Power of Encouragement #FreedomFromFear

October 7, 2020

Language is a medium to communicate our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and intuition. Each language has its unique character inspired by culture and history. Language is made up of words that have letters, different for different languages.

So, where do we learn these words and how do we learn to speak them?

Well, the immediate contact is our parents, we pick up the language they speak and all the subtitles with it. The next immediate channel is through Schools. I studied in an English Medium School and I was admitted primarily to 'learn how to speak in English' because English is a very important language in today's world and it would open up opportunities for me to study and live abroad, that's what everybody around me said. The focus of my schooling was indeed bent towards ensuring that each child speaks 'excellent English' and hence, it became a rule to speak in English in School or else the punishment was enforced. For instance, if the teacher or the principal hears any child speaking in Hindi or improper English, the child will be frowned upon, scolded, humiliated, and ridiculed: individually and publically.

As a consequence, I, among others became fearful of even speaking up, anything. This happened majorly because of several instances in Schools. I always saw my friends or classmates participate in debates, extempore, speaker for an occasion because they spoke eloquently. I always admired them and felt like a failure as I could never ever stand on a stage and face the audience because of the fear of being humiliated or ridiculed. Thus, I always felt under-confident to speak in larger groups or in front of everyone and I know some of you also resonate with me.

Wait, before I tell you more, I want to ask you a question!

Did you know that 'Humiliation', 'Scolding', and "Ridiculing' are acts of emotional or verbal violence which is a form of school corporal punishment called 'mental harassment' and is legally prohibited under section 17 of the RTE Act, 2009?

According to the Guidelines for Eliminating Corporal Punishment in School, 2012 by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), 'Mental Harassment is understood as any non-physical treatment that is detrimental to the academic and psychological well-being of a child.' Moreover, section 17 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 prohibits physical punishment and mental harassment to a child - (1) No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment. (2) Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person.

I came to know that 'mental harassment' is also a form of School Corporal Punishment after reading 'Choking Childhood', a research report published by Agrasar in 2018 on School Corporal Punishment - Everyday Violence Faced by Disadvantage Children in India.

Let's continue.

When I was studying in 11th and 12th grade, I started to read books and enjoyed finding different meanings of words. I still struggled to speak, despite being in an English medium School but my friends helped me out. I eventually developed a fear of speaking up as I became very conscious of grammar, words, etc. While writing an essay in school or a letter was a task because I felt that there were only a few teachers who encouraged me to read, write or even speak up which cultivated a fear of self-doubt, failure, and not being good enough and being judged.  When I entered college, I realized the importance of speaking, writing, and reading in English, hence, I started reading books, watched English series, spoke in English because I genuinely wanted to grow and learn the language, not because of the fear of unacceptance; which was dominant in School.

Gradually, I started speaking, writing and reading English books. I had never read a single book in the School library as I felt that I couldn't read the big words and no one helped me to identify my reading level or ever asked me the books that I might enjoy reading. I now imagine a library where I could read individually and along with someone who encourages me. I wish I had a teacher who guided me to read at my own pace, express openly, and freely speak my heart out and still feel understood. School is indeed the most important place that can foster freedom, nourish children by accepting them and supporting them wholeheartedly.

I feel that words have power, language is just a medium and therefore, words of encouragement can lift anyone to become better and love themselves a little more. So, let's encourage one another and free ourselves from the shackles of fear and spread our wings to fly high. Because Encouragement takes courage and inspires courage. :)

Sakshi Sharma

sakshi.sharma@agrasar.org