Raising a banner of fond hopes

PONDICHERRY NOV.13. Neither the Indian Government nor the Pondicherry Government is Santa Claus. But these children have wishes which even Santa himself may find difficult to deliver. "We don't want tuitions; we don't want teachers who come late to school; we don't want parents to thrust their ambitions on us; we don't want teachers to take the next year's portions in the present academic year" — these are some of the wishes expressed by the children of Pondicherry.

Writing on a 56-metre-long white cloth, nearly 1,000 children from all over Pondicherry poured out their hearts at the Petit Seminaire School today. Though many of them from urban areas had prepared the material they would be writing on the banner, there were others from rural areas, who really asked for things that they didn't have.

Some children wanted a law against parents who made children work despite the Government providing free education, books and food, while others wanted parents to be free from alcohol addiction. They also asked for equality in education for both sexes, a ban on educational institutions and employers asking for caste certificates to pave way for a caste-free society and for making teachers impartial. One boy wanted the government to do something about pig menace in his area, while a girl sought a ban on putting up obscene film posters on walls. Another child wanted his parents to have five or six more children so that he could play with them!

Of course, there were demands for a happy family with love and affection from parents; a non-corrupt government; a caste-free society and teachers who take lessons properly.

Devi Mathews, director, Department of Women and Child Welfare, told The Hindu that the children's views were being elicited based on Government of India instructions. "We are gathering the children's views of what they expect from their parents, society, teachers and the government and after analysing them will be sending them to the Centre within a couple of days."

"Children from all walks of life, not necessarily those who attend schools, were invited to give their views. A committee of specialists in children's education and psychology, consisting of the managing director of the Women's Development Corporation and child development project officers, will analyse these views," said A. Sherfuddeen, Deputy Director (administration). The banner, which will be displayed for public viewing at the Kamban Kalaiarangam here, is 56 metres in length to mark the 56th year of Indian independence.