My work requires me to often travel and interact with children, teachers and parents.
I often see schools and school libraries tick all the right boxes when it comes to celebrating our festivals and important national holidays.
I often see posts about such celebrations and displays, on social media, too.
Let’s take a day like Republic day, for example.
There will be charts and decorations in the tricolour, wonderful drawings and essays about our country, Dr. Ambedkar as the father of the constitution, books about our armed forces and the flag is hoisted with great pomp, followed by cultural celebrations which highlight our wonderful traditions and the chart with the preamble to the constitution may or may not be put up on a notice board.
However, the main idea behind Republic Day is to commemorate the adoption of our constitution and the country’s transition to a republic.
While we utter this rather big word to children…’constitution’ and have a general idea about the terms in the preamble, how many of us actually dwell on the meaning of those terms? Do we encourage our students to dwell on each word?
Only if we truly understand the terms, can we embody them.
Why does this matter?
In my work as a story educator, I often talk to parents about developing the rootedness of their children. Studies tell us that it is our stories that make us strong in our identity. The stories that we share with children, be it religious, folktales, our own family stories, the kind of books we read…each of these elements help build our identities and help us develop strong roots. It is only with strong roots that we are secure in ourselves, in our footing that we can then open ourselves out to those around us, to those who are different, in their culture, religion, economic or social strata, ability and more.
To quote political activist Marcus Garvey, “ A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
This is a very effective metaphor. A tree without roots or one with shallow roots…what is the picture that comes to mind?
Just like the family stories that I mention above, the terms in the Preamble to the Constitution are a reflection of the core values that embody our Constitution, which in turn is the foundation/roots of our nation.
They are the roots that hold us as a country, and only with the understanding of each value embedded in the constitution can we maintain integrity in the society and promote unity among citizens.
We are at a very divisive time in our history as an independent country and I believe that the preamble of the constitution can serve as a beacon.
We hear many of the terms of the constitution bandied about.
Democratic republic, socialist, liberty, justice and equality.
To me one of the least spoken about terms, is one that I consider to be the most important.
Derived from the Latin frater, meaning ‘brother’, fraternity implies a spirit of brotherhood, of friendship and goodwill. Fraternity is that common bond or a feeling of unity between people or communities.
Dr. Ambedkar said, “Without fraternity, equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint.”
And we all know how easily a coat of paint can flake.
It is only when we see each other as brothers or sisters, that we can then acknowledged that the other is entitled to the same rights as we are, as stated in the constitution.
We keep in mind that my liberty/freedom cannot infringe on anothers, because if that happens there is no equality.
Fraternity has a direct impact on another important term in the preamble and that is SECULAR.
Secular means equal treatment of all religions by the state. Only if can respect another as an equal, will we understand why we need to uphold this value in the constitution
When this fails, it will directly impact the liberty and justice that we are all entitled to.
Let us actively engage our children/students in understanding what we read/display in our classrooms and libraries…not merely tick a box.