Tears filled my eyes, as I waved goodbye, wondering If I would ever see those children again. Those children who had transformed my life, in ways they would never know how in those six months we spent together. Those children, who helped me realize my calling was to teach. And not just teach, but dedicate myself and my life towards the education of under- privileged children.
1st April, 2010 marks a landmark in Indian history, with the enforcement of the Right to Education Act, that will now (or soon) grant every child the opportunity to receive an education.
Those six months were the beginning of a journey. I knew there were other children, waiting for people like me to teach them, and guide them towards having a happier, firm school life, but like everything else, I suppose the first always remains very close to the heart.
The early years of school are those in which our characters get shaped. Those are the times we discover what we can do, and what we can’t. with no pressure on us, we are free to discover ourselves, our talents, through various forms of creativity and project based learning. Those are the times we are introduced to expressions and emotions, we differentiate between what we like and not like. There is no confusion, it is either right or wrong. Children at this age our extremely vulnerable and need to be guided, without being moulded. The child is neither the teachers, nor parents to mould, because they are human beings with the ability to think for themselves. People don’t always see this, and especially when they think, “they’re just children, they don’t know anything anyways” they couldn’t be more wrong. Children also need the freedom, to understand and learn for themselves through their own experiences and senses.
I remember witnessing the sound of corporal punishment for the first time. Yes, the sound, as I heard the sounds of the ruler against the children’s bodies and their sniffles when they came into the classroom afterwards. This was my exposure to the government school, in the same village I was living in. I still remember the look of absolute fear and terror in the 5 year old girls eyes as she came into the class room and saw a new “teacher” me sitting there. With some encouragement from her friends, she soon came over to me, when she heard me repeatedly assure her that I was not goiong to hit her, and I held her close as she managed to pull herself together. I remember my own tears as I narrated the incident, back in the NGO school I was volunteering at, only to discover that nobody had anything to say other than, “this happens in the government schools. We try telling them not to hit the children, but they continue to do it”. I have never been able to work in a government school again.
This was an example of just one child, in one government school in one of the villages in the country. Whilst statisitics say that Corporal punishment has been reduced over the years, the level of education has not improved. Today 1 out of 4 teachers do not attend classes for the entire academic year in government schools across the country. Whilst children get reprimanded for absentiem, when it is rarely their fault, no one checks on the teachers attendance. The buildings are poorly maintained, the teacher — student ratio too high to handle. The resources and equipment are minimal, and as a result the school becomes a jail cell.
This is why it is up to us, the teachers of tomorrow to give these children, their right to education. Not by leaving it to the ministers and government to implement these rights and regulations, but to enter the system and help change it. To give these children a hope for a better tomorrow and not fear or what the morning would bring.
There are various NGO’s across India who work with educating the under privileged children. Organisations like Mobile Creches, in Delhi, Bombay and Pune who educate construction workers children; Organisations like Akanskha and Parikrama in Bombay and Bangalore respectively who work on educating slum children. These are just 3 of several other ngo’s who work towards giving these children the education they deserve to have. We do not choose the families we are born into. It could have been you, who has to walk miles and miles in order to retireve water from a well for your family, or beg on the street for a living. But thank God you are not. Since you are not, I think if you have any interest in children or teaching, you should think about spending some time with an organisation in your city, which works with educating these children. You would be amazed at how much you could learn from them, and how you feel knowing you have added a little to their lives.
So go ahead, and help take this right to education forward, by giving a child or a group of children the Chance of a Better Tomorrow.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.