Monday, January 15, 2018

VALUE FREEDOM AND RESPECT THE ELDERLY

While our nation has always hailed the values of freedom and democracy, it is sad to say that their meaning have been misinterpreted in recent past. It is unfortunate to see the youth of the nation questioning the integrity of the tradition and values of our nation, its constitution, its glorious past and governance. All this has been done on the pretext of the ‘freedom of speech’. In the last few years the idea of freedom of speech and expression has been used in more negative sense than positive. It is disheartening to see that the youth of the nation is using this freedom only to criticize and blame our nation. This freedom has given right to anyone to blabber anything they want and feel. I agree that it is good to have an opinion but is it possible that nothing positive is happening which could be praised and appreciated? Is freedom of expression only available to demean and ridicule our own nation? Unfortunately, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
We call ourselves Indians with pride and Indians we are. This is our identity which gives us a sense of belonging. Was it easy to attain this identity? No. We human beings first emerged as individuals, then came the idea of relationship, then developed family which later came together to make communities and then came the concept of state which ultimately formed country. Once we become a part of a society we have certain norms, rules and regulations to follow and abide by. These norms and traditions define our culture and make us unique. Patience and sacrifice have been a part of our rich culture. These values have been beautifully intertwined in our tradition. Our myths and legends carry inspiring tales of sacrifices on the part of son for the society (Rama), son for the parents (Shrawana), brothers for each other (Bharat and Laxman for Rama), wife for husband (Sita and Urmila) and there are many more such examples. We have so many examples in the present times also where a son left a very good job in a metro city and came back to his small town to look after his old parents.
But unfortunately,in the recent times our beautiful and rich culture is being marred by atrocious incidents which showcase death of humanity and relationships. 1 out of 10 senior citizens in the world live in India. By 2050, India will have 300 million elderly citizens. India is ageing, but do we care? There are incidents where old parents are being beaten, tortured, harassed and thrown in the old age homes where they helplessly wait for death because no loved one ever comes for them. Children have started questioning their parents instead of appreciating them. It is heart breaking to observe the quick rise in the number of old age homes in our country. If not that then there are cases where a mother was thrown off the terrace because she was not keeping well and in another case the parents were forced out of the house in severe cold. What is this if the children force the parents to move out of their house (home) which they built with lot of struggles. On May 2016, in Delhi, an 85 year old woman was beaten by her 65 year old daughter. In 2014, 50% of elders in India reported abuse. Rakhi, caretaker at an old age home in Gurugram says that there are some families who don’t come even if their parents die.
Why are the values disappearing? Why are we failing to transfer them in our kids? Why aren’t these values being promoted? Why is the youth allowed to misuse the freedom and democracy which was earned with lots of hard work and sacrifice? Why are we becoming selfish and inhuman to the extent that we can sacrifice anyone for our personal gains? It would be unfair to blame one agency for this sad state of affairs. We as a nation should take the blame and a sense of responsibility to rise above this situation. In the name of bringing change and embracing the life of development and luxury we have made ourselves and our kids materialistic. We no more thrive on relationships and bonds rather we need things to survive. Things that were once our wants have become our needs. We have promoted this materialism in the name of advancement and comfort. Instead of becoming easy, life has become devoid of emotions. Youth of today is going far away from the problems of the real world and emotional bonds and is comfortable with the fast track virtual world and its short lived happiness. We have taken away these emotions by confining our kids to nuclear families and to their personal spaces full of facilities. They are growing up fully aware of what they want and how can they acquire it as a part of their right but have no insight of what are their duties and responsibilities as a growing individual of the nation and family.
It is high time that we seek solution and sensitize our youth by emotionally bonding with them instead of overloading them with unnecessary facilities. Let us not suffocate their emotion under materialism. Let us make them realize how to use their freedom judiciously. Before they could smartly and intelligently exercise their freedom of speech and expression they should be made aware of their duties. Let us have conversation with our kids, let us indulge in prolific communication and discussions with them about life and familial bonds. Let us invest our time in them more than our money. Once you do this it will come to you as a surprise that “as you sow, so shall you reap”.
According to Vandana Sehgal, a Personality Enhancement Trainer, parents and teachers play a dominant role in molding the attitude and approach of the children, by imparting moral values. Here are a few easy steps to improve your skill-set in this area.
1.      Narrate patriotic, religious or ethical stories. Question them about the lesson they have learned.
2.      Be polite, respectful and considerate towards others.
3.      Media exposure plays a major role in our life. While watching the news or even a movie discuss the different aspects and ask the child what he/she would have done in that situation? This will develop a sense of reasoning in children.
4.      Listen respectfully to your child’s ideas and wherever required correct them. This will boost their self-confidence.
5.      Spend quality time with children. The quality of time that you spend with your children has a close effect on what they grow up into.
6.      Provide opportunities for your children to help others. This will instill in them generosity.
7.      Involve your child in community service. It will generate an attitude of serving.
8.      Tell your child about the people you admire and why. It will silently inculcate good qualities.
9.      Comment on compassionate behavior. Let your child know that caring is an important moral value.

With the above mentioned values being inculcated, kids will be able to analyze any situation before reacting. Also remember that it is the responsibility of all young parents to look after their parents well and set an example for their kids. I read a short story a few days back in which a young couple was discussing about sending the parents to old age home and their child overheard the conversation and asked what they were discussing. The husband and wife looked at each other and told the child that his grandparents were being sent to a place where they would get people of their own age and would enjoy with them. The child innocently said that he would also find such a place and send them there when they grow old. This was a lesson to the young parents and thereafter they decided against sending the old couple to old age home and rather looked after them well and the same was emulated by their son.
We have been trying to sensitize our children in the school regarding the importance of elders and their contribution and sacrifice in providing all possible facilities to the youngsters. We celebrate “Sanskaar Divas” or “Grandparent’s Day” with zeal and enthusiasm at the school level. On this day the elderly guardians and grandparents of the kids are invited to the school and kids get a chance to perform in front of them and show love and respect. This makes one wonder that why kids can’t be given a chance and platform at home too, to interact for an hour or so with their parents and grandparents where all can sit together and discuss each other’s life and other important social issues on a daily basis.

In the end I would like to say that if we want our kids to use freedom in the correct manner, we should develop in them the ability to empathize, speculate and understand before taking any action. And for this we need to set examples which are worth emulating. Always remember these words of Lillian Gordy Carter, “Sure, I am for helping and taking care of the elderly. I am going to be old myself someday…” Kids will have to take care of the fact that the freedom that we enjoy today was a gift to us and we cannot take it for granted. We will have to give back all the love and care which is being showered on us today because Karma tells us, “What goes around, comes around.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Define Your Own Success

 “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer
With board exams at hand, the expectations of the parents and teachers are touching new heights. In this world of never ending competition, good scores and academic excellence play a key role in determining an individual’s success. It cannot be denied that parenting as well as education system has evolved with time but intellect and academic caliber is still judged through marks which creates a lot of pressure on students during exam time. I have discussed this issue time and again that, although good academic performance is not something wrong to expect but it should not be the only criteria to measure success. Academic scores, degrees and qualifications are a good proxy for the skills and knowledge that young people need but we should think of them as stepping stones to a bright and successful future for those who achieve them. But they do not and never will define the holistic development which a good education ought to provide. “Of course exams are important hurdle to get over. But odd as it may sound, the best way to do that may be to see them for what they are; a good indicator for your knowledge at one point in time, rather than the final word. Resilience, creativity, ethical values and an ability to work effectively with others are the vital outcomes of a rounded education and they enable success in life.” A brilliant academic score and an elite degree might not ensure these qualities. These are inculcated by a healthy, value based environment.
I would like to share a few examples that I came across recently, which prove that if you are happy doing something in life and it is constructive and humanitarian then you are successful even if doesn’t include a college degree or professional qualification. Let’s talk about K Rajeev in this context.
Originally from Palakkad (Kerala), Rajeev came to Chennai as an aspiring medical student at the age of 17, in 1997. After having to drop out of college, he began his first tea stall at the hostel of Madras Medical College, with the encouragement of the students there — who often themselves preferred simple natural concoctions over tablets to cure their common colds. “Doctors do so much for us, and so I wanted to give back,” he says. His tea stall, ‘Diya Snacks’ thrives in the bustling midst of city life. Located near Chennai Central Station, the shack-like ‘chai’ stall is a welcoming gateway into the city. Rajeev cites his grandmother as his biggest inspiration. He says, “My interest in herbal tea as medicine started at an early age when I would help my grandmother, who often provided people with home remedies and herbal cures for mild ailments like coughs and colds.” His dedication to the art of serving tea is impressive, which is why Diya Snacks transcends much beyond a tea stall. To choose, handle and serve varieties of tea regularly can be a demanding task, but years of practice have given him a level of expertise, to the extent that he says he is now working on a book detailing the recipes and health benefits of herbal teas.
“For providing 100 varieties of tea, which are not normal, but an amalgamation of taste and health, I was constantly working on finding more herbs that could help with common ailments,” informs Rajeev. He adds that he also provides training to people interested in starting similar ventures, guiding them with recipes. The stall is next to the railway office, making it a popular hangout among railway employees, particularly post lunch. “The choice of this location wasn’t my decision. In 2012, the corporation had to move my stall from Medical College to this place due to space constraints,” he says, adding, “This stall is registered under the Municipal Corporation and I pay rent. I feel the move that happened in 2012 to this place today is for the better. I have more customers here because of the Government office, railway station and bus stand.” The tea stall, on an average, uses 50 to 60 litres of milk a day and herbs are used judiciously. Although Rajeev earns around ₹20,000 to ₹30,000 a day on an average, he says that he still does not make a profit as he keeps prices low so his tea is accessible to everyone. (SOURCE: THE HINDU)
Another example of success which comes from the nontraditional form of education is that of Rahul Sankrityayan (9 April 1893 – 14 April 1963), who is called the Father of Hindi Travelogue Travel literature because he is the one who played a pivotal role to give travelogue a 'literature form', was one of the most widely travelled scholars of India, spending forty-five years of his life on travels away from his home. He travelled many places and wrote many travelogues approximately in the same ratio. He is also famously known for his authentic description about his travels experiences. Interestingly, he received formal schooling at a local primary school, though he later studied and mastered numerous (36) languages independently, as well as the art of photography. His self study added a sense of originality and uniqueness to his works.
Another example is that of the IT Tycoon Azim Premji, the 3rd richest man in India. He is the chairperson of Wipro with a net worth of $11 billion. He dropped out of college because of the sudden loss of his father. He left Stanford and became the Chairperson of Wipro at the age of 21. He has successfully led the company, which has emerged as one of the biggest software industries in India. Therefore, we realize that success is not something that can be gifted to you wrapped up in a box. Education tends to give you reasonably predictive environment for you to learn and achieve solutions to formulated problems. That’s why academia spends an enormous amount time and resources trying to make learning predictable because results can be controlled. In a nutshell, you’d never be eager to take risks when you grow up in a cocooned environment. You won’t think beyond restraints that academics set up for you. You are always growing in the box and with the box, and it’s not always a good thing. Success is all about exploring yourself outside the box.
Now let’s take up a few examples of the people who have mastered the field of formal education and attained the highest of qualifications and doing extremely well in professional life. Satya Narayana Nadella (born 19 August 1967) is an Indian American business executive. He is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Microsoft, succeeding Steve Ballmer in 2014. Before becoming CEO, he was Executive Vice President of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, responsible for building and running the company's computing platforms, developer tools and cloud computing services. Nadella attended the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet before attaining Bachelor of Engineering degree in electrical engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology (then part of Mangalore University) in 1988. Nadella subsequently traveled to the U.S. to study for a Master of Science in Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, receiving his degree in 1990. Later he received his MBA degree from the University of Chicago. Nadella said he "always wanted to build things" and that "electrical engineering was a great way for me to go discover what turned out to become a passion."
Pichai Sundararajan (born 12 July 1972), also known as Sundar Pichai, is an Indian American business executive. Pichai is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Google Inc. Formerly the Product Chief of Google, Pichai's current role was announced on 10 August 2015, as part of the restructuring process that made Alphabet Inc. into Google's parent company, and he assumed the position on 2 October 2015. Pichai earned his degree from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in Metallurgical Engineering.  He holds an M.S. from Stanford University in Material Sciences and Engineering, and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
It goes without saying that formal education is important. However, if it will just ruin the privileges of a person to build his/her career through the skills and gifts given by God, then one could not vote for having complete formal education in building one’s lifetime vocation. Personalities like Nadella and Pichai set an example for us that it’s not just degrees which take you far but the values that you adhere to while moving ahead towards your goals.  Formal education is not the ultimate way to success; it depends on the person, whether he/she will be passionate in building his/her lifetime career, according to the skills, talents and adherence to values and teachings of the parents and teachers. “Success depends on the passion and diligence of an individual. Anyone can build his/her career, but only those who will labour for it will surely find success. Mere gifts and talents are not enough; these will be useless, if the person is lazy in executing his/her talents.”
Just think, when you look at a goal and see only the obstacles preventing you from accomplishing it, you’ll fail to give thought to the options that could help you achieve what you’d otherwise count as being impossible. But when you give proper thought to the number of choices that could support you in your efforts to reach a goal, you’ll grow in hope. And guess what? Your chances of succeeding will increase!
In the end I wish all the students best of learning and good performance in their examination.


“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Digital Safety Among Students


While hailing new technologies at China’s Ujena, CEO of Apple Inc, Tim Cook, shared quite a few concerns. He said, “Much has been said about the potential negative aspects of artificial intelligence. I am not worried about machines that think as people, I worry about people who think as machines. We need to work together to introduce technology to humanity. Technologies can change the world for the better, if they are embedded in humanity.” Although the effects of Artificial Intelligence are yet to unveil, the expansion of the digital world has made it difficult to keep kids, especially teenagers away from various digital equipment, social media platforms and the cyber world.

The world has become a compact community and there is a lot of pressure of connecting, knowing things and people better and sharing ‘stories, status, events, location and even pictures’. The clutches of cybercrimes are becoming stronger day by day and the easiest to fall prey are the teenagers as for them social media has become the way of life. Thanks to the sharing culture on social media, it has become as easy to be fall prey to a cybercrime as it is to press the 'like' button on Facebook. Emails purportedly from friends or even from banks lure them into clicking on infected links or attachments containing malware, which have the effect of compromising online actions.

Cybercrime, or computer oriented crime, is crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. Cybercrimes can be defined as: "Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm, or loss, to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (networks including but not limited to Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (Bluetooth/SMS/MMS). The kind of cybercrime to which teenagers are prone to is CYBER BULLYING. Cyber bullying or cyber harassment is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic forms of contact. Cyber bullying has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers. Harmful bullying behavior can include posting rumors about a person, threats, and sexual remarks, disclose victims' personal information, or pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech). Bullying or harassment can be identified by repeated behavior and intent to harm. Victims may have lower self-esteem, increased suicidal ideation, and a variety of emotional responses, retaliating, being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed. Individuals have reported that cyber bullying can be more harmful than traditional bullying. (Source Wikipedia)

Kids have impressionable minds and the digital world is tempting and vivid. Therefore, it becomes our duty as parents and teachers to help the kids balance and keep a safe distance from this virtual world and protect them from cybercrimes especially cyber bullying. The first step in this direction would be to win the faith and trust of the kids to such an extent that they wouldn’t need social approval to feel good about themselves. The connection between the kids and parents and students and teachers should be strong enough so that there is constant communication and sharing of thoughts and ideas which will make them comfortable in talking about their actions. They should be guided by the parents and teachers that safety should be their priority and the world of social media is, virtual and the real world has to be kept at a safe distance from it.

The next step should be to follow certain guidelines to ensure that we are keeping our kids away from the negative effects of internet.

The need of safe and effective internet policy and supervision of computers in schools

Schools need to promote a safe and secure educational environment for effective teaching and learning and to discourage students from actions detrimental to themselves, their peers and the value system. Schools are, thus, advised to take the following measures to preempt any inappropriate and illegal activity through IT enabled devices in schools:

·      Schools must have a set of guidelines for pupils which govern their use of the Internet and other digital technologies and which are used as a basis for education in responsible Internet use. 
·      A designated role with first-line responsibility for a safe and effective use policy should be assigned to a senior manager e.g. Principal/ICT Coordinator.
·      A policy for safe and effective use that is understood and acted upon by the whole school community can help to ensure a safe learning environment. Any policy should stress the considerable educational benefits of using the Internet.
·      Safe location and supervision of computers in schools is a must. Computers should be in highly visible areas of the school and pupils using the Internet should, where possible, be supervised.  
·      Educate students for the safe and effective use of the Internet.
·      Install effective firewalls, filtering and monitoring software mechanisms in all the computers and regularly review filtering and blocking policies and procedures. Various types of unsolicited contents available on internet must be blocked. Isolate Internet access from other school Network.
·      Configure end user computer devices with parental control filters / Antivirus of appropriate standard.
·      Deploy Digital Surveillance system.
·      Supervise and monitor all online activities in the light of educational objectives.
·      Allow Children to access only pre-selected websites appropriate to their age group.
·      Aware the teachers and other school staffs about Internet safety norms.
·      Take disciplinary action against those who attempt to bypass filtering or to access inappropriate or illegal material in schools.
·      Comply with all relevant legislation on copyright, property theft, fraud, discrimination and obscenity on all forms of IT enabled devices.
·      Use only the licensed version of software. (Source: CBSE)

Internet Safety Awareness for Parents

Our natural desire is to keep children safe and this can only be done through the education and support we can all offer them. It is important that parents are equally able to guide and support their children in the online world so that they enjoy the benefits whilst avoiding the potential risks.
·      The best defenses against any online risks are openness, awareness and education: talk with your children about their online lives, share their experiences and learn from them, help them to use technology positively and responsibly, and give them boundaries, guidance and support.
·      While schools are under no legal obligation to provide internet safety advice to parents, it is a responsible step to take. There are a number of resources and websites to support parents:
(Source:http://www.wadebridge.cornwall.sch.uk/parents/digital-safety)                     

Awareness among students about the perils like Cyber Bullying and Harassment should be spread through following instructions and warnings:

 

·   Bullying and harassment (cyber bullying) can occur through mobile phones as well as online.

·      Only talk online to people you know in the real world
·      There is information about you that you should not share online because it only belongs to you. Always tell your parents if someone asks you personal questions online.
·      Remember that advertising and messages that are sent by people you don’t know can give away your personal information or break your computer.
·      Show you care by not sending messages that are mean to other people, or sharing messages that are not kind.
·      If you read something that is not nice tell an adult you trust. They can’t help protect you and make sure other people don’t get hurt.
·      Keep away from websites that are not made for kids and if you visit one by accident, close it and tell your teacher or an adult you trust.
·      Show respect for other’s privacy by not trying to get into their online spaces
·      Do not share passwords with anybody except your parents

School staff, parents and students need to work together to prevent cyber crimes and to tackle it whenever it occurs. It’s unlikely that kids want to listen to an hour-long lecture on the dangers of the internet. Odds are that they would probably tune you out within the first 5 minutes. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them to listen... you just have to change your angle. Provide them with resources like the YouTube videos from Google Family Safety and Watch Well Cast: Playing and Staying Safe Online

To conclude I would share a case scenario discussed by Robert Lucas in his article, “The Teacher’s Guide to Keeping Students Safe Online

“Everyone likes to feel as if they are “right.” That sentiment is probably more accurate with your students than anyone else. Create fake scenarios about possible dangerous internet usage and pass them out to the class.  The scenario could read something like this: Anna is a 15 year-old girl with a Facebook account. She tries to keep her account as private as possible but has forgotten that her address is located under the information on her profile. One day she receives a message from a boy named ‘Matt.’ Matt has very few pictures and friends on his profile and seems very interested in meeting up with Anna.”  After students read the scenario ask them questions such as: “Are there any issues with this situation? What would you do if you were Anna?”

The goal is to allow students to arrive at their own conclusion (with our guidance) of the inherent danger in situations like these. By encouraging students to figure out the answer themselves, we not only empower them but educate them as well. Make it a point to encourage students to respect themselves and to remove themselves from any situation where they are uncomfortable, being bullied, or being attacked. Use these scenarios to teach students how to handle hurtful, uncomfortable, or dangerous situations.