On March 14, a national daily reported that as the coronavirus pandemic keeps students away from school, 3.75 lakh children registered with 33,115 anganwadis in Kerala will get material for their mid-day meals delivered at home. It brought to mind an article in an American higher education magazine, of college shutdown due to the pandemic forcing poor and minority students to lose valuable academic experience, as well as hot meals and a shelter. The closure have literally thrown them out on the streets.
S. Giridhar’s Ordinary People, Extraordinary Teachers is a timely reminder of what government schools mean to the vast majority of Indian children. For a nation whose urban middle and upper-middle class increasingly identify K-12 education with private institutions, what is forgotten is that education is not just a venue of liberal humanist idealism—the widening of emotional, intellectual and ethical horizons. For the poor and marginalised, it is very often the ticket to a meal and a bed to sleep on. And in no country can this responsibility be carried out by private institutions. They are, as Giridhar says, the lifeline of 60 per cent our children.