A Priceless Lesson From A.P.J. Abdul Kalam On The Power Of Change

Posted on October 15, 2016 in Books, Education

Excerpted from a book by A.P.J Abdul Kalam:

Dear friends, I strongly feel that no youth today needs to fear about the future. Why? The ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource on the Earth.

Let me give you some examples of those who made a change in their lives and became true ignited minds.
A unique experience happened when I went to Madurai to inaugurate the Paediatric Oncology Cancer unit at Meenakshi Mission Hospital on 7 January 2011. After I completed the task, suddenly one person from the audience approached me and his face looked familiar. When he came closer, I found out that he was once my driver when I was the Director of Defence Research and Development Lab (DRDL) at Hyderabad in 1982–92. His name is V. Kathiresan, and he had worked with me day and night for those ten years. During that time, I noticed, he was always reading some books, newspapers and journals during his waiting time in the car. That dedication had attracted me and I asked him a question. ‘Why do you read during your leisure time?’ He replied that his children used to ask him lot of questions. Since he didn’t always know the answer, he would study whenever time permitted in order to give them the best answers. The spirit of learning in him impressed me and I told him to study formally through distance education and gave him some free time to attend the course and complete his 10+2 and then to apply for higher education. He took that as a challenge and kept on studying and upgraded his educational qualifications. He did B.A. (History), then he did M.A. (History) and then he did M.A. (Political Science) and completed his B.Ed and then M.Ed and he worked with me up to 1992. Thereafter he registered for his doctoral studies and got his PhD in 2001. He joined the Education Department of Tamil Nadu government and served there for a number of years. In 2010, he became an assistant professor in the Government Arts College at Mellur near Madurai.

When I was invited to address the students of UPMS School, Kovilpatti, I again met Professor Kathiresan who was sitting on the dais. I introduced Professor Kathiresan to the gathering and brought out how he, a native of that same town, has transformed himself, earned a doctorate and was teaching in a college after two decades of hard work. This incident cheered the entire young audience.

Friends, I visualize a scene. A school having about 50 teachers and 750 students. It is a place of beauty and for fostering creativity and learning. How is it possible? It is because the school management and the Principal selected the teachers who love teaching, who treat the students as their children or grandchildren. The children see the teachers as role models not only in teaching but how they conduct their lives. Above all, I see an environment in which there is nothing like a good student, average student or poor student. The whole school and teacher system is involved in generating students who perform to their best. And above all, what should be the traits the teacher should possess based on teachers’ life both inside the class room and outside the school? When good teachers walk among them, the students should feel the heat of knowledge and the purity of their lives radiate from them. This race of teachers should multiply.

As a child moves towards teenage and then adulthood, his carefree attitude is slowly taken over by many pressures. What will I do after my education? Will I get a proper employment?

Teachers and parents should preserve the happy smiles on the faces of their children even when they complete their school education. The student should feel confident that ‘I can do it’. He or she should have the self-esteem and the capability to become an employment generator. This transformation can only be brought about by a teacher who has the vision to transform.

I have always liked to sit in a class. When I visit schools and colleges in India and abroad, I like to see how teachers teach and students interact in the classroom. Recently, I was in Andhra Pradesh, in a one-teacher school classroom. The school had classes only up to the fifth grade. I was with the students and the teacher was teaching. How happy were the children? The teacher was telling the young students, ‘Dear children, you see the full moon, the beautiful scene in the sky brings smiles and cheers. Remember, as you smile the family also smiles. How many of you keep your parents happy?’ The whole class lifted their hands. They said, they would do it. I also lifted my hand along with the students.

Another experience was during my visit to UAE. I inaugurated an Indian school in Dubai. When the preparation was going on for the inaugural function, I was moving from place to place in the school. I visited classrooms where students from class five and six were being taught. As soon as the teacher saw me, she asked me to take the class. So I started interacting with the students. Instead of loading them with the lessons. I asked them how many planets does our sun have? Many hands went up. One girl said, there are nine planets and some students said, there are eight planets. I said the right answer is eight planets, since the ninth planet Pluto has been removed from the list of planets, because it does not meet the criteria of a planet, in size, weight and orbital motion. I asked, ‘Tell me, which is our planet?’ There was a chorus in reply, ‘Earth’. Then I asked, ‘Who will talk about the Earth?’ One sixth class student got up and said, ‘Our Earth rotates on its own axis.’ Many students said, ‘It takes 24 hours for one orbit that’s how we get day and night.’ I was very pleased with the knowledge of the young on the solar system. Then I asked the class, what does the Earth do, there was pin drop silence. Again a fifth class student said, ‘Earth orbits around the sun.’ How much time it takes to complete the one orbit? Many hands went up, they said 365 days. Our sun belongs to which galaxy? Only one boy responded, ‘Milky Way’. How much time our sun takes for one orbit of our galaxy? No response. Of course, it is difficult. I gave the answer: 200 million years. The children had a great surprise. I was impressed with the class and greeted them and left.

I am giving you these examples to illustrate, how students can be encouraged to build their self-confidence. I am sure teachers may adopt several methods to make the class dynamic and creative for promoting sustained interest among the students.

(From Address at Villa Nazreth English Medium School and other schools, Aryanad, Thiruvananthapuram, 22 February 2015 and Address and interaction with the students of CRPF Public School, Hakimpet, Telangana, 20 March 2015)

Note: Excerpted with permission from Rupa Publications from “Learning How To Fly: Life Lessons For The Youth” by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.