Print Edition - 2015-03-22  |  Free the Words

A father’s blue book

  • My daughter’s complaints about her school spur a reflection on my own schooling over 30 years ago
A father’s blue book

Mar 21, 2015-

Thirty-three years separate my daughter’s grade one class year from mine. It is fascinating to think how my kid’s everyday school life and the ‘social life’ centring on the school reconnect me to those days of mine.

Our two schools differ not only in time and location but also in the everyday handling of business. Amid a host of complaints from her that the school is just not treating her well in all respects, I beg to strongly differ from her that between she and her dad, it is rather the dad who was by far the less lucky. It is not so easy to juxtapose 1982 with 2015 or Dhapasi with Kapasia (my hometown), but let me conduct an exercise by walking down memory lane.  

Catastrophe called exam

‘Student life is the best part of life if there is no examination,’ so goes the adage. For me, exams were another name for torture. A few blue books from my elementary school have not only left an indelible mark in my mind, they are life-long traumas. Seven out of 50 and 34 out of 100 were the scores I came up with in science and my mother tongue, respectively, in the first term exam of grade-three. While in grade five, I obtained 13 out of 100 in primary math. What came to my rescue on that occasion was that the math instructor would also teach us religious studies and would distribute grades of both subjects at the same time. Performance in religion was not as bad. While struggling against most worldly subjects such as math, science, and language, what might be the reason behind excelling relatively in a subject that deals with the afterlife? Time and again, I looked for an answer. It may be because the religious studies text was less voluminous and mostly contained biographies of prophets. Any kid would have a liking for a lesson presented in the form of a story.  

By interacting with other parents and my daughter’s teachers, I get the feeling that our kids are deliberately kept free from the scare of frequent exams. Mark Twain once said that he never allowed his school to interfere with his education. I too feel that the best and most efficient form of learning is one that is not evaluation centric. Education has to be freed from any competitive zeal and can never be considered just a gateway to higher accomplishment. There is no higher accomplishment than learning; it is its own reward.  


To speak of punishment for not preparing adequately for lessons or indiscipline, the examples of cadet colleges come to mind. I never was a cadet but my school had this practice too. A classmate of mine in grade 2, who earned the dubious distinction of being caned the maximum times in one term, once did me a favour. While there was no chance to completely get rid of the ‘rigorous term’, with the help of a local kabiraj (as the quack was called locally) he invented a ‘custom made’ oil application on the arm and back (the parts of the body where most cane hits would end up) to reduce the severity of the pain. While coming to terms with the teacher was impossible, it was not revision of the home task but rather, a visit to the toilet that would precede our math class. The official pass mark for each subject was 33. However, that was made irrelevant by raising the ‘cane pass’ mark to 50. Once, a teacher came to the classroom with corrected blue books to distribute grades, which he deferred because no cane was available that day. A new lot of canes were ordered.

Social life

My daughter complains to me that one particular classmate of her, whom she loves most, does not play with her. Surprisingly, her father can only envy her luck on that front too! During my school days, near our home, there were two primary schools: one for boys and another for girls. The primary schools were affiliated with the respective secondary boys’ school or girls’ school of the town and up to the primary level, there was no gender restriction in enrolling students. Incidentally, the primary school affiliated with the secondary girls’ school was located closer home. My guardians decided that I would go to the school whichever was nearest and consequently, I, a boy, ended up as a gender minority. In the fifth grade, against 30 girls in the class, I was the sole male and often an object of quite harsh ridicule! While my ‘classmates’ would play, I would look for a place to hide.

Let my daughter, still a first grader, grow up to be a reader of The Kathmandu Post and one day retrieve this write-up from the archives. She can demand a gift from me for being a catalyst in returning me to the business of writing after a long hiatus. Surely, for my part, I will file this piece before her for a good rating as an anxious father. If she gives me 51 out of 100, I escape the cane. If the score is marginally over 13, her father would be undeniably miserable; however, not as miserable as he was as a math student!    

Jabed, a diplomat from Bangladesh, is a Director at the Saarc Secretariat

Published: 22-03-2015 08:07

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