results in the former willing to avail of the similar access to the domain of knowledge, which was off-limits to them previously.

The days of silently giving in to the dictates of the divisive society are over.  In the past, children would let their ambitions of gathering knowledge taper off eventually. Many used to reach adulthood cursing their fate all along. Exceptions were there that showed a handful of children committed to their goal emerge with successful careers. Many facts and fiction back this truth. Anecdotes and tales are many. The most common of them is the one where a wretchedly poor boy prepares his lesson under a street lamp by night. However, the task was not easy. The path all along had been strewn with innumerable hazards and hindrances. In the 21st century when openings to education are offered by varied types of institutions, apart from traditional schools, aspiring learners need not worry much. At the beginners' level, there are tuition-free government-run primary schools. Those who cannot manage time to attend those due to being engaged in works have the evening schools. These are open-air or improvised learning sessions. Located chiefly in the urban areas, they are run by non-government organisations (NGOs).

Entering the traditionally exclusive sphere of learning and knowledge has lately been made a lot easier. Notwithstanding this development, these learning centres remain beset with dearth of sufficient number of students. The perennial disincentive of helping boost up the income of one's parental family chips away at the aspirations and dreams of most of the children. In spite of this and other adversities, the steadfast boys and girls cannot be weaned off from their chosen pursuits. Perhaps they are born to make a difference to the hackneyed reality and accomplish their goal.

There are a number of people and entities who take upon themselves the task of bringing the light of proper education to society, one which often gets haunted by darkness descending from a long familiar source --- illiteracy or ignorance. Even after acknowledging their presumably selfless service, they appear wanting in some respects. A lot of people point the finger at a feeling of fatigue that overcomes them in their inordinately long arduous mission. On the other hand, children coming from humble and nondescript backgrounds often fail to reach these sources of light. One might be willing to call it a unique kind of communication gap. As a remedy, those who have committed themselves to the task of creating an educated society ought to be highly proactive. In order to make their endeavours fruitful they need to scout around for the knowledge-focused boys and girls. It's also worth keeping in mind that these children are found in both rural and urban areas.

In Bangladesh where a lot of people finally remain beyond the peripheries of education, self-teaching emerges as a way out. Although apparently in contravention of the imperative of discipline, this mode of learning stands for freedom. The learner here has the open choice of selecting the areas of knowledge. Thanks to this universal tradition, the nation can amply take pride in its self-taught people. However, a socio-cultural ambience conducive to their growth plays a direct role in the proper grooming of these people. However, reality speaks otherwise. Self-learning occasionally proves a chimera. Despite having the urge to be in the learning process, family and social adversities stand in the way of the learners in general. Society doesn't allow a child or a youth to get engaged in the pursuit of knowledge keeping away from the mainstream life.

Advanced education in this country remains confined to the affluent class. By dint of sheer perseverance and resolve, underprivileged children can have access to this area. They are armed with attributes unique to education imparted by nature; they develop a different approach to life due to their humble roots. This upbeat picture, however, often pales thanks to the invisible hindrances created in their ascent. Sufferings and disillusionment await many of them. A faulty and rundown system is blamed for this turn of events.

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