Published: 11th May 2019
Why older people who never had an opportunity to go to school should be given a chance to learn
As the birthrate plummets in South Korea, rural schools are emptying. To fill its classrooms, one school opened its doors to women who have for decades dreamt of learning to read
As Karnataka awaits the start of the 2019/20 academic year, the government is migrating 1,000 Kannada medium schools to English medium schools. This throws up the question of what happens to the teachers of Kannada medium schools which face the empty-nest syndrome of a different kind.
A possible way out can be to get grand-moms, who had no opportunity in their childhood to step into school premises, to be invited to leave behind their bored existence and get them into schools, to keep company with their less ambitious grand-kids stuck in Kannada medium schools. This is happening in South Korea as per an article in the New York Times by Choe Ang-Hun (27/4/19) and excerpted here.
As the birthrate plummets in South Korea, rural schools are emptying. To fill its classrooms, one school opened its doors to women who have for decades dreamt of learning to read. In Ganjin County, South Korea, every morning on her way to school, Hwang Wol-geum, a first grader, rides the same yellow bus as three of her family members: one is a kindergartner, another a third grader and the other a fifth grader. Hwang is 70 and illiterate and her schoolmates are her grandchildren.
“Writing letters to my children, that’s what I dreamt of the most,” Hwang said. Help came unexpectedly this year from the local school that was running out of school-age children and was desperate to fill its classrooms with students. The hardest hit areas are rural counties, where babies have become an increasingly rare sight as young couples migrate en masse to big cities for better-paying jobs.
This year, the worst calamity of all struck the district. “We went around villages looking for just one precious kid to enrol as a first grader,” said Lee Ju-young, principal of Daegu Elementary. “There were none.” So Lee and local residents, desperate to save the 96-year-old school, came up with an idea: How about enrolling older villagers who wanted to learn to read and write?
For younger people who wanted to stay in the area, the future of their town depended on keeping the school alive. The local education office warmed up to the idea, and Hwang started attending classes last month. Can we replicate such a scenario in India and more specifically in Karnataka where the Kannada medium school teachers would be agonising over the loss of their precious jobs?