The heading may look like an oxymoron. How can an educated person be an illiterate ? However, in real life we see this all around us. Educated people may assimilate educational qualifications by passing exams and obtaining degrees and diplomas. However, they fail to behave like an educated person is expected to do in their day to day life.
Let me share a few examples from every day life for us to believe that this is not an oxymoron but a reality in our lives today. Let us start with the driving on the roads. Of late, there is a lot of road rage in most metropolises and it is the so called educated elite, who are involved in most of them. They neither follow the road rules nor are willing to accept their mistakes if they do commit a violation. On the other contrary, they would like to muscle their way through or use their clout to get away.
Even if we take a basic etiquette like standing in queues in public places like bus stands, train stations or other public offices, it is the so called educated class who tend to violate the queues more than others. We the educated class do not have the courtesy to give our seats to senior citizens or women when we travel in public places.
The current pandemic is a good illustration of the illiteracy of the educated in public life. Most violations in terms not wearing masks, not maintaining physical distance or not sanitising hands are mostly done by people who are well aware and are educated and not the real illiterate.
The case study of Dharavi is a good example to illustrate this. Dharavi is probably Asia’s largest slum. I have personally visited this place. On an average, at least 8 members in a family stay within an area of 10 sq feet. Even in this densely populated space, when the local government worked with the volunteers to prevent the spread of Covid, the people living in this slum have cooperated and made it a successful eradication strategy. The average resident of Dharavi may not be the educated class in the classical sense of the word.
On the other hand, the so called elite of South Mumbai have violated all public health advisories and it spread like wildfire in many posh residential societies. So, the conclusion one could draw is that education may give a degree but may not necessarily make you literate unless you have the right attitude to life and living.
Interestingly many so called educated elite are in the false belief that the Covid virus is spread from our servants and workers. They want to wear the masks only when they are in the presence of them. This is another hypocritical belief of the educated. The virus does not discriminate based on social class or literacy and we have to wear masks whenever we are meeting anyone anywhere in the public space.
I would like to clarify that I am neither against the educated nor do I profess that all educated people are illiterate. I am only stating that the so called educated majority are violating laws more than the uneducated. It is our attitude which makes all the difference. Higher Education may be the privilege of the middle and upper class of society who can afford it. But public behaviour is the prerogative of each one of us and has no correlation to education.
We need to learn to be self disciplined. The best of efforts by the government and medical and health workers will not bear any fruit if people like us do not wear masks, maintain the physical distance or wash our hands regularly.
The lesson to be learnt from the current pandemic is that law breakers cannot build a nation. Education aids our growth and success in life only if we are willing to be disciplined. The distinction between the law abiding citizen and others is discipline and not education.
It is like my house help Sudha in the photo above, who wears her mask without fail voluntarily although she has not even a school pass out.
Let us lead by example from today at least to set the right precedent for our future generations.
S Ramesh Shankar
15th July 2020