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How Gandhi turned a 21st Century Classroom Into an Empathy-Filled Community

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Bullying is a very real source of concern for schools everywhere. Defined as ‘the act of repeatedly and intentionally causing hurt or harm over a period of time to another person or group of people who feel helpless to respond’, it is pronounced in some schools and subtle in others.

It is a sad commentary on the priorities of the Indian school system that the vast majority of middle and high school students do not feel their classrooms are emotionally safe spaces. Sincere and well-meaning teachers address the problem the best they can, but the sheer weight of a yet-to-be-finished curriculum and the many other challenges that they face on a daily basis leave most of them with little or no time to address crucial interpersonal issues that a lot of their students face.

As someone who conducts anti-bullying programmes, I am always on the lookout for tools I can offer schools to tackle the problem. This Gandhi Jayanti, a friend gave me a brand new idea. He told me that on October 2, he and his wife turned their living room into a mini movie theatre for the day, and held a special screening of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi for his son’s classmates and their families.

Also read: ‘How Did Gandhiji Kill Himself?’ Asks Gujarat School in Exam

It turned into an all-day affair with lunch, popcorn and a freewheeling discussion afterwards. Despite the movie being quite long, the children and parents who attended the screening sat through the whole thing without getting bored. Even the parents in the audience with pronounced Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP leanings watched the movie quietly and respectfully.

“It’s difficult to argue with a man’s life, isn’t it?” my friend noted with a smile.

Inspired by how my friend and his wife had commemorated the Mahatma’s birthday, I wondered if Gandhi would speak just as clearly and powerfully to an adolescent school audience as well.

Could his message of truth, courage and non-violence help to stem the epidemic of bullying that so many........

© The Wire