Education should be free. Every child has the right to free education no matter what socio-economic background a child lives in. For some education is a part of life, a necessity, a requirement but for others, education is a privilege. But why should education be a privilege, and why not a part of life and a way of life as it is for other children?
There are many reasons why a child cannot learn, or go to school. For some, looking after the family is a priority than studying and for others the family cannot afford to pay the school fees. And for many, the more children a family bears, the more helping hands they will have, not realising that the more school fees they will be required to pay.
When I look at this world today, I see a huge socio – economic disparity in society. Being blind and looking away is a part of our lives, and a part of the problem.
I feel for these children, and I also feel that perhaps we must educate those who are in need for education, the ones who cannot afford education. Air conditioned schools, and fancy classrooms will not teach or educate children, it’s a mere excuse to charge high fees. It is the teachers who educate, and as teachers we must be aware and sensitive for those who want to learn, but do not have the means to learn.
That being said, I have started teaching Grade 9 children ‘English’, for a non- profit organisation “Angel Xpress Foundation”. Yes it is hard during this unending pandemic and how I wish I was in an actual classroom teaching, instead of looking at these children through a screen and Zoom call, but never the less, it is a joy. I was completely overwhelmed by the sincerity these children have towards learning with their eyes gleaming with excitement, and their smiles showing hope. I asked what they want to be when they grow up and one girl squealed with excitement and said she wants to become a dancer and a bank manager. One of the boys shyly almost embarressed confessed that he wants to become a mathematician. I asked this boy, why was he so hesitant in answering – gently encouraging him to share his feelings – it’s a dream he said, and dreams are only meant to be dreamt. I felt a lump settling in my throat, because I want this thirteen year old to become a mathematician.
The ideology of teaching the poor or underprivileged is different from actually teaching them. Yes, it’s for a good cause and one has the right intentions yet what I have learnt is, that connecting with these children and hearing their stories and feeling their desperation to learn, to be educated and do something meaningful in this world – is beyond what I had ever imagined I would feel. These children are dedicated and intelligent and it doesn’t matter if they do not have over-abundant fancy classroom where every window screams at you ” I am a privileged student and therefore I am educated” – all of the materiality in life doesn’t matter and quite frankly useless, as far as education is concerned.
I would like to share this video, a “Door Step School” initiative. The idea is to name the by lanes in the slums of Mumbai with names of Door Step School children who have continued or completed their education through difficult circumstances. As street signs are only named after big influential people, this recognition for few selected ones hopes to create positivity in the community and encouragement to those parents who have supported their child’s education and development process.