‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Going to school
‘What days were those!’ everyone out of school would gasp. No matter what the school was, big or small, urban or in a village or even whether you were the person who got picked the most upon.
Along with the fun, a school was still a lot more than a promise of future, a statistic, a job guarantee or a social obligation. For some it was life’s playground and for all it was hope.
Yet, what did we really learn?
Learning was about sharing and never about competition so sharp that could split a hair in two. It was hard to get up everyday and difficult to stay up before examinations. A lot would refer to that as hardship.
But, is that as hard as it gets?
I call myself fortunate to have been able to get education at a good school, though at a point in time I did not have money to pay the fees and believe it or not my teachers paid it from their pockets; it was a 30 km bicycle ride and a still a lot of upset relatives; but I would still call my self fortunate. This is still a lot better than a lot of others who had it worse.
Take APJ Abdul Kalam for instance; who had to walk miles to get to his school every morning or these girls who do even more to get to their school in Nepal which happens to be in a different, distant village .
What is it that drives so much effort to school?
What could it mean? What Does it stand for?
What does it lead to?
These questions have been with me since I was at school but to my vain I haven’t been able to answer them yet.
The only thing I could figure is that I owe it to the school to give back to the world. I owe it to the school to get those to experience the joy of learning who do not get to.
Answer the above questions for yourself if you can. But answer one for me first – What have you given back to people, that you took from your school? Sounds too idealistic!
I genuinely acknowledge the people and organizations who have dedicated their existence to help this cause. However, lets face it … not all of us can and not most of us will!
Here are a few simple things that led to me believe that it is not as difficult as we may think of it to be!
1. Give it back – When ever you can, what ever you can, how much ever you can – I am no philanthropist, it did not take much to go to McDonalds ,spend 500 bucks on a few – well actually 25 – McVeggie burgers and drive around Gurgaon. Look for the kids, playing around and share it with them. What a weekend! I ate 5 of them burgers myself , over 3 hours of driving around but the shining eyes of those kids can make all the effort worth it. Here is ‘Appu’ with his sister ‘Rani’ and the little dude. Some of the kids i had lunch with. Try it if you can and see for yourself how fulfilling it is while being a lot more interesting than lunch with your colleagues!
2. Teaching is the best way to learn (Yes, even the small things) – I remember, about 14 years ago, we had a person who used to do the cleaning etc. for us in our Jabalpur home. Her name was Sashi and we called her Sashi didi, she wasn’t too old – about 23, mother of two. My brother was in kindergarten and I never sat to teach him anything… it was boring.
One day I did, and her elder daughter (5) walked up to the book, picked it up and kept looking at it. She had a big smile. It was majestic, so I decided to teach her and my brother,that is the day, with very little help for me ‘Pooja’ wrote her name in English for the first time. My brother took another year to do so 😛 all in good spirit but he was just 3.
Pooja had then become the most literate member of her family and it cost me nothing to share those three minutes of joy and see her mother proud. Would do that again in the next opportunity I get.
3. Donation is great – Charity is good, but does not always cost. At least a simple thing that I have tried a last couple of months works just fine. When ever you go out to buy some thing for yourself, buy something for others. Even if it is just a pencil. I refrain from buying food because it just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather share some hope and if it costs 5 Rs. and can write, I sure don’t lose my savings over it.
All I am trying to say is that life isn’t the same for everyone and that is something I learnt at school. That is why it was such an amazing thing and now its my turn to return.
Just to get you started, here are some stats:
- Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
- A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.
- At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school.
- 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
- In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.
- In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.
- On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.
- In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.
- On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.
- High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
- Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
- 1 in 40, primary schools in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
- In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none.
- In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.
- More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.
- 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to schoolSource: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002
Going to school made me stop wanting help and taught me to take responsibility and stand up with dignity. That is exactly what these 8.1 million children need. The whole world can be a school if we choose to make it so.
After all, what does life have to offer if not a little hope?
For you to do, not just read ; Abhi