Independence Day? What's that?

Freedom from School?

Gone are the days when we would wear white uniforms and rush to the school to participate in the August 15 celebrations. It was a treat for the eyes to watch those cultural programmes highlighting the struggle for freedom, and subsequent independence of our country. The joy and sense of pride one got while hoisting the flag and singing the national anthem are indescribable. Not to forget the sweets we carried home after the celebration.

Today, not many children, especially from the primary classes, participate in the independence day celebrations at their schools. Interestingly, neither parents nor students are complaining, while school managements have their own reasons for excluding these children.

Take Priya (name changed) for instance. A class 6 student from a CBSE school, this girl is all excited about finishing her home work and spending time with her cousins. “We have four days of holidays including Independence Day, which falls on a Monday. Our teacher sent a note in my diary mentioning that Independence Day is a holiday. If we had to attend the celebration, she would have sent a memo. Only high school students will be participating in the celebration,’’ she says.

For some like Dhristi (name changed), a Class 4 student, it is a day to spend time with her father whom she gets to meet only once a week. “My dad works on the night shift. So, I don’t get to see him much. Since he too has a holiday on August 15, we are planning to go out together,’’ she says. So, what does Independence Day mean to her? “I don’t know,” is all she says.

Her father, Vijay (name changed) adds, “The school would have mailed us by now if my daughter had to participate in the August 15 celebration. Since there is no communiqué from the school, as per her diary, it’s a holiday.”

Unlike her peers, Roopa (name changed), a Class 5 student of a CBSE school decided to celebrate Independence Day in her own way. “The school has given us a holiday,” she says.

Roopa plans to use this holiday to celebrate Independence Day with her friends. “I’m yet to decide on how we will be celebrating because my father is planning to take me out. So, I might celebrate with my friends first and then go out with my father.’’

How does she plan to celebrate the day? “There is a pole near our house. We plan to hoist the flag there. Then we will all sing the national anthem and cut a cake,” she signs off.

Some schools which had declared a holiday for Independence Day till last year have made it compulsory for students to attend the celebrations at school. For instance, six-year-old Akash (name changed) a Class 2 student of an ICSE-affiliated school thought August 15 would be a holiday. However, early this week, the school sent a circular stating that all students from Class 1 to PUC II had to compulsorily participate in the celebration.

“Only this year is the school celebrating Independence Day. We’ll have to see what they have planned for the celebration,’’ says his mother, Radha, a working professional.
There are various factors school managements have attributed for not including primary school students in the celebration. While some pointed out logistic issues others simply didn’t have any reasons. However, in most schools, Kindergarten students are not included in the participation. Reason? “They need a different kind of attention. Parents can bring them for the celebration. But we cannot involve them in group activities. It’s not easy and parents do understand,’’ a school principal said that students from Class 1 to 12 in her school would participate in the celebration.

Sharing similar views, a school management member said that they could not accommodate kindergarten children due to “logistic issue.’’ “Otherwise, students from Class 1 to 12 have to compulsorily participate.  In order to keep the freedom spirit high for the Kindergarten students, we have a series of activities including a fancy dress competition on freedom fighters,’’ the management member added.

Principal of a well-known boys’ school said that they were contemplating whether to include primary classes or not. “Students from Class 5 onwards will participate in the celebration. For Classes upto 4, we are yet to decide whether to make it compulsory or not. One of the main reasons is picking up and dropping these kids. However, we have extended the invitation to the parents of these children. They can bring the children with them and participate,’’ he says.

Even as some schools professed strong reasons for not including primary school children in the celebration, a school principal said that it had “been the trend” in his school not to include Class 1 and Class 2 students. “All these years, we had students from Class 3 onwards participating in the Independence Day celebration. There is no specific reason why these two classes are not included. I will write to the management requesting them to allow these children also to participate in the celebration,” he says.

Looks like children have to wait for some more years to actually participate in the Independence Day celebrations in their schools.

How schools are celebrating

Every school has planned something unique and different for this Independence Day celebration. All the schools will start their celebration with a flag hoisting and march past followed by various cultural programmes. In addition to this, some schools are also planning to have sports events including cricket matches and prize distribution programmes.

Take Delhi Public School (DPS) for instance. Throughout August, they have scheduled different activities including plays, art and drama. “All the classes have to compulsorily participate in the celebration. We will have an Independence Day cup where all the three DPS’ will participate,’’ says Mansoor Ali Khan, member, Board of Management.

At Little Flower Public School, students mainly high school students will take part in the march past held at Manekshaw Parade Grounds. In addition to this, the school will have a series of programmes, which goes on for up to two hours. “It’s compulsory for all the classes to participate in the programme. Parents will have to accompany the children of the lower classes,’’ says Gayethri Devi, principal of the school.

“We need to be proud of our country. The children need to know about our Independence,’’ says Mansoor.

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