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Boarding schools provide comprehensive education to students

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By Somrita Ghosh

New Delhi: The best memories of students are perhaps of hostel life. From dormitory days to winning any sports event, from celebrating birthdays to supporting each other during tough times, the stories are never ending. And these memories are reignited in a new work penned by a headmaster and narrated from his point of view.

“With a Little Help from My Friends” (Rupa, pp 222, Rs. 250) is a tell-all memoir replete with some of Dev Lahiri’s fondest memories surrounding his college days, his decision to leave a well-paid job and re-start his career as the headmaster of a boarding school and going on to be associated with some renowned schools across the country.

His journey as a headmaster was also riddled with controversies. The book is an account of the challenges that come with heading a residential school in India to the loneliness and vulnerability associated with the job.

“Boarding schools are very important in today’s tuition-driven culture because they provide an opportunity to their students to acquire a holistic education,” Lahiri, who has been the headmaster of prestigious institutions like Lawrence School, Lovedale and Welham Boy’s School, as also as housemaster at Doon School, told reporters in an interview.

“Also, in most boarding schools, children grow up making no distinction between themselves on the basis of caste, religion, region and what-have-you. These schools also teach students to be very self-sufficient,” Lahiri told reporters in an interview.

Ragging and bullying often become a major issue in boarding schools. Lahiri too had to face the wrath of parents when his students became victims of ragging.

“The first step in tackling ragging is to acknowledge that it exists, which unfortunately most institutions are unwilling to do. The next challenge is to get the victims to speak up and break the conspiracy of silence that surrounds the issue. It requires a huge team effort on the part of all stakeholders – teachers, students, parents and the management to tackle this menace,” said the now-retired principal, who currently resides at Dehradun.

Talking of teenagers, Lahiri said that they need to be handled with a mixture of firmness and kindness.

“The boundaries that they can, and cannot, the cross should be clearly defined – and better so in consultation with them and with their consent. The most important thing is to “be there for them” and to make them know that they are respected and cared for – but that they have to reciprocate as well,” added the author.

In an era where parents push their children to extremes in education, Lahiri strongly felt that schools are not the place where a student’s career should be decided.

“In my view, schools should be the place where we open up the child’s mind to all the possibilities that surround him/her and equip him/her with the wherewithal to make the decision at the appropriate time – which is much later. Unfortunately, in our system we ‘box’ children in from as early as Class 9. Having said that, it is important to encourage children to experiment, explore and discover for themselves where their greatest talent (and happiness) lies,” Lahiri maintained.

The author also voiced concern over the Indian education system falling behind other countries.

“In India, school education has never really been a priority for our planners and so we are being left behind quite rapidly. The movement has been away from ‘content’ to ‘skills’ for the new world order, but in India the focus, by and large, is still on content,” he responded.

Lahiri also raised concerns over imparting education right way in schools and colleges.

“We have to give school education the primacy it deserves. There is no systematic, scientific programme of teacher training in this country and that needs to be a priority area. The focus in classrooms will have to be to move away from content and rote learning to encourage children to think for themselves, ask questions, be critical, engage in team work, take part in research and reference, respect diversity and communicate effectively,” Lahiri contended. (IANS)

Next Story

Pentavalent vaccine: Doctors raise red flag

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive

the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
India's PV to be reexamined because of its harmful effects. .
  • Pentavalent vaccine was introduced in India six years ago
  • It is since then have been a cause of many deaths
  • Doctors want it to be reexamined before continuing its use

Pentavalent vaccine (PV), that was introduced by India a little over six years ago, doubled the deaths of children soon after vaccination compared to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine, according to a new study that calls for a “rigorous review of the deaths following vaccination with PV”.

Health officials have launched a campaign targeting nearly 24 million people with a one-fifth dose of the vaccine. Wikimedia Commons
PV has been cause of many deaths in past years. Wikimedia Commons

Government records show that there were 10,612 deaths following vaccination (both PV and DPT) in the last 10 years. There was a huge increase in these numbers in 2017, which the Health Ministry has promised to study. “The present analysis could be a starting point in the quest to reduce the numbers of such deaths,” authors of the new study say.

The study by Dr Jacob Puliyel, Head of Pediatrics at St Stephens Hospital, and Dr V. Sreenivas, Professor of Biostatistics at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), both in New Delhi, is published in the peer-reviewed Medical Journal of Dr D.Y. Patil University.

PV is a combination of the DPT vaccine and two more vaccines against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) and hepatitis B. Starting December 2011, PV was introduced into India’s immunisation programme to replace DPT vaccine in a staged manner with a view to adding protection against Hib and Hepatitis B without increasing the number of injections given to infants.

Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons
Doctors have raised concerns over these vaccines. Wikimedia Commons

But sporadic reports of unexplained deaths following immunisation with PV had been a matter of concern. Puliyel, Sreenivas and their colleagues undertook the study to find out if these deaths were merely coincidental or vaccine-induced.

The authors obtained data of all deaths reported from April 2012 to May 2016 under the Right to Information Act. Data on deaths within 72 hours of administering DPT and PV from different states were used.

For their study, the authors assumed that all deaths within 72 hours of receiving DPT are natural deaths. Using this figure as the baseline, they presumed that any increase in the number of deaths above this baseline among children receiving PV must be caused by this vaccine.

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According to their analysis of the data provided by the government, there were 237 deaths within 72 hours of administering the Pentavalent vaccine — twice the death rate among infants who received DPT vaccine.

Extrapolating the data, the authors have estimated that vaccination of 26 million children each year in India would result in 122 additional deaths within 72 hours, due to the switch from DPT to PV.

“There is likely to be 7,020 to 8,190 deaths from PV each year if data from states with the better reporting, namely Manipur and Chandigarh, are projected nationwide,” their report says.

It is important to make sure that these vaccines are reexamined peroperly. VOA

The authors note that while the study looks at the short-term increase in deaths (within three days of vaccination) it does not calculate the potential benefits of PV on infant mortality, for example by protection against lethal diseases like Haemophilus influenza.

In spite of the data presented in this paper from a large cohort, the authors point out that the evidence is merely circumstantial and not conclusive. “These findings of differential death rates between DPT and PV do call for further rigorous prospective population-based investigations,” the study concludes. IANS