Scribbled yellow walls, broken furniture, a half cemented ceiling, filthy faces, dirty dresses, smeary eyes, and a girl child beside me with one finger in her nose. She pulls my shirt and says – A bhaiyaa aap kya padhaoge? It took me a few minutes to remind myself as to why I had come here. Oh yes! You guessed it right, I was in a public school, a place too different from the one in which I spent nearly two decades after my birth, and I was with the children from the slums. Moments before I could answer her, she pulled my shirt again and asked with an undue inquisitiveness – Bhaiyaa batao na aap English padhaoge na? To my surprise, she touched my soul and I could see my purpose being achieved.
When I told my parents and friends that I was going to quit my engineering job in Bangalore to volunteer with slum children in a public school, I was met with suspicious looks that seemed to accuse me of being the first person to ‘spoil’ my life. Previously, I never had much interaction with children but what I took along from here, is priceless. Sometimes, a child teaches you mantras of living and to appreciate everything life has to offer. Seeing what little they had, unfortunate enough given what life has for them to offer, I felt they had eyes full of dreams, dreams full of happiness, and this was how I found a reason to smile again.
Singing, dancing, playing games, arts and crafts, followed by an English class was great fun. It somehow reminded me of my childhood, and I had to force myself to think of creative games and ideas that they would enjoy. My favourite moments were when the kids would scream a new word because they had remembered it. Kids are a lot of fun, amazing inspiration and fantastic encouragement as they take you back down memory lane. Kids bring back the child in you and you end up going crazier with laughter and happy times. I dove head first into a different culture, but my whole experience was beyond what I could have asked for.
Quitting a corporate job and joining an N.G.O. was never an easy decision to make. I struggled to find an answer for this for a very long time. I realised a little later that I was, in fact, contributing to myself and my family. Now, how could I impart the same to the coming generations? According to me, contributing to the nation is actually contributing to yourself, as it finally reflects on you and at the same time, it affects others also. The main reason for educational inequity in India is the lack of quality education, teachers, and methods of teaching in many schools. It’s a shame that each year, many students drop out of schools because of lack of interest. The best thing a kid from a poor background can get is being taught at the same level as children in other private schools.
I want so much to be a part of what made me who I am today. Educating one child won’t change the world, but for that one child, the world will change forever. She could be your domestic worker’s daughter or someone’s son at a traffic signal. I really want to make an impact on other peoples’ lives and use my own experiences to do so. I want to inspire others as I have been inspired. I feel the urge to be a part of a system in which a teacher is not only qualified to teach but is also a mentor to the students. I also want to convey the importance of education to young people because I feel like so many take it for granted.
Teaching is one such initiative that attracted me with its ambition to end educational inequity in India. Teaching as a leadership which not only reforms the students but also develops people’s leadership capabilities for long-term achievements. I think the biggest challenge that any individual can face is to understand what it takes to bring about change in a child, to transform learning into a fun filled activity for students in such a way that the child would hate to leave the classroom.