1. Have you ever visited or seen an elementary school in a slum? What does it look like?
Yes, I have visited an elementary school in a slum. The school was in a pitiful state. Its dingy and neglected classrooms were devoid of even basic amenities like fan and lights. Every single window was broken and bore marks of rust. How the students in the classroom dealt with the outside noise or the winters was anybody’s guess. The ceilings too were full of cobwebs. The furniture was broken and almost unusable. The walls of the classrooms were as shabby, malnourished and disinterested as the students sitting in their enclosures. Even the teachers seemed to have lost their concern both for the students and their education. Moreover, I was shocked to know that the usage of toilets was restricted to the school staff.
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Think it Out
1. Tick the item which best answers the following.
(a) The tall girl with her head weighed down means the girl ______________________.
(i) is ill and exhausted
(ii) has her head bent with shame
(iii) has untidy hair
(b) The paper-seeming boy with rat’s eyes means the boy is ______________________.
(i) sly and secretive
(ii) thin, hungry and weak
(iii) unpleasant looking
(c) The stunted, unlucky heir of twisted bones means the boy ______________________.
(i) has an inherited disability
(ii) was short and bony
(d) His eyes live in a dream. A squirrel’s game, in the tree room other than this. This means the boy is ______________________.
(i) full of hope in the future
(ii) mentally ill
(iii) distracted from the lesson
(a) (ii) is ill and exhausted
(b) (ii) thin, hungry and weak
(c) (i)has an inherited disability
(d) (iii) distracted from the lesson
(e) (iii)are wasters
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2. What do you think is the colour of ‘sour cream’? Why do you think the poet has used this expression to describe the classroom walls?
Sour cream indicates the colour cream or dirty white. The poet has used this expression to describe the poor dull and ill-equipped environment of the classroom. The walls were painted long ago by donations and since then no attention has been given to them. We see the neglect these children face. It adds to the dull ambiance.
3. The walls of the classroom are decorated with the pictures of ‘Shakespeare’, ‘buildings with domes’, ‘world maps’ and beautiful valleys. How do these contrast with the world of these children?
All these totally contrast with the world of the children in the slum. They get half education, the value of education for the children is minimal and to have these pictures which are symbols of high quality education is incongruous here. The buildings with domes are examples of a civilised world, the world unknown to them. The world map is irrelevant to them because the slums, their world cannot be located by them. Finally, the beautiful valley with rivers and capes is meaningless to them. They just have the polluted sky to watch from the broken window panes. These children are deprived of natural beauty.
4. What does the poet want for the children of the slums? How can their lives be made to change?
He wants the children of the slums to venture into the outside world, beyond the boundaries of their slums, and experience a better present and future life.
The elementary school in the slum does not serve any purpose with its poor infrastructure and disinterested students. The poet feels that the governor, inspector and visitors should take initiative to bring about a real change in their situation. To ensure a better way of living for them, they need to be given proper education and freedom from their present confines. They need opportunity, encouragement and optimism to be able to live life with purpose and zest.