The only thing that can currently heal the burning globe is Education. Prosperity is synonymous to education. It is not just a community, a religion or a geographic location; that is ailing because of one or the other reason. Today, we talk about global terrorism, internecine feuds, poverty and environmental degradation. We are caught between the dichotomy of rich and poor, leading to absolute dissatisfaction resulting in unrest and anarchy.
I had the rare occasion of spending my vacation at my hometown in Patna. I have been a self centric individual, laced with ambitions that revolve around my own personal achievements. In our part of the world it is quite difficult to survive with all that added pressure right from childhood. We are ladened with ambitions and aspirations, that are not just ours, but of our society. I was quite privileged to have not faced the ordeals of being an average student living in an Indian social setup, considering my parents did not value my examination scores to be determinant of success in life.
Thus, a value based education and not a competitive examination centered education, caught my imagination. I was impressed with the new concept called thematic teaching. While, India is lagging far behind in fostering critical thinking among students, I decided to try Socratic Method of learning that involves thorough discussion and flow of ideas, at a Government school called Balak / Kanya Madhya Vidyalaya, Punaichak, Patna, Bihar. In this journey I realized that man indeed is a social animal and cannot continue to be self centric. I realized that there is no such distinction of hicks and genteel class. It is all a matter of opportunity, learning and education.
I started alone under aegis of Adhrit Foundation with incessant support from the Founder, Mr. Aditya Singh. My day used to start with smiles from chirpy, exuberant children who were filled with passion and a desire to bring a change. However, they had to encounter disappointment in terms of lack of teacher and infrastructure in the school premises. Inspite of all this in the classrooms smiles were intact and they stood beaming with satisfaction.
I kept asking myself “What is so special about them?” and I had an answer. They were not there with an intent to excel in terms of grades or outshine their colleagues. They were there to learn, to break free of the clutches of poverty and illiteracy. They knew the real meaning of education. They knew it was the tool to empower and improve. I had often heard that female students have a very high dropout rates in middle schools. However, I had the opportunity of teaching students from standard VI, VII and VIII, and notably in all of them the girls outnumbered the boys. I cannot speak for the entire education system of the nation, but surely this one gives a ray of hope. It might not be too bright, but it is definitely not dull.
Knowing the ground realities of a private school as I have myself been a part of it, I realized that economic prowess and financial ability of our parents is the only distinguishing feature that determines our ability as opposed to that of students from economically weaker sections of the society. The eagerness to learn amongst these kids was unmatchable.
I had seen the students face difficulties with speaking or understanding English. When I tried to reason, I concluded that they have never had a formal English speaking class because of lack of faculty. I thought they would feel embarrassed everytime I asked them to read a passage from the book due to their inability and hence asked the class if they wanted me to continue with English lectures or make a shift to some other subject. They dared to go out of their comfort zone and rightfully chose to set their feet on a different terrain about which they knew very little. All they wanted was an avenue and someone to guide them through. They were ready to believe in me as they thought I could steer their ship in the right direction. They strengthened my belief that change will happen and that education will bring that change.
It has been quite sometime since I met those kids and walked in that shabby school corridor. But, everyday I promise myself that I will serve the society by engaging into discussions and learning with these children, as and when possible. Trust me; it has its own charm.
By: Astha Singh