I’d like to introduce you to my brilliant 6th Graders at Babasaheb Ambedkar English School in Mumbai. At this government school (BMC) in Worli, the children come from low-income families from local areas and are being taught by two Teach For India fellows and several volunteers who come and teach the class different things and subjects.
I have had the pleasure of teaching these children Geography while we also discuss political issues, wars and conflicts, legal rights and so on. They are a rare bunch of kids, full of enthusiasm, curiosity and an undying desire to learn. They want to know everything about everything! During one of our classes, we talked about what the children would like to do when they grow up, and about the changes they’d like to bring about in their locality and community. Here’s presenting what eight of them had to say.
This lot are the aspiring doctors. While most kids wished to help people by becoming doctors, Rishikesh and Ritika have given their ambition some deeper thought. Rishikesh wishes to be a lung specialist, and treat people who have been suffering due to excessive smoking. He says “Too many young and old people in my locality smoke, even after they know that it is not good for health. I don’t know why they smoke, but I want to help them become healthy again.” Rishikesh hopes to inform his community about the ill-effects of smoking, and wishes to see a smoke-free locality one day. Ritika believes that garbage and unnecessary waste lying around on streets is one of the root causes of diseases. She says, “People need a clean environment to live in. They also need to know that garbage should be thrown in bins, and not on streets. I will become a doctor and treat people, and teach them about cleanliness.” Rikita also believes it is necessary to separate wet and dry garbage before disposal, and that the government needs to have facilities for the same.
Meet our Journalist!
Presenting Neha, she aspires to be a journalist and present on television. When I asked her why she said, “First of all, I want to travel the world and know about different places and people. Then I want to inform people about what is happening around the world, so they know what is wrong and they can change it.” She is extremely interested in learning about sciences and history.
Here’s the Jailor!
Pritam is an aspiring jailor. Yes, you read that right! His was the most unexpected response I came across, in the whole class. Pritam is sick of criminals roaming free on streets, troubling people, especially girls. He says. “When I become a jailor, I will teach these criminals a lesson. I do not like that criminals don’t get a punishment because some lawyers help them. When I am a jailor, I will make sure I teach these bad people a lesson.” Not sure what lesson Pritam wishes to teach, but he recognises that criminals roaming around freely are a menace to his society and this is how he intends to help.
Meet the Performers!
Nagesh and Nikhil are very passionate about music and dance. Nagesh says, “I want to sing on stage one day and dance as well.” Nikhil believes that the arts deserve more recognition and people should do what they like. Nikhil says, “Singing and Dancing makes me happy, and I want to do it forever.” It is truly great to see that among the general preferred choices of careers, some children like the arts too!
Here come the Engineers
A career in engineering has been ranked as the top choice for most boys in India. But very few at the age of 12, know what kind of engineering they wish to pursue and why. In my bunch of little engineers are Nilesh and Vinay. Nilesh wishes to become an automobile engineer and design a car that would run on water. He wants to make the car not only environmentally friendly, but also affordable. He says, “When my car is made, it will run on water. So it will not cause as much pollution as petrol or diesel cars. Also, then people will not be scared with petrol prices increasing. And then people can also save money.” Nilesh loves learning about automobiles, just like Vinay is passionate about buildings. Vinay wants to make strong and long lasting buildings when he grows up. Having heard about the building collapse in Dhaka and Mumbra, in which many factory workers died, Vinay says “I want to make safe building for people to stay and work. Neev hi kamzoor hogi, to uskay baad toh aacha kaam kerna mushkil hai.” Vinay also wishes to have a scheme for affordable housing.
When I was in grade 6, I have a vague idea of what I wanted to do but lacked the clarity that these children portray in their aspirations. Of course, many of them will change their mind and aspirations, but the fact that they are able to think and reason their decisions is something that is here to stay.