Students of a city school were recently taken to temple, a gurudwara, a mosque and a church by turns to teach them about diversity and the need to embrace people of all religions.
Mahadevi Birla World Academy arranged for small groups of children from Class III to visit some places of worship. “India is a land of diversity and we have to teach our children to respect and embrace this diversity. We don’t just teach from the textbook but go beyond the text,” said Nupur Ghosh, the vice-principal of the school.
More than 200 students went to the prayer hall in each of the places of worship and spent some time. Some of them also visited a library on one of the premises.
At the end of the tour, each group was asked by a teacher what came to their mind when they visited the places of worship. Cleanliness, peaceful and togetherness were some of the answers.
Each student will be given a worksheet, where they will have to answer some questions related to the places they visited and write down what they learnt from then visit.
The students were also encouraged to discuss and share among themselves what they saw in each of the places of worship, a teacher said.
“There is so much of intolerance all around. We have to embrace anyone who is not like us or different from us and accept differences in people just as we accept similarities. But what we teach in school has to be reinforced at home,” vice-principal Ghosh said.
Parents can take their children to an amusement park but it is for schools to reinforce the ideas of diversity, tolerance and secularism among the students, said a teacher who accompanied the children.
Several other schools in the city have been telling students to accept differences and be tolerant. Some schools are talking to students about diversity, plurality, equality and freedom of choice while some others have met parents to tell them that their religious preferences or affiliation should not be reflected in their children.
At the annual conference of the Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools in India held in the city in January, school heads role-played to show how intolerance towards others is being manifested in the classrooms through food preferences.
A teacher of Mahadevi Birla school said that it was the duty of schools to teach secularism to its students, for which it was important to start right at the beginning.
The children learn about different religions in their curriculum and such an educational trip teaches them how each of the religion has its own place of worship said a teacher.
“The students celebrate Christmas in school, so why will they not visit a church?” said a teacher.
Special assemblies are held in school to mark Christmas, Durga Puja, and Id among other festivals, said Ghosh.