An acquaintance of mine narrated that his friend, who lives in Delhi’s Batla House locality, once casually remarked: “In winter the Fajr Adhan (pre-dawn call for prayer) here is called only after I return from the bus-stand where I go almost daily to drop my kid to catch school-bus.”
Nothing new. All over India – and even outside – we observe middle-class parents engaged in rushing their toddlers to the remotest and earliest possible schools of their respective places. The dozing kids are simply thrown into the bus. The film Tare Zameen Par seems to have only momentary impact on some fathers, but even less brief impression on mothers – the latter now are more conscious about the career of tiny-tots. With fly-by-night business of call – girl or boy – centres flourishing in dark hours, the young working parents have no choice but to look for an alternative schooling.
Seeing the mad rush to the schools all over the country every admission season in March, I hit upon an idea to come up with one such unique institution and earn some fast bucks. Christened as Saint Jackal Academy, I decided to open it in the obscure swampy forest-land in the riverine part of the district, some 50 kms from the city-centre. Since there is no scope of intervention from court or the municipal corporation, I decided to grab a big chunk of land by greasing the palm of some senior forest department officials.
As one has to cross a pontoon bridge to reach the riverine island, where the new campus is situated, the school-bus drivers have been instructed to ply their vehicles cautiously on it. Elsewhere in the city they are free to violate all the speed norms. Since this pontoon bridge had to be dismantled every monsoon, arrangements had been made to transport kids by motor-boats as well. The buses drop these kids on the bank of the river and from there the motor-boats ferry them to the school in the island. Thus, for four rainy months in a year, the boys and girls ‘enjoy’ nocturnal bus-cum-boat journey.
The school brochure says that classes run between 12 in the mid-night and six in the morning. Children of parents working in the call-centres, sex-workers, air-hostesses, etc. get top priority at the time of admission. Sons and daughters of single-mothers and those women who are working in night-shift in factory, railways, hospital, etc. are next to get preference. The doors of the school are closed for the children of non-working women – even if they are highly educated.
Every night the parents are supposed to be present with their wards at the respective bus-stops at sharp 10:00 PM – when they themselves go out for night shift – and be prepared to pick them up at 8:00 AM the following morning, at the time of their return from duty.
The boundary wall of the school is too huge so that no animal can jump inside and harm the children. The class-rooms are centrally air-conditioned with no scope of barking and screaming of dogs, wolves, jackals, etc. reaching inside and disturbing the concentration of the children.
Among the special features of this school is that I have appointed a retired Brigadier – himself a dreaded commando – as its principal. This man can remain sleepless for a couple of hundred hours and knows the art of keeping students as well as the teaching and non-teaching staff sleepless. The newly admitted kids are administered pills for a few months so that they can overcome sleep in the odd hours and become accustomed to the dark realities of the world.
There will be complete uniformity in the dresses of all the students and teachers – be it male or female. From tip to toe they are to be dressed in complete black.
This school is from Creche to Plus-II level. But there is a speciality about it too. For working ladies in the family way there is another facility. Once the labour pain starts they can, with the help of ambulance, rush to the school, which also doubles as the maternity hospital. There are doctors and nurses too. The baby, once born, is admitted to the school. The mother after a few days can be discharged from the maternity hospital with the baby getting education from the day one.
The fee structure is very simple, but needs a little bit of calculation at the end of every month. The parents need to pay at the rate of Rs 420 a day for all the classes. Thus it would be Rs 12,000-plus per month with slight variation depending on the number of days in the month. The admission fee is flat Rs one lakh white money.
The leaflet of the school guarantees that by the age of 5 the students will be able to write and speak with fluency two foreign languages other than English. By the age of 10 they will know the names of all the western actors, actresses, films, songs, etc. It assures that the kids may never be able to speak their respective mother tongue even after passing out Plus-II at the age of 18.
There is another unique speciality about the school. If the parents are workaholic and do not utilise weekends or weekly offs, they can leave behind their children in the school. They just need to ring the school authorities in advance so that arrangement could be made to accommodate them throughout the day-hours when there is no class. The parents only need to pay double the amount, that is, Rs 840 a day for this facility.
Situated so far from the human population, the school has its own power generators. Besides, it has no land-line phone connection – only mobile lines are available. Neither the day scholars nor those living in the hostels are allowed to have any telephonic contact with the parents.
The school begins with half an hour assembly-cum-parade at sharp 12:00 in the midnight. After that there is no break as ‘health-wise’ it is not appropriate to eat in the wee hours. The school believes in not wasting a single minute on non-issues like folk-games, art and cultural activities.
Thus with the help of this advertorial, I wish to assure all of you that St Jackal Academy is a new concept. For becoming the 51st state of the United States of America one needs to fully adjust the mental-clock of the coming generation in accordance with that of the Uncle Sam. Just lend your ears to the demand of the time.