Growing up, I spent a lot of my summers in my hometown Coorg where I regularly interacted with underprivileged children of coffee plantation workers. Most of these kids did not get proper food or guidance, and to them, education was but a dream. I have seen girls being married away at 15 to much older men and later abused, kids chewing tobacco at 10, young boys fighting each other with rusted blades and much more. When you grow up witnessing this, such incidents just become a norm of life: their life is meant to be that way and there’s nothing you can do about it. My experiences through life has made me realize if there’s one thing that could change this, it has to be education.
Before I proceed, let me lay out some bare facts in India:
- Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school. At least 35 million children in this age group do not attend school.
- A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight. High cost of private education, need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by three in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
- In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.
- Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
For a country that is doing so well economically and is considered the manpower reserve of the world, these facts are alarming. The country that has some of the world’s richest and smartest people spends just 3.3% of its GDP on education. I agree it’s very easy to blame the government for all the issues we face and simply move on. When I came across Shlok which two of my friends Ashwin and Darshan had ventured into, I was instantly inspired to help out. Indian Government schools, unlike their private counterparts, provide no importance to English or Computer science which have become the most required skills today; thanks to globalization. Shlok has a beautiful and a simple concept; common people like you and I teaching government school kids the usage of the English language. No more blaming the government or the state or the politicians. Shlok challenges you to be the change you want to see.
My husband and I recently had the chance to teach a class while vacationing in India and realized that in the end, we had gained more than we gave. The experience was truly overwhelming- the potential difference you can make in a child’s life merely by shaking hands with them and answering all their questions is staggering. We were teaching the kids about family that day and every kid there was eager to learn, and some kids from classes we were not teaching tried to sneak into our class.These kids were amazing and bustled with energy. Their honest eyes told me their stories and their smiles never faded. One thing is for sure, they have immense strength and courage to go through life with a smile. In the end, the class that was supposed to be an hour long felt like it was over in minutes with all the laughter and giggling around me. I realized we are not just teaching kids English through Shlok, but we are instilling in them the confidence to face the world, we are taking their strengths and only making it stronger, we are showing them the different options they have in their life, we are promising them a better life.
I fell in love with each of the kids there and their bright black beautiful eyes, some giggling throughout, some were worried that their notebooks were missing, some wanted more pencils and some wanted to share everything with their siblings. My generation in India has achieved a lot of success and we strive to make our lives perfect by our own standards. But we forget the happiness small things can bring, we forget how beautiful imperfections can be, we forget the values we grew up with. We acquired so much that we forget how to share. Truly, the paradox of our times.
THE PARADOX OF OUR TIMES
Is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints
We spend more, but we have less.
We have bigger houses, but smaller families
More conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees, but less sense
More knowledge, but less judgement
More experts, but more problems
More medicines, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often
We have learnt how to make a living, but not a life.
We have added years to life, but not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back
But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.
We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We’ve higher incomes, but lower morals.
We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are the times of tall men, and short character;
Steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare,
More leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces;
Of fancier houses, but broken homes.
It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom.
A time when technology can bring this letter to you,
And a time when you can choose
Either to make a difference …. or just hit, delete.
– Dalai Lama
If you want to make a difference in a kids life, come join us at Shlok to Imagine, Impart and Inspire.