Project VISION: “Sapnon Ki Udaan”

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After writing my civil services mains examination, I was filled with extra ordinary energy and vigor to work in social sphere. I was excited and it was the result of my efforts that I was able to engage in child education issues around my neighborhood. Apart from conducting teaching sessions in the most backward slum zones of luck now, I was able to initiate teaching classes for children belonging to such vulnerable communities at my home premises. Today is the last day of this innovative venture and I write this article after having successfully admitted those students in the nearby govt. schools.

Before I begin to elaborate upon my experiences, I would like to clarify that this article is not an attempt to glorify my efforts/initiative. It is just an attempt to share my experience and lessons learnt out of the initiatives.

# What India needs?

Zeher Ali, a young studious and well mannered boy has been living in slum for nearby 5 years. Initially he was a resident of Assam but owing to lack of employment opportunities his parents landed up in Lucknow under the so called migration wave. However, belying the expectations of pre arrival, Zeher Ali’s parents finally landed up in menial job of waste collection. Zeher Ali has been happily dedicated towards his parent’s job and supports them in waste collection. Even though he is well versed with English, mathematics and other theoretical terms owing to his initial education in Assam, he finds himself in a community imposed vicious cycle which restricts any efforts towards attaining education.

My effort in the entire initiative was just to act as a mediator. I took the courage of moving to these backward regions and indulged in personal interaction with the parents of such children. Consistent exercise of interacting and mentoring such children over a period of two to three weeks made me earn the faith of the people of this region. Post which I shifted the entire teaching sessions to my home premises witnessing timely and eager participation of young minds. I did not offer them and freebies nor did I gave them any stationary yet they remained highly motivated just owing to the methodology of teaching.

Our country is in the dire need of similar initiatives. We have restricted ourselves in small cocoon and we relent on moving outside this safe zone. We are afraid of the consequences and hence remain reluctant of taking bold steps. But the secret to success ultimately depends in coming out of own safe zone. Just imagine what the rate of development that India can achieve if we can ensure educational attainment of children lingering around our neighborhood.

# Key Lessons Learned

  1. Working on social issues does not demand a very high IQ but it demands a significantly higher amount of patience, EQ, compassion and inner will power to rectify the issues being faced by vulnerable communities.
  2. The present plight of vulnerable communities is the result of exploitation being faced over successive generations. Therefore expecting that they are instantly going to respond to your call will not be justified. Consistent engagement and winning the confidence of local community remains at the heart of social transformation.
  3. Education is not about teaching ABCD or 1234. It is more about opening the minds and infusing the element of critical thinking. Such an attitude can be only infused by participative classroom where views of children are given equal weight age. It remains of utmost importance for teachers to freely mingle with students and weed out their inner hesitation.
  4. Fourthly, no one likes to be criticized. Yes, it is true that we all have our weaknesses but rectifying them demands a totally different approach. Focus should be towards motivating individual child and using role models for inspiring the entire group. Instead of criticizing any child on his flaw he must be motivated to follow the footsteps of his neighbor who has scored well in the same subject.
  5. Finally education is not a single stage activity. Difficult concepts can be easily ingrained inside minds of children if taught at regular intervals.

 

# Relevance of Education in Current Context

“Make in India” initiative has grabbed the interest of investors, manufacturers, policy makers and multiple other eager Indian citizens. However, as it has been pointed out in Economic Survey that the demographic dividend that we have been cherishing for now has emerged to be double edged sword. We do have significant proportion of population under working age class but the proportion of educated individuals in the said domain remains marginal. For moving upwards along the growth trajectory India needs educated and trained labor force which we find missing in current context.

Thus Education remains of utmost importance. It not only improves the current economic, social and psychological condition of individual but also empowers the entire community at large. Finally taking cue from efforts of Shri Om Prakash Choudhary (IAS) for his efforts towards child education in chattisgarh, I would like to name the title of this final article under Project Vision as “Sapnon ki Udaan”. For this bunch of kids the real journey of life has just started.

 

“NAI ROSHINI” : A PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE

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Small group of women folk had gathered around a village center. Every participant was equally curious as how the subsequent events would turn out to be. Comprehensively, entire discourse manifested the characteristics of classroom having diverse actors. There were few who would proactively participate and multiple others who would find satisfaction by limiting themselves within the small conservative cocoon of silence. By now you would have already guessed that topic relates with a training program conducted in the vicinity of rural region. This article represents my attempt to describe and analyze the multiple dimensions linked with “NAI ROSHINI”, training program by Govt. of India on promoting leadership traits among women folk.

Very frankly, my initial response after hearing the Program Details manifested a skeptical attitude. I was suspicious on what was the need of conducting any such program? How will the outcome be assessed and how the enforcement agencies accountability be ensured? I thought that it represented another source of siphoning off funds from Consolidated Fund of India under the banner of Govt. scheme. However, all my doubts came to rest after I visited certain centers of the program as a representative of NGO. I was amazed, excited and really shocked on seeing the extensive participation of women in the concerned activity.

# My First Encounter

We reached the centre around 11AM to assess the conduct of program whose management was devolved to NGO of which I was a representative. Village School was filled with women, girls and even some small kids. There was a different curiosity in the eyes of audience. We were being stared as if we had arrived from any distinct land. What was this expectation all about and why was it present on the first hand? Whether we were perceived by them as harbingers of change or was it just the human nature of looking upon the unknowns with due curiosity? I was shortly going to realize all the above answers.

# What is NAI ROSHINI all about?

It is a program initiated by GOI for developing leadership qualities among women class. Leadership is not the sole prerogative of Managerial class sitting within the confines of Board Room. It extends to almost every activity that we perform in daily life. In fact one great philosopher has proclaimed that a true leader is one who performs even the most miniscule work with due perfection.

Empowering women on the leadership role is very crucial for development of society at large. Socities ensuring equal participation of women in decision making has witnessed significant pace of progress. Further analysis also suggests that ensuring development of women aids in development of entire family. Women folk is involved in activities starting from household management to contributing in family income. Program attempts to make women realize their hidden potential, provide them sound advice on health related aspects, promote their interest in attaining minimum education attainment and concomitantly aiding in regaining the lost pride in women hood.

Thus defining the agenda of Program in single definition would be a doing injustice to the novel intentions. This program prepares solid foundation and creates awareness at the most grass root level. The progress so attained can be utilized in multiple other govt. welfare programs such as Swachh Bharat Campaign to Right to Education implementation.

# Lessons learned from my practical experience

We may keep on debating endlessly on the utility of any program and we may also go ahead criticizing the multiple govt. social welfare initiatives. However the actual reality differs from our own restricted imagination. Such training programs if implemented properly carry the potential of reforming the entire villages based on women power. Besides, the peer pressure among group members compels the participants to perform better during such short term training programs.

The above experience makes me realize that India definitely possesses the richness of programs. However what we need today is effectiveness and innovation in implementation. Focus ought to be towards recognizing the stakeholders and subsequently delivering the message in right context among the end beneficiaries. And once again, this experience makes me optimistic on India’s progress. Yes, we can change and we can develop, just the need is to realize the individual potential which has been locked in our own mental confines.

PROJECT VISION RE INITIATED

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Continuing from the previous article i.e. “The Other Side”, i have finally given shape to my pursuit of creating self sustained educational system for vulnerable sections under the banner of Project VISION. Main aim of Project will be to prepare certain selected students and making them the role model and brand ambassadors for future intervention. This article will be an attempt to analyze the multiple issues involved in implementation and envisioning the steps that lie ahead.

Following story reflects the background of entire initiative. I began my journey by making consistent visit to a nearby slum for two weeks. Subsequently top 10 students were selected based upon their classroom interaction and knowledge base. Venue was shifted to my house and teaching to these selected students have also begun. My basic intention behind all this exercise is to develop a self sustaining educational model which does not depends on external actors for their survival. It utilizes existing resources, available human resource and team work in converting this dream into reality. Whether i succeed or not is a topic of deliberation in future tense but the inner satisfaction achieved via such pursuit remains unparalleled.

key issues during initial phase was why to select only few students and on what basis is this selection going to be based. Frankly it hardly matters and neither it was a selection for any prestigious institution. But for students belonging to such a community it really created difference. Albeit, i relied on objectivity i.e. class performance and existing knowledge base as the sole criteria yet i realized that my steps had hurt the sentiments of many others who were eager to join. However, considering the administrative aspect I did realize that one has to be a strong decision maker. One’s decision are always going to hurt the sentiments of some or the other. What matters is the your intention and the rationale behind such a decision.

Moreoever my job is not just to teach certain bunch of students rather to adjust them in a platform where every individual taught by me would become an agent of teaching two other children. Also, teaching lilited children would allow me to maintain individual attention and more focused results as compared to managing 50-60 students undr a single mentor.

Thus, i have begun what i kept on thinking and what i actually desired deep inside bottom of my heart. Moreover i have multiple sound memories associated with project VISION which have coerced me to once again re initiate this project in a new avatar and with more challenging goals. At this moment i look forward to the quotation by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam who has explicitly stated that dreaming small is crime. One should attain knowledge, pursue hard work , maintain perseverance and continue fighting towards his goals.

Signing Out!

 

 

 

The Other side: Breaking the equilibrium

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India is a diverse country in terms of ethnicity, religion etc. Even the modern societies irrespective of nation remains highly diverse in terms of individual’s thinking, perspective, traditions and practices. Yet, humans have developed a sort of equilibrium which keeps on sustaining daily activities.Quite nice demarcation exist in terms of work we perform. Some work as Marketing Executive in top MNCs whereas few create big brands under entrepreneurial spirit.Farming community remains busy in its own pursuit of safe harvest whereas working class enjoys the daily routine at shop floor level. Mothers cook food and their commitment with the Sas bahu serial appears to be commendable.

Yet, there are few who continue to linger in despair and represent the vulnerable and destitute section of our society. No one bothers about them. The best feeling of affection that we shower upon this group is by occasionally offering Rs. 10 note. Even chillars would suffice in contemporary inflationary trends.And the most significant aspect is the fact that these individuals have also restricted themselves and somehow managed to enjoy the life as it is. This article represents an attempt to break the existing equilibrium and to watch the story of individuals on the other side.

It has been a long time that I expressed my affection towards such communities but my feeling was restricted under the definition of “Sympathy”. However overcoming the equilibrium, I have somehow managed to infuse the element of Compassion in my behavior. I undertook a self initiative of entering a Slum in my neighborhood. Albeit, i was quite afraid that what may follow afterwords yet after having made a consistent visit for quite few weeks has made me realize the enormous potential the children of these communities carry.They are just the normal human beings and posses the same IQ yet their surroundings restrict them in their small little world.

We all have built our small cocoon which helps us in living a normal life. But, there exist a need to overcome the cocoon syndrome and expect more of our self. Just imagine the progress of India, if every individual (affluent section) vows to nurture, educate and support the children lingering on the other  side. Even though i am not certain whether at this critical phase of my career when i must be concerned with getting a good job, teaching such children would be of any relevance. But what i can be quite sure of is the relevance of this teaching on life of these children and that is what actually matters.

Signing Out, Jai Hind and Jai Bharat!