While political parties attempted to cash in on the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru — 68 years after Independence — the first prime minister appeared to be a somewhat hazy figure from history for several students.
Children from various schools across the city visited the Nehru Centre in Worli on Jawaharlal Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary on Friday.
Sachin Kale, a history teacher at the Shardashram Vidyamandir, Dadar, said: “Nehru is mentioned only briefly in Class VIII textbooks. There is absolutely no mention of many important freedom fighters such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. “It is therefore not surprising that many students were unaware of who Sardar Patel was. When asked, Varsha, a Class VIII student of Sri Narayana Guru School, said: “Vallabhbhai Patel fought a war in England.” Out of over 200 children, who visited the museum on Friday, less than 50 had heard the name of the Iron Man of India. Bhupen Bhoyir, a student of Class IX, said “I think the Iron Man of India is Mahatma Gandhi.”
Although most students could recognise Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru from the pictures shown, very few could answer basic questions about who he was. “Nehruji was the first president of India”, said one of the students present at the museum. When asked why Children’s day is celebrated in India on November 14 every year, students said: “Because Chachaji liked children.” Very few were aware that it is the birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Even answers to question on which year India got its independence from the British were quite interesting. They mentioned several dates right from 1939 to 1957. Manish Patil, a student of Class IX, said: “How does it matter which year we got independence, as long as we are independent today?” Sunanda Sanap, a teacher of mathematics at Shardashram Vidyamandir, said, “I have noticed that students take Science very seriously but are not quite interested in subjects like History. We organise visits to museums and use power point presentations to make the subject more interesting.”
One of the main reasons for students being ignorant towards the subject is probably the poor way in which the high school syllabus has been framed. History of modern India is mentioned only in Class VIII textbooks. Also, the emphasis given on learning science subjects to crack various entrance tests is probably another reason why subjects like history are not emphasised on.
Bina Khanolker from the Bharat Petroleum, who organised a museum visit for the students of Mahul village on Children’s Day, said: “In my opinion, there should be more museums and other learning centres in the city that students can visit. Students easily forget what they learnt in textbooks and hence there should be places where they are given audio-visual aids to learn about the various freedom fighters. I think the martyrs whose sweat and blood went into giving us a free country deserve to be remembered.”