Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter: Parenting Lessons

The latest book in the Asterix series “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” is full of parenting gems and wisdom. The comic book is as enjoyable as always and the parenting counsels are a pleasant addition. It has been interwoven with the narrative so brilliantly that the reader barely notices them, yet the impact is hard-hitting and remains with the reader much after s/he has completed the story.

The book is about Adrenalin, the teenage daughter of the defeated Gaulish chief Vercingetorix. Julius Caesar wants to capture her. For Adrenalin’s safe-keeping, till they raise an army, her two foster fathers bring her to the little Gaulish village, we know so well. Vitalstatistix orders Asterix and Obelix to keep a watch on Adrenaline. However, the girl, who is a bolter, has other ideas. We are also introduced to Blinix and Selfipix, the teenage sons of Unhygienix and Fulliautomatix.

The above context, which could have been a regular Roman bash-up story, which it is; and in addition the author also gives parenting lessons. Some parenting advice is mentioned explicitly and a few of them are embedded throughout the storyline.

Here we go:
  • Violence won’t get you anywhere with children. Remember, talk and nothing else.
  • The teenage years are a difficult time. Be gentle and don’t upset the kid.
  • It won’t do the parent any good, over-parenting the young like that.
  • The main thing is that the child gets plenty of character.
  • All that really matters is our children’s happiness.

The above is mentioned clearly. The below requires a context and we have plenty of it in our daily lives.

  • Her father told her to resist conquest and to be free, and that’s what she did…in her own way.

The parents can wish and have ambition for their children. The children, in turn, should be free to have their own interpretation. The parents’ desire to having a safe and sound future for their kids can be fulfilled by children in ways and means that parents may not have even imagined. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • I am not wearing girls’ tunics.

Girls do not have to wear pink. Boys do not have to wear blue. The identity is not shaped by what is worn by norms and traditions, but by what is carried by self-belief and conviction. The parents can get bound by gender stereotypes; however, there is no such need for kids to be shackled down to. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • Wherever I go, Alesia breaks out all over again, I can’t take it anymore. / I’m so over people using me and my torc to start wars.

The kids are not the means to further the hostile cause for the warring adults. For that matter, the kids are not the means to further any type of cause for any kind of adults, even well-meaning ones. The children have to be free to choose the cause of their liking, and even not to choose, should they want to. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • Blinix and Selfipix have no interest in their fathers’ battles and vocations. They actually fancy exchanging their trades.

The parents’ task is to give exposure to their kids, enable them to think and act. The parents’ have to facilitate the kids to grow up to be the individuals with their own judgement, identity and application. The kids are not the means to further the parents’ reasons, leave alone the vocation. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • What are the Gauls like? A throwaway society, they consume and then boom, they throw away.

Remember, what is broken is not repaired by people who have been party to it and allowed it to rot to reach its current stage. The adults do not, always, get it right. The kids have a stake in tomorrow’s society and the world for they are going to inherit it. The children may not have a charitable opinion about the social order they are growing up in. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

I am sure that there are more parenting lessons in “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” than what I could muster above.

To be honest, it is not easy to imbibe the above lessons in me. As a first step, I have kept the book away from my twin daughters’ reach. They are sure to ask uncomfortable questions about me and my behaviour basis their interpretation of what they read in the book. They have every right to do so. I am doing a soul-searching to arrive at potential answers and show perceptible changes in me. After all, parenting is growing up together.

Never had I thought that apart from the usual dose of fun and laughter, an Asterix comic would have so much to offer in parenting lessons.

Please do read “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” and share your thoughts.

Parenting Is Having An Opinion, Getting Involved And Trying To Better

I have written about LSRW, lockdown for children below 10 years, reopening of schools etc. I have no domain expertise to comment on any of these issues. Such topics are not usually on a parenting blog. However, I do write on these subjects. Why? For me, parenting is also about having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Parenting is change

Parenting brings change to parent’s lives. The physical routine changes. The financial calculations change. The priorities change. Most of all, the freedom to do things change. Is that all about the change? There has to be more. Yes, parenting also changes the perspective of looking at the world around us.

Would these changes be limited to the four walls of the house? Would the change be limited to within the family? Then, it cannot be termed as a change. A change has to be universal/complete across all the spheres of life, for the entire being, to classify as a change. The changes brought forth by parenting fall in this realm.

The changes encompass all the aspects of the child’s upbringing. It covers the wide spectrum of subjects till the time child becomes an adult. Whatever is related to the child or whatever the child relates to, either way, is parenting for me and hence, a candidate for change. After all, parenting is growing up together. And, to grow is to change, to change consciously.

An adult cannot change unless s/he has a stake in the new game. To have a stake means to have a view, to have a belief, to stand up for. Once a person has an outlook, a person cannot remain indifferent any more; a person will get drawn in. It is for these reasons that I say parenting is having an opinion and getting involved.

Making the world a better place

A parent wants a future for the child that is better than theirs. Is this future limited to a certain status of academics/finance/social hierarchy etc? The future surely includes all these aspects and hopefully goes beyond, as well. The generations to come will live a more inter-connected life and cannot go on in a bubble/cocoon unaware of the world around them.

We have been polluting our planet and degrading our society as if there is no tomorrow. Climate change is a real existential threat and so is our hatred and extremism. The child of today will be able to live a life tomorrow only if the earth becomes habitable, society becomes tolerant, and mankind becomes kind and accommodative.

How is this going to happen? Leave aside happening, how is this going to even get started? Surely, not only by focusing solely on JEE/NEET but also by working together constructively on all the aspects that affect kids and their childhood. Of course, it goes much beyond and covers all aspects of our adult life on this planet.

This is my interpretation of making the world a better place for children to live and lead a life of purpose. Everybody will have their own version of a change for the better. Everybody’s methodology to achieve change will be different. However, one thing will remain constant for everyone. That is, having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Well-intentioned as the only criterion

In this journey to trying to better nobody is a know-all. Everybody learns along the way, by trial and error, by moving back and forth. An only qualifying criterion is a person having an intention to bring about a positive change in the immediate surrounding and the world at large.

Of course, one need not be a parent to have the mind and heart in the right place. But again, it requires having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

You will not be taken kindly

This is the most difficult and tricky of all. You have formed an opinion, want to get involved and surprise, surprise, you will be snubbed. You collect all the details, apply your mind, come up with a plan and more often than not, the service/product provider would be unreachable for feedback/comments. And if you do get through, they will not take any interest; worse, you will be rebuked for taking the initiative.

Somehow the domain experts in child’s learning seem to think that the parents’ role is limited to paying the fees. Any active involvement further, other than volunteering, is strictly discouraged. The parents are made to believe that their child is in good hands and they have done their parenting duties by handing over the child to them.

This is the scenario that dissuades the parents to play an active role in the day-to-day upbringing and development of their child, apart from the payments and the logistics. This further gets accentuated by the society in denial. Seemingly, there is no need for change. Or, if a change is required at all, change at such a pace that it won’t make any difference to the status quo.

Come to think of it. There is actually no incentive for having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

The only one that will keep you going is a relentless desire to make tomorrow better than today. I could have learnt this lesson without parenting as well. Nonetheless, now that I have learnt, I have to keep going.

What are your views on having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better?

Girls Can Do

“Only boys can do it” is a pet phrase of my twin daughters’ playmates. And I get red hot angry whenever I hear this. A background: B +ve and O +ve are six-year-old twins. Their playmates are two nine-year-old boys. They are grounded due to COVID-19 lockdown, have nowhere else to go and end up at our home.

What earth-shattering tasks would lead to boys saying “only boys can do it”? Scaling walls, climbing gates, driving a bicycle without support wheels, running down to the dead-end of the road etc. Even a try at playing cricket or an internal gossip between the two boys that they don’t want the girls to over-hear can lead to the girls being told: “only boys can do it”.

Suffice it to say that whatever the boys feel that only their tribe can do, the twin girls are equally adept at doing, if not more. But, even then, the common retort continues. The boys find newer avenues to mouth their conviction. This has led to so many unanswered questions for me and my wife about the upbringing of our daughters and the society surrounding us.

No idea how, where and why does “only boys can do it” comes from

We have tried to reason out with the boys on what makes them say their slogan. They keep repeating their adage in reply. There is no logic/explanation given for their notion. There is no corrective action either in their opinion when the girls do exactly what they proclaimed that they cannot. They evade the discussion, best come up with some fancy proposition to further their claim.

My wife and I understand that nine-year-old boys can only be a symptom. The genesis of this theory has to be elsewhere, that only their parents might know. It might be a coincidence that both the boys have no sisters, they come from sons-only families. That, of course, does not give them any right to have their “only boys can do it” concept. Or, does it even matter?

I am not a sociologist to hazard a guess about the current societal norms, theory and practice. We do not have a TV/OTT connection at home, so we are protected from the barrage of pre-historic era soaps and the mud-slinging media. As a working professional, I never bothered what was going on apart from the rat-race I was in. I have no memory of my life before the job.

I am clueless about what could lead to the nine-year-old boys having and holding on to their boys-only machismo?

No idea how to say “Girls Can Do”

Being a hands-on father has led me to develop some basic level understanding of gender stereotypes prevalent in our social structure. But, I am not an activist of any type. I am not into gender-neutral parenting or any of the feminist ideas. Yes, my daughters do not wear pink. Apart from that and my being a stay-at-home father, I have no further role in advocating women’s rights.

I want to speak to the parents of the two boys about the pre-conceived notions of their sons. But, I am afraid to do that. I do not know how to broach the topic with them. I am anxious that they might take it as an offence to their child/pointing a finger at them and it might lead to a squabble. I do not have the courage to do that.

More so, it is not just about the two sets of parents. They are not an island of exception, rather they are the norm. I know that they are just a part of the society that we are – unequal, biased and having blatant differential world-view for women and men. But for being a father to two daughters, I would not have even had a second thought on hearing “only boys can do it”, which today is making me lose my night’s sleep. I too wore the male-dominant shoe and it is hurting me, now.

I want to shout at the top of my voice – “Girls Can Do”, but I am clueless on whom to address, how to speak, what should be the articulation etc.

I want my girls to fly

I do not want any comparison with boys for my girls. I do not want to say that girls can do better than boys, I do not want to say that girls can do everything. Rather, I just want to say that let the girls do whatever they want to do. When they grow up tomorrow, I do not want them to hear “only man can do it”. I do not want my daughters to feel inadequate/inferior in any manner. That’s just about it.

I know I might be told that the situation is changing slowly, that there is gradual improvement. Nowadays, girls are getting equal opportunities. Yes, there are winds of positive change. But when one considers the generations of women sacrificed at the altar of manhood, the transformation is too slow to have any meaningful impact on the future of each of India’s daughters.

I know that this is only a rant of an ineffective parent. India is not going to change, India does not change. I and my daughters will have to fall in line with “only boys can do it”. After all, India is no country to raise daughters.

What is your belief on “Girls Can Do”?

Parenting Is Growing Up Together

Does parenting impact a person’s world views and her/his inner self? Would spending time and engaging with child/children have bearing on how a person would have conducted herself/himself otherwise? Is parenting all about raising children or does it influence parents too? Everybody will have their thoughts. I can answer for myself. For me, parenting is growing up together.

O +ve and B +ve have turned six. I have completed three and a half years as a stay-at-home father. What started as an impulse has turned into a full-fledged passion, with my wife’s staunch support. Turning back, I don’t think I would have done anything different than choosing to be a part of my children’s growing up years (yes, the finances pinch, that’s another real-life story).

What have I learnt with this experience? Was I better off in the corporate rat-race? Has this been the time of reckoning that I had been trying to find all the years before? Is it worth the deriding looks and scorn that I generate with my answer that I am a stay-at-home father? How has it been for the girls, their mother and me?

My answer, again, would be the same – Growing Up Together. Not anything but Growing Up Together. Why? Here we go.

Parenting is a never-before experience

Look at it like this. Whatever we do in life, we are taught/trained/instructed all along. Everywhere, school/college/job/profession, there would always be somebody’s watchful eyes over our actions. There are text-books/manuals/SOPs for outside/professional world. We have norms/customs/rituals for family/personal world. But what about parenting? Nothing but the instincts of parents.

Yes, the grandparents get involved. But, apart from their physical babysitting, their value-addition in other spheres is a matter of debate for parents. When parenting is such an experience without any precedence, without any prior preparation, without any hand-holding; how can there be no learning at every step?

In a job/profession, when done long enough, the surprises aren’t many. The situations/decisions repeat themselves. But for a single-person enterprise, there are dedicated functional teams to take care of peripheral stuff around you. You are the boss of your work.

Compare it with parenting. Here, no two days are the same. Even two hours aren’t the same. The situations, routinely, are never-heard/never-seen before. And, there are no teams to support a parent, except for an equally exasperated life-partner. You are the subordinate to your off-spring.

Tell me, how is it not possible to learn in situations like these, day-in and day-out? Every competency listed out in the performance appraisal charade will find resonance in the parenting. Every management jargon taught in, alienated from ground realities, B-Schools will find an echo in parenting. All the life-lessons emanate from life experiences and parenting is a key on-going life event, should you choose to be a parent.

The above is what I encounter/feel every day, hence I feel parenting is growing up together. At least for me.

Learning happens from children, too

On the face of it, adults teach children. Children are the receiving party to any learning and parents, along with schools and society, strive to make children life-ready. Can there ever be anything that parents can pick up from their progeny on whose education they end up spending a fortune of money, time and efforts? Unlikely, one might say.

My wife is an ardent believer that there is ample enough to learn from children. Only if, children are given a chance to express themselves and parents keep a receptive mind. Do not believe this?

Try teaching curiosity to children. What about exploring? Playfulness? Resilience? Spending an evening or morning with nature/plants/insects? Try teaching “having fun” to children. Or the dreadful “happiness” as defined by the equally dreadful Delhi government (do adults need to be taught to be happy or children)? I have not even reached innocence, simplicity and the likes.

Accept it. There are enough and more things to be learnt from children, only if we are game. We might teach them the hard skills, they can teach us the soft skills that we have long forgotten and stopped attaching any importance to. We can learn from kids if we get rid of the fascination and urgency to make them reach adulthood and be our replicas, sullen and inept.

I have bought this concept of child-led parental learning. It needs a lot of re-programming of the mind, my mind that is, and I am trying hard.

Growing Up Together

All of family/social/school/corporate learning is not of much use to me in hands-on parenting. I have nowhere to hide my weaknesses in front of my children. Even worse, they pick up from me. If I do wish good for my children, I have no option but to improve on myself, which I avoided/cooked up excuses not to do, all these years.

To do this course-correction for self, I also have the biggest of enablers – my daughters. Through their daily actions, I get a dose of what all is possible should I try and see the world through their eyes. Life is not as convoluted and mind-numbing as I have made it out to be. I can live a life if I give life a chance – my daughters’ teaching.

Needless to say, the change is not easy and there is a lot of friction as the old self refuses to let go.

In nutshell, parenting for me is – Growing Up Together.

5 Important Things To Speak And Do With A Child More Often

This is Part 2 of the article – 5 important things to teach a child, also the things that a parent can speak and do with a child more often. Click here for Part 1.

I don’t know. Let’s explore.

Children ask questions. They ask questions all the time. Expect them to ask unexpected questions at the most inopportune times. Till the time they indulge in their questioning, thank your stars. The innate and profound child in them is still alive. They haven’t yet started on their journey to silly and juvenile adulthood.

No sensible person would expect any adult, even an Einstein, to come up with answers to all the queries that a child comes up with. To a child’s question, the answer is, of course, important. Equally important is the process of handling and managing the question. To the child, her/his query is a matter of life and death. So, unless I know the answer, by trial and error I have ruled out the below responses.

Myself: I know the answer. The girl: So, tell me. The bluff does not work.

Myself: I will tell you later. The girl: When? When? When? Kicking the can does not work.

Myself: Ask me some other question. The girl: No, I want the answer to this question only. Diverting attention does not work.

Myself: You try and tell me. The girl: Um, um, um (thinks). Why are you asking me back (shouts)? It works once in a while, but recurring use backfires.

Myself: Behave as if I haven’t heard the question. The girl: Belittled, stomps out. The communication breaks down if done repetitively, very difficult to revive and get back the trust of the child.

Myself: Give an unconvincing answer, which in all probability is incorrect. The girl: Will keep raising queries, till I admit that I have no clue. To repeat, bluff does not work.

Myself: Shout. The girl: (unsaid) You are killing the curiosity and the child in me.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know. Let’s try doing it/read the book/search Google for the answer together.

Nothing better serves the quest for knowledge than the humility to own up and act in front of your child.

Speak Up

On the face of it, there is nothing more hazardous for a parent to teach a child than this: ‘Speak Up’. Even without teaching, the kids answer back. On top of it, when taught to ‘Speak Up’, the first victims of this newly taught and eagerly learnt skill will be parents. Who in a sane mind would want to increase her/his headache?

Believe me, if there is any learning that is going to hold the children in good stead in future when we are long dead, it is this: ‘Speak Up’. ‘Speak Up’ applies to the moral and ethical values that you would want your children to learn and hold on to. ‘Speak Up’ applies to all the discriminations, biases and injustices that the world will throw at your children and their resolve to face that head-on.

It is, of course, a matter of choice to teach this trait. The attribute to ‘Speak Up’ may not be considered a desirable quality in today’s world, wherein the ability to suck up to the powers-that-be is considered a virtue.

Given the current scenario of hatred and bigotry perpetuated by the right and the left, by the liberals and the radicals. I am convinced that without this quality taught to future generations, there won’t be a future left.

Childhood is the time to sharpen the cub’s claws, though the first blood that will get drawn will be parents’. For you would want your cub to grow up to be a fighter for the right, which may go against the might and the spite, teach them to ‘Speak Up’.

You are Unique

Right from the moment the baby is born, the parents/grandparents/relatives try to search for a bit of their selves in the baby. As the baby grows on to become a child, this search intensifies from the similarity of physical looks to the likeness of emotional and mental connect. The seeker, the adult, rejoices when s/he finds any parallel with the child, no matter how vague/made-up it might be.

As the child goes on to become a teen and an adult, the lurking world would want to co-opt her/him and bracket into already existing factions. The society would not let anyone enter the sanctum unless the norms are adhered to, the customs are followed, the rituals are respected, the rules are abided, all with staunch and unflinching allegiance.

This, again, is a matter of opinion. I get restless when anyone tells me not to raise questions but to follow. What good has ever been done by a person who accepts the status-quo, finds comfort in being a part of the herd and stays contented within the limits set by others?

Unless the boundaries are pushed, how will one ever feel the need to come out of the comfort zone/explore and determine/stand up for one’s self? Raising questions just for the sake of it is, of course, not the purpose.

The ultimate gift that a parent can give to her/his child – Individuality. Teach a kid to discover one’s self and have a unique identity.

These are the five things that we have been doing with our daughters in varying proportions. Hope to build on it further in time to come, speak and do with a child more often.

What would be your views? What would be your points that a parent can speak and do with a child more often?

5 important things to teach a child

Parenting means different things to different parents. As our twin daughters turned six years, my wife and I took stock of what parenting means to us. How we have been going about raising our daughters. Along the way, there has been un-learning and re-learning, going back and forth, sticking to the conventional, trying out the un-tested and a lot more in between.

We asked ourselves what we could have done more/less with our kids as parents. It turned out to be a never-ending list. To keep it simple and do-able, I classified the list into different sections. This article is about one such section of 5 important things to teach a child.

As parents, we want our children to do better than what we have done/are doing. We want our kids to be better human beings than us. In short, we would want our kids to be more than the sum of the parts (parents). If this is to happen, if it is to have any real chance to happen, it surely needs a conscious attempt from the parents. A lot of attempts, lot many times, and on a lot many things.

Below are the 5 important things to teach a child, that we wish we could have done/spoken about more to our twin daughters.

Take/Give No as an answer

Setting rules and indulging kids are two sides of the same coin – parenting. Doing one without the other can have disastrous results. There is absolutely nothing wrong in saying a ‘No’ to a child. Subconsciously we say ‘No’ to our kids quite often. It is just that when we have to mouth a conscious ‘No’ that leads to doubts in our minds if we are doing a correct thing/denying a child.

It is not just about preparing the kids for the external world, wherein they are going to get snubbed and slighted. Even within the four walls of the house, the kids need to get it straight that few things a strict no and few things are a maybe dependent on factors. They better learn to take ‘No’ as an acceptable answer. It is for everyone’s benefit.

Remember that the kids grow and that too, fast. S/he is going to be a teen and an adult, very soon. Imagine the situation if a teen has not been taught to take ‘No’ as an answer in her/his childhood. Of course, the ‘No’ has to be explained to children with logic, reason and clarity. Else, it will serve no purpose other than being a parent’s convenience/ego trip.

Giving and taking ‘No’ as an answer is again the two sides of the same coin – parenting. It is not a one-way wherein only the parent can have the liberty to say ‘No’. One might say that children say ‘No’ all the time, what’s to be taught in this? The real test is to teach a child the reasons and the judgement to exercise the power of ‘No’.

Taking and giving ‘No’ as an answer is what teaches children to give and take respect and also to develop and apply reasoning. An important thing to teach a child.

Get up/Do it yourself

One of my daughters has fallen/tripped. What would be my first reaction as a parent? I stay put where I am, I don’t rush to lift the girl and console her. I know, I get nasty stares from people around who doubt my capability as a parent. At times, even my family members don’t get my response. I tell them and the girl, if she comes to me at all, that she is fine and it is fine to fall, now that she is up.

I strongly believe that children are inherently resilient and brave. Time and again, my daughters have proven this to me, people around and their selves. Just that our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

I too used to rush when my daughters were toddlers. I realized that more often than not the girls interpreted the fall basis my response and not the fall, per se. Hence, I started to hold myself back to see their reaction and it turns out that they are fine taking care of themselves. For every fall, I do take a mental note on the severity of the injury, if any, so that I can rush in future if need be.

Not the same context as above, but imagine the child trying out a new activity. For that matter, even a tried and tested pursuit. It did not work out as the child thought/planned/made it out to be. S/he starts getting fidgety, the murmurs start and a full-fledged howling follows. I again teach myself to hold back and not do the stuff on my girls’ behalf.

Falling and failing is not a chance to wail and wallow. It is an opportunity to rise by self, again get going and try not to repeat what led to the fall/failing.

The child’s learning of independence and self-belief comes at a price, at times blood and sweat of parents and child, too. Another important thing to teach a child.

 Click here, for part two.

Government Says No Zero Academic Year. But What’s And Where’s The Plan To Reopen Schools & Colleges?

India has been in the state of health emergency since March 2020. The Government’s response has lurched from half-baked lockdown to various stages of unlock. However, one aspect has remained constant throughout. The educational institutes of all hues remain shut. The Government has steadfastly maintained that the safety of children is the first priority.

This measure is, of course, very well received by the parents. Now, the next step for parents is to worry about the education of their children. Online education has been going on in various forms, but it cannot be expected to replace the in-person teaching of schools & colleges. The parents are anxious that the children have no learning loss and do not miss out on their study.

To allay this fear, the Government of India has proclaimed “The Centre will not allow this to be a “zero academic year” without any teaching or examinations.” On 10th August 2020, Ramesh Pokhriyal said “A decision on physical reopening of schools & colleges is likely within 10-15 days”. To quote the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development “This is appreciable”.

On 8th June 2020, Union School Education Secretary Anita Karwal said “The Centre was framing guide-lines for safe reopening of schools. Guidelines are likely to include rigorous health screening and quarantine protocols, hygiene measures, and staggered attendance for students allowing for blended learning from classrooms and home”.

What’s and where’s the plan to reopen schools & colleges?

The Government’s announcements are well-intentioned. However, seemingly, they are missing out on the detailing. More than 15 days have passed since the Minister’s remarks, but there is no further discussion on dates to reopen schools & colleges. More than two and half months have passed since the Secretary’s remarks, but no guide-lines have been published by the Government to reopen schools & colleges.

This is baffling. The schools & colleges cannot reopen from the next day of the reopening announcement. They need the time to train the teachers and the support staff, they need the time to improve on the school infrastructure; they need the time to prepare for the reworked academic calendar. All these preparations require resources, time and money.

The diverse universe of schools & colleges operates on different band-widths and capabilities. Some of them may readily be able to make the required changes. Many of them may require hand-holding in various stages of the proposed changes. Few of them may require additional manpower and financial support to help them navigate the changes.

All the above will become clear only when the purported plan by the Government shows up, which continues to be under wraps.

What to do when infections happen?

Once the schools & colleges reopen, the few students/teachers/support staff will inevitably get infected with COVID-19. What’s supposed to be the threshold for the educational institute to continue its operations and when should it shut down? If required to shut down, what should be the contingency plan? When to reopen next? What happens if again the infections soar?

Rather, the first step to reopen schools & colleges would be to define the acceptable level of infections and the rate of spread in the ward/locality/geographical unit. In the Indian context, the students are spread all across the city/state/country and not limited to a neighbourhood. A large number of students stay away from their families to pursue their education. How do deal with the infections and the treatment in such a scenario?

Seemingly unrelated but a relevant aspect of handling infections with the reopening is to decide on the state of other activities. Should the functioning of religious places/restaurants/non-essential travel etc be curbed to reduce the chances of infections for educational institutions? COVID-19 is making us prioritize. Till now, we have prioritized safety of children. Now, to prioritize the education, if something else needs to be stepped down, so be it.

All these will be up for debate only when the Government shows what it has thought on the subject.

The parents, teachers, support staff are all stake-holders

The Government keeps mentioning about the educational institutions as a single entity. The focus on management is vital as they are responsible for the decision-making of their organizations and their buy-in is a must for the reopening. They are the ones who would be ensuring that the Government guide-lines are adhered to. But, they are not the only ones.

None work in isolation in today’s inter-connected world. Depending on the Government guide-lines, every parent needs to make their planning and decisions. Risk acceptance levels vary for different people. Some may perceive the Government’s steps to be unsafe, may want to hold back their wards and they should have equal right to do so.

Teachers and support staff are extremely important stakeholders in the entire process of reopening. Somehow, they lack opinion and seem to be taken for granted. They are the bread-winners for their families and would be worried about what happens to them if they get infected with COVID-19. An insurance and treatment plan for them would give them confidence about resumption.

Again, no clarity for any of the stake-holders. Rather, it does not seem that the Government is even contemplating their participation in the decision-making process.

No Zero Academic Year

No Zero Academic Year is a wish for every parent, student and all the other stakeholders too. The Government is desperate for a No Zero Academic Year, presumably to keep all the constituents happy, but it is not showing equal desperation in coming up with inputs and strategies to achieve the desired output. To repeat, what’s and where’s the plan to reopen schools & colleges?

The seamless transition to the Government guide-lines to reopen schools & colleges is not going to happen over-night. It is going to require lots of preparations, moving back and forth, also to ensure that the weakest of them do not fall through the sieve. The ball will start rolling only when the Government makes its plan public. The sooner, the better.

Wish the Government shows the same urgency for the plan to reopen schools & colleges as conducting JEE/NEET and college final year exams.