India is a young country where a sizeable chunk of the population is below the age of 18. Children are the leaders of our future but our education system, which is supposed to set them up for this role, is failing them miserably. According to the 2014 Annual Status Of Education Report (ASER), the enrollment rate in schools is currently at 96.7% but only 10% of these children go on to attend college. The same percentage for urban India is closer to 20%. Can you imagine the amount of potential that is being wasted?
Having worked in the education sector for the past three years, I've come up against many issues that need urgent fixing. However, I've encountered many promising stories of change as well. My experiences have taught me that if children deeply understand social issues and decide to take charge, they can not only influence their own lives but also create a tremendous positive impact within their communities.
One such story is that of Ishita, a student from the class I taught as a Teach For India Fellow. She was a carefree 8-year-old girl from an urban slum in Delhi. When her mother joined a stitching class to be able to contribute to the family income, Ishita wasn't really impressed. But as her mother started becoming more financially independent as a result, she began to understand the importance of her mother's decision. And when her father subsequently refused to let her mother work, Ishita took matters into her own hands and protested until her mother got back to her work.
Ishita's story shows the influence children can have on their families and in-turn on society. If only they are encouraged to understand the social issues in depth, children can be a collective force to lead change. As educators, we need to create experiences for our students that can expose them to various problems society is facing and give them the space and encouragement to explore the issues in depth.
Written By Divakar Sankhla -- a 2012-14 Teach For India Alumnus who recently founded Project Alohomora, an organisation that works to empower children to lead social change.
Applications to the 2016-18 Teach For India Fellowship program are now open. Apply now at http://apply.teachforindia.org/user/register.
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