What young Goan parents dread
Four years of Konkani medium schooling
By Cecil Pinto
Last week I met my friend Yvonne who is the mother of two pre-primary children. As expected she was complaining about school admissions. Like every parent in her age group, and economic class, she wants her child to study in a school that has English as the medium of instruction. "How else will they be able to migrate to Canada after finishing college?". Yvonne
ranted on about how in 'our times' school admissions occurred in the first week of June. I told her about how in certain play-schools in Mumbai admissions are sought when the woman becomes pregnant. I kid you not. I have seen it first-hand at a prestigious play-school of a distant relative.
Admission to a particular play-school virtually guarantees admission to a particular good school which in turn makes admission to a particular college easy, which then makes it easier to get into a particular management (or whatever the current mantra is) institute. And then one can get married to a rich businessman and have society parties, or become a
call girl (at a Call Centre) and compete with a 12th standard pass who speaks better English! And take abuse over the phone from some loutish American who can't figure out why his car insurance premiums have suddenly gone up.
But let's come back to Goa. In 1990 the Goa Government made Konkani as the compulsory medium of instruction for Government assisted schools. People of my generation cheered loudly. We didn't have a clue what it entailed, but it seemed the right thing to do, as after all we had dug up roads to get
Konkani into the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution (whatever that means too!). We were happy for our 'mai bhas'. We didn't think of our children. We were not married. We didn't have children! Some of us are still not married, or don't have children, but that is another topic for another day.
There where whimpers of protest from some parents back then in the early nineties. But they were shoved aside as the dying shudders of an inflexible elitist section of society, who could not deal with the new math, leave alone 'ganit' (math in Konkani). Then the next generation, us, got married,
procreated and searched around for good gynecologists, pediatricians, maid servants, play-schools and agents who knew how to get a Portuguese Passport. We had everything going for us - including the Internet where one could download forms for migration to Australia. Play-schools were blooming by the dozen. Every bored housewife, and her sister-in-law, converted their spare bedroom or garage into a play-school and stuck colourful charts of fruits and numbers on the wall. And of course some cut-outs of Disney characters. The market responds to a need.
Translation into Portuguese, and attesting of documents, came down from Rs. 1000/- to Rs. 250/- per document. The number of gynecologists and pediatricians did not proportionately increase with the demand, but they started sending less time per patient and hence were able to see more patients per day - while simultaneously on the phone checking out competitive prices for luxury cars and investing in mutual funds. "Hello!
No! Not UTI! Anything but UTI. What sound? Oh! This kid's got an ear infection, I think. Nurse give her these antibiotics and check her weight. Next!! What about Kothak Mahendra? I'm buying a Mahendra Bolero next week. Doctor Kelekar has one already. Nurse, take his weight and give him some antibiotics. What? I didn't even ask what's wrong? Oops!". I've never been
inside the sacrosanct section of the gynecologists office but I can imagine him enquiring about stock options with his cell-phone in one gloved hand while...
Reliable non-underage, non-live-in maid servants of course still remain elusive.
Where were we? Aha! Now the admission to the dreaded First Standard suddenly looms large for parents of my generation. We pick up Admission Forms of every English Medium primary school in town. And a few good Konkani medium schools too, for good measure. We make phone calls and cajole and coax and beg anyone who can get our kids into a decent and inexpensive English medium primary school. The South Goans as usual over
dramatise the issue by standing in queue overnight for admission forms like over-age Harry Potter fans. "Hi Jacob. What are you doing here in the night in the open in the cold? What? I can't hear you. Your teeth are chattering with the cold. Presentation? What presentation? Who's making a
presentation in Margao? Bill Gates? Nani Palkhivala? Isn't he dead? Are you insane? Do you want to die of cold?"
Regarding this obsessive behavior, I've heard excuses from parents that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. "It's not about language, it's about opportunities", "The thought of me helping them out with their homework is frightening. I hate the Devnagri script!", "The language doesn't matter. I want this school because they imbibe a good sense of culture, discipline and ethics. I don't want my son ending up like a
politician, specially not a MLA from Benaulim!". Quite frankly I will send my children to an English medium primary school. I heard that the private sector banks are giving loans for just this purpose - English Medium School Admission. It's a more lucrative business than vehicle and housing loans.
And if you don't pay your installments in time they can always yank your kid out of school and keep him kneeling outside their office till you pay up!
Before the die-hard Konkani activists come to gherao me and paint my face black I will warn them that (a) My complexion is so dark it will not make a difference! (b) I love my 'mai bhas', as much as, if not more, than any of them - and can curse in both scripts. (c) I will only entertain protestors
who can give me signed and notarised affidavits stating that: (1) Their children are currently studying in Konkani medium primary schools (2) They have never tried to seek admission in an English medium primary school (3) The MLAs , politicians and business men who support them also have their children currently studying, or having studied, in Konkani medium primary schools.
The humour column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated February 9th 2006.
(courtesy: THE GOAN FORUM