“Kids have a voice and value, and they don’t need to be adults to have an impact. Children are not India’s future, they are our present.” Sanaya Bharucha – Senior Manager, Training and Impact.
Sanaya began her journey with Teach For India in 2009, deciding to eschew the beaten path of a finance graduate for the impactful work she initially thought she would save for later in life. “Then, one of my best friends from school passed away. To this day nobody knows what caused her death. That hit me hard. I was young and healthy and thought I’d be around forever. Maybe I needed to do the things I believed were important right now, because I may not be around to do them later,” she says.
Today, she is the senior manager of Training and Support, and along the way, she has redefined what it means to be an educator and a leader. “Schools have become institutions to churn out disciplined, obedient people to work in the workforce as opposed to raising kids to think and make choices for themselves and differentiate between right and wrong,” she says. This guiding tenet keeps her focused on students, the key players in the fight for educational equity “We need our children to be equal partners in this fight for educational equity if we ever hope to attain it,” she says.
She spent two years as a fellow in Pune, teaching and driving changes both inside and outside the classroom. In 2014, she was instrumental in coaching and training students to perform in a Broadway-style musical called “Maya”. “Maya is the journey of a princess to bring back light to her kingdom, but in the process, she actually finds the light within herself through the values of courage, compassion and wisdom. Each of us is also on the journey with her to find out what these values mean,” recalls Sanaya. Maya’s success, which led to an outpouring of support from donors and the community, was a turning point in Teach For India’s journey, as it showed people what is possible for children from underprivileged backgrounds when a group of people make a sustained commitment to their growth.
“Maya” has since become a symbol of unlimited potential, and Sanaya is spearheading its current iteration. ‘Maya 3.0’ brings talented kids together as student leaders who solve problems in their immediate community and reflect on their journey. The first such project was the children’s Seva Café where they performed street plays that raised over ₹40,000 for a young student’s surgery. “The idea of student leadership has now spread across the world. Inspired by Maya, Teach For All has started the ‘1000 Student Leaders’ campaign where they are encouraging each of the 37 countries who are part of this network to actively grow the leadership of the students they serve,” says Sanaya.
Last year, Sanaya began working closely with the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, known as the Education Commission. In her capacity as a member of the Youth Panel, she works closely with leaders in the education infrastructure in countries across the globe to determine how best to reform systems to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal on education. She was recently selected to present the findings of a new report at the United Nations General Assembly. In the audience were Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Commission Chairperson Gordon Brown, and other dignitaries. She’s also taken her message as far and wide as possible, including giving an INKtalk in 2014!
“Every child wants to learn and all it takes is a focus on values, high expectations, self-awareness and joy. The goal of education is to make children ready for life, to make them live meaningful, impactful lives,” she says.