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An Insight into the Reality: An Elementary School Classroom In A Slum

An Elementary School Classroom In A Slum

An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum is a poem penned by Stephen Spender, an English poet and essayist. It delves into the dismal conditions prevalent in slums, where residents face numerous challenges in meeting basic needs such as food, clothing, and education. The children, who are considered the future of society, suffer from neglect and lack access to proper education, healthcare, and nourishment. Spender vividly portrays this tragedy through his depiction of a classroom within a slum elementary school and the dire circumstances faced by its students. He emphasizes that while donations made to the school are well-intentioned, they alone cannot create a promising future for these children whose only world revolves around their unfortunate surroundings.

CBSE Class 12 English An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum Summary

The poet describes the appearance of the students in an elementary school classroom in a slum. He calls their faces far away from gusty waves. Unlike the powerful waves on a beach, these children are weak, timid and do not have confidence in themselves. The poet is using this analogy to show the difference between children brought up in well-to-do families and children brought up in slums. Their place of origin defines their fate.

Their hair lacks nourishment, resembling rootless weeds scattered across their pale faces. A tall girl with her head bowed down exemplifies the impact of malnutrition and family troubles caused by poverty. She is unable to focus on learning as she is consumed by worry and anxiety. In the classroom, there sits a boy so thin that he lacks substantial body weight; his eyes resemble those of a rat – secretive and hungry. This signifies the severe economic conditions prevalent in the slum. Another student, while reading a poem, displays stunted growth as his only inheritance from his father was an inherited disease marked by twisted joints. Lastly, a student seated in the farthest corner daydreams about squirrels playing on trees; his mind wanders away from the classroom into a world filled with lush trees where playful squirrels reside.

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The poet then gives a description of the classroom in which the students are sitting. It has walls that are sour cream in colour. Due to the lack of renovation and constant exposure to dirt, the colour of the walls has faded. Receipts of donations can be seen on the walls. Clearly, the school does not have strong financial support and runs on the money donated to them as charity. There are pictures of Shakespeare and the Tyrolese valley. The poet reckons that these pictures add no value to the children’s education. The bald head of Shakespeare looks like a dome that represents civilisation. The poet uses the words ‘riding all cities’ to signify the hold of colonisation over countries that leads to exploitation. The whole reference to Shakespeare is also indicative of British colonialism. The Tyrolese valley represents a place the children dream of seeing.

The poet presents a paradoxical situation where the walls of the classroom display a map of the world, but these children from the slums are confined to their limited surroundings – their only known world being the slum outside their windows. They lack hope for a better future, and their environment resembles a narrow street overshadowed by an oppressive sky. The pollution and uncertainty in their lives have transformed what should be an expansive and blue sky into a suffocating threat that hangs over them. These children are far removed from rivers and capes, unaware of the names of stars or constellations.

Shakespeare symbolizes unfairness as the children living in slums find it difficult to relate to the idea of civilization, making them feel unimportant and insignificant compared to the sophisticated world. The map, with its representations of the sun and ships, serves as a constant reminder of how distant and unattainable these things are for them. Unable to have access to good opportunities in life, they become tempted to resort to stealing such symbols of wealth and prosperity.

The lives of these children are miserable. They live in small houses that are devoid of space because all things are cramped together inside these. The poet reminds us that their lives are hopeless – like living in constant fog or endless nights. These children’s bodies are like heaps of industrial waste. They are skinny with protruding bones, and they wear spectacles made of steel and mended glass. All of their time and space is bleak as the fog. So, the poet recommends that the maps in their classrooms be blotted with slums as slums are the only places they will ever know.

The poet suggests that it is not right to give false hope to the children in the slum unless there are lawful authorities who can change their world of constant tragedy. Instead of having foggy windows that only allow them to see the slum, the poet encourages creating a system where these children can dream of seeing the rest of the world through their windows. The entire town should be given equal importance when it comes to development. These children should have opportunities to experience sunlight, green fields, and beaches. They should also have access to quality education so they can achieve great success and leave a mark in history.

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What is the main concept behind an elementary school classroom in a slum?

The poet desires a transformation in the lives of slum children, aiming for their emancipation from the hardships they endure. Education and removal from their impoverished environment are seen as crucial steps towards achieving this goal. The poet believes that it is the duty of the privileged classes to rescue these underprivileged children from a life plagued by hunger and suffering.

– The poet wishes for an improvement in the lives of slum children.

– Education and relocation are deemed necessary for their upliftment.

An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum: A Recap

The author of An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum concludes with a powerful message directed towards the authorities. He emphasizes that for slum children to have a better future, it is crucial for necessary laws to be enforced and for the government, police, and visitors to ensure they are granted the right to live decent lives. The author advocates for these children to have access to education and basic necessities easily. By experiencing a childhood free from poverty and exploitation, they will be empowered to make positive contributions both individually and within their community in the years ahead.

Which book does the “An elementary school classroom in a slum” come from?


– It has appeared in multiple collections.

– One such collection is Collected Poems 1928–1985 (published in 1985).

CBSE Class 12 English: An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum – Commonly Asked Questions

The classroom walls have turned dirty over time because they have not been cleaned or renovated, resulting in a sour cream-like color.

Comparing a Slum Classroom to the Vastness of Words

The poet tries to create a contrast between how the children live and how their actual lives should be. In the slum, they are devoid of basic rights and resources. This gives the impression of them living under suffocation like they are in a prison. The ‘rivers, capes and stars of words’ represent a world of freedom, prosperity and knowledge that should be the actual life of the slum children.

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What does the poet want for the slum children?

The poet desires the children living in slums to escape the constraints of poverty and a future filled with despair. He envisions them having equal opportunities for a decent life, similar to children from more privileged backgrounds.

Why is an elementary school classroom in a slum considered a poor example?

The map displays the vast expanse of seas and lands that make up our world. However, for children living in poverty-stricken slums, their reality is starkly different from what the map portrays. Their world consists of nothing more than a narrow street under a gloomy sky. This stark contrast between the two worlds leads the poet to label the map as an inadequate representation of a world suitable for these children.

Moreover, it becomes evident that these slum-dwelling children lack proper guidance and support from adults who could help shape their future. The absence of teachers or mentors is reflected in lines such as “no time to dream but only stare,” suggesting that they have no one to inspire them or encourage their aspirations. As a result, they remain trapped within the confines of poverty without any means to break free.

What does the poet want for the children of the slums?

The primary objective of this educator is to empower underprivileged children by providing them with opportunities beyond their immediate surroundings. He firmly believes that by exposing them to a broader range of experiences, they can break free from the cycle of poverty and create a better life for themselves. However, he faces numerous challenges as he attempts to navigate through an education system that often neglects those living in impoverished areas.

Moreover, student apathy further exacerbates the situation within this educational institution. Many children come from families struggling with financial hardships or unstable home environments which negatively impact their motivation towards education. As a result, attendance rates are low and engagement levels remain minimal.

How does the poet describe the classroom walls?

In the poem “An Elementary School Classroom In A Slum,” the poet vividly portrays the dismal condition of a classroom located in a slum area. The walls of this classroom are described as pale and dirty, reflecting the neglect and poverty that surround these young students. However, amidst this gloomy environment, there are glimpses of hope and inspiration.

Another striking element adorning the walls is a world map. This map not only provides geographical knowledge but also opens up new horizons for these slum kids who may have never ventured beyond their immediate vicinity. It offers them an opportunity to explore different cultures, countries, and possibilities outside their limited boundaries.