CHENNAI: Just how daunting is it for a bunch of 15 year olds to pen an entire Constitution? From the looks of the easy reading five pages or so put together by 25 students of Sishya over the last term — it appears, not nearly as difficult as one would imagine. The project was the finale to this Class 11 batch’s one year with Schools of Equality — an activity-based curriculum created by human rights lawyer Gulika Reddy to open up discussions on equality. And the opposite of the Constitution of India — the longest written Constitution of any sovereign country in the world — this one is light enough to fit in your backpack, and still accommodate your textbooks and pencil box.
And if the adult cynic in you has already assumed that the fundamental rights in this document include student day dreams like a right to miss class or a ‘right to less homework, you are sorely mistaken.
According to Thomas Koshy, a student and co-creator of the school’s constitution, one of the issues that came up repeatedly was ‘a lack of respect for one’s fellow classmate.’ “Until this class happened, I myself was quite a bully,” the teenager says rather unabashedly. But open classroom conversations that have covered discrimination at the most basic level, that would often be cast aside as a ‘joke’ but hurt all the same have certainly given this batch of 93 students, who participated in the programme, a fresh perspective.
“A Punjabi sports player, who everybody would call Harbajan because of his turban say, always felt like an outsider even though he has been raised in Chennai, for instance,” recalls Gulika.
But back to Sishya’s new Constitution, a document considered official as far as any student is concerned, as it comes with a stamp of approval from the principal. The document will now be placed in the library as a daily reminder of how a bunch of teens drafted their own fundamental rights and duties on paper.
And while these covered everything from the right to equal treatment from students and teachers, good sanitation and nutritious food - our personal favourite was a fundamental duty to study for and perform in all school activities and exams’. Yes, no more “less sports, more studying.”
Now you could say, but that’s my right as a teacher. Ma’am, all due respect, but that would require an amendment!