Thursday, February 24, 2005

Kahan Hai Himalay Aisa, Kahan Aisa Paani

Like most other things in life, I began writing this to get over a bad mood. Like some great man said, to get rid of one’s frustration in life, sometimes, one need only look at some less fortunate fellow human beings. I have been wanting to write this for quite sometime and hence am writing a preface to the rest of this blog about my favourite theme these days.

India in the present age has two main problems and almost all of its remaining problems can be traced to these two – Education (rather the lack of it, partly manifested in Illiteracy) and Poverty.

As anybody with a reasonable inclination towards Economics can realize, one can individually do very little about the second problem above, but can do a lot to alleviate the first. I met up with an old friend of mine who was telling me that the organization that he works with (ICRA - read my next blog for more info on them), wanted to work with rural children in education and as part of their efforts, help some of them clear the X standard board exams.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Indian education system, the standard X exam is an important juncture in an Indian’s education. It is the first time that most students in India face a public exam and sadly most people stop there. It is a rather cruel thing that most Indian children don’t even get till that stage. In fact, the X standard exam (or matriculate exam as it used to be called in the British ruled India nearly 60 years ago) was a qualifying exam for jobs even a couple of decades ago. One could get a job in most banks, PSUs (public sector units) based on a reasonable performance in this exam. Enough said about its significance. Now, the bulk of failures in the standard X failures come from the rural areas and most of them fail in English and Mathematics. In most cases, it is because there was no teacher to teach either of these subjects.

I hope to be of some service to our less fortunate countrymen by aiding their cause in trying to be better in the above two subjects. Which brings me to the larger question. What can we do to better this situation? Most of us are graduates (or in some cases Post Graduates or higher) and hence must be able to atleast teach till Graduation level. I’m sure most of my readers didn’t have trouble clearing their graduation exams. Hence the least they can do is atleast be able to teach someone to do the same. Whether we choose to do it, is another matter altogether.

First, we need a set of people who can part with their resources – some money and mostly time. Atleast as of now; Time is the more important resource, as few of us manage to get out of our set lives, to do something for someone unrelated. We need many such pockets of educators in their own right. These people need to teach free of cost, tirelessly for enough time to be able to make a difference to the community at large. Perseverance will be the most important element of character that shall be tested. The other thing that must be done is to encourage discussion in these settings so that the communication skills of such students improve. Frequently candicates from rural areas find themselves all at sea in a job interview for want of nothing but communication skills. People must be able to understand the larger benefits of education.
Lets look at some numbers. Bangalore has 25 or more engineering colleges. Let us assume that each of these have 8 branches (streams) atleast. Let us assume 50 students per branch. That means every year 10000 engineers come out of Bangalore alone. The actual number is much larger. Now let us assume that there are 100 such centres in India. That means every year India churns out 1, 000,000 engineers! The actual no. again is much larger, but at the moment I need to demonstrate lower potential only. If 1% of us decided to dedicate 6 hours every weekend to educating a few students, we could have a 10000 free teachers in the system. And that, my friends will make a remarkable difference to the lives of our countrymen and our country.

Money would be required to buy minimal stationery for people who need, but can’t afford - even a pencil, let alone an eraser. In some case it may be required to buy a blackboard where they may be none. It may be required to erect a roof for a structure that was partly completed. Sometimes, individuals may be able to do only so much. As a slightly more durable effort, one can set up scholarship funds with money collected from like minded people, to fund the education of atleast one bright child per school in a rural area (The adjective bright is used to highlight the fact that students must realize at an early age that merit is rewarded). This idea is stolen from CRY’s Free A Child Today programme, wherein they say that, to sponsor the education of one kid for one full year - costs only Rs.800/-. Incredible ain’t it? That would be about 4 weekends at PVR cinemas. I would continue watching movies at such establishments. I’m not for a moment saying one shouldn’t. I was only trying to put things in perspective. So it isn’t altogether difficult to collect money. I shall make an organized effort sometime later in life. As for now, I shall concentrate on giving time. This would also help one get a perspective on ground level problems in primary education in India.

There are some respectable foundations like the Infosys Foundation and the Azim Premji Foundation which are doing commendable work in India, even for primary education. So there should be no shortage of funding. If one wants to make Kalam’s awakened India a reality, we need more people giving time.

After all, what does one want, when one leaves this life - The goodwill of a billion countrymen?

P.S. The title of the blog is from a popular song from an old Hindi movie meaning, "Where can you find such a thing as the Himalayas, Where can one find such water?"


Blogger Ravikiran said...


Interesting, motivating thoughts. These kind of thoughts are usually hovering around but sink in only when articulated.

Your first lines remind me of ... "I had no shoes and went around complaining till I met a man with no feet!"

Theme music for the post
"balavaano ko, o, balavaano ko dede GYaan.. sabako sanmati de bhagavaan.. Allah tero naam..."

Cheers, keep writing more...Ravi.

2/24/2005 8:19 PM  
Blogger Sivani said...

There's a guy you need to talk to who is deeply concerned with education in India.

Satya's a great guy, truly concerned and really committed.

2/26/2005 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ee kathey vodu Guru:


3/06/2005 8:49 AM  
Blogger D said...

glad to have been able to correct the opinion... wonder where the thought of being C A P P came from though...

11/20/2005 7:34 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home