EDUCATION > TOWARDS NEW EDUCATION > Education of Special Groups > Harijan Education

Harijan Education

Harijan education is the most difficult of all. Be it in the crudest manner possible, a non-Harijan child receives some home culture. A Harijan child, being shunned by society, has none. Even when, therefore, all primary schools are open to Harijan children, as they must be sooner or later and in my opinion sooner rather than later, preliminary schools will be needed for Harijan children if they are not to labour under a perpetual handicap. This preliminary training can be discovered and tried in all the numerous Harijan schools conducted under the aegis of Harijan Sevak Sanghas scattered throughout India. That preliminary training should consist in teaching Harijan children manners, good speech and good conduct. A Harijan child sits anyhow ; dresses anyhow; his eyes, ears, teeth, hair, nails, nose are often full of dirt; many never know what is to have a wash. I remember what I did when in 1915 I picked up a Harijan boy at Tranquebar (in Tamilnad) and took him with me to Kochrab where the Ashram was then situated. I had him shaved. He was then thoroughly washed and given a simple dhoti, vest and a cap. In a few minutes in appearance he became indistinguishable from any child from a cultured home. His head, eyes, ears, nose were thoroughly cleaned. His feet which were laden with dust were rubbed and cleaned out. Such a process has to be gone through every day, if need be, with Harijan children attending schools. Their lesson should begin for the first three months with teaching them cleanliness. They should be taught also how to eat properly, though as I write this sentence I recall what I had seen during the walking pilgrimage in Orissa. Harijan boys and grown-ups, who were fed at some of the stages, ate with much better cleanness than the others who soiled their fingers, scattered about the leavings and left their places in a messy condition. Harijans had no leavings, and their dishes were left thoroughly clean. Their fingers, whilst they were eating, were after every morsel taken licked clean. I know that all Harijan children do not eat so cleanly as the particular ones I have described.

If this preliminary training is to be given in all Harijan schools, pamphlets giving detailed instructions for teachers in their languages should be prepared and distributed, and inspectors of schools be required during their inspection to examine teachers and pupils on this head and to send full reports of the progress made in this direction.

This programme involves care in the selection of teachers and the training of the present staff. But all this is well worth the attention, if the Sangh is to discharge its trust by the thousands of Harijan children that are brought under its care.

Harijan, 18-5-35