In this fast paced world, we find few children being sent to residential schools, especially by the affluent and powerful. Though many argue that parents wash their hands off bringing up their children by ‘dumping’ their kids in residential schools, some say that it is the best training that a child gets in facing life. In the nuclear family set-up of today’s generation as well as the advent of more and more electronics replacing human interaction, children become overly involved with their individual likes and dislikes, wants and needs, unless guided in the right path and at the right age.
Expected to follow the rules, where in one wakes up to the bell, follows a routine, while still enjoying to live amidst other kids, learning about each other’s families and cultivating empathy and understanding, these institutions open doors to a community living that today’s world seldom offers kids in particular in nuclear families. Rich or poor alike, communication and the ability to convey one’s feelings with their fellow-mates helps these children evolve as expressive individuals. Though the standards for such schools have changed over the years, the one thing that unites these kids is that they all are away from the comfort of home and care of their parents. They learn to take care of themselves as well as their belongings. They face the challenges of interacting with kids of varying upbringing who they share their living quarters with. The sense of community is imbibed in them, creating a bond that lasts a lifetime in many cases. Interestingly it is not such a novel or new concept.
In Indian history, it has been known that back in those days, from princes to paupers who wanted a good education were sent off to live in a ‘gurukul’ with their gurus. These ardent students learnt not just the scriptures, but also the basics of life while enjoying play and frolic. Irrespective of their creed and stature, they all had chores and duties that they were to perform throughout their lives with their gurus, serving him and his family. It was an all rounded learning that enabled the students to face any curve balls that life might throw at them. If not for such a training of life skills, it is very unlikely that prince and princess could have endured the life in jungles with little amenities of the luxurious palaces. Famous stories of Krishna and Sudama are examples of the bias-less environment and attitude that promoted great friendships and kinship in gurukulam.
While residential camps and such give kids a glimpse of this communal living, it is for a brief period. May be we all need to take a second hard look into this tradition that has lost its charm due to reasons ranging from affordability to abuse, and revive it to efficiently serve the purpose it did back in the ages of our renowned Kings.