11 November 2019

A bittersweet experience

Image for representation purpose only
By Shailesh Parsai

Winter was unusually harsh last year. When I reached the primary school at Aarang block, in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, some of the children didn’t even have woollens to protect them from the cold. All they had were their books and bag and they were holding them tightly. I could hear their teeth chattering in the cold. 

I felt miserable; my eyes welled up with tears. I asked myself, what do these children need more— education or warm clothes? I was almost sure it was the latter. Of course, food and clothing are the basic needs for life. 

Perhaps their teacher too was facing the same dilemma and the challenge before her was to get these children interested in learning in this inclement weather. Soon, he took out Sampark’s audio-box from a cupboard in the class. The moment the teacher switched it on, all the children jumped with joy.  Now the teacher stepped aside, and let the audio- box do the talking, or should we say teaching. First came a story in Hindi-English and the students listened in rapt attention, forgetting the wind and the cold.

I was right there in the class with everyone, but I forgot that we were standing in a school, where the primary requirement and responsibility is to impart education, no matter what.  

Building schools with empty classrooms will not change the destiny for the next generation, it will not make any positive shift unless we get the children to the classrooms and enable them to change their destiny themselves. Standing there in a class full of young, bright minds, who filled the room with their enthusiasm and light, I realised I am in the right place. I am a part of the change, and I have a role to play.

At times, we as humans see things that are on the surface. We don’t dive deep into the problems and unless we work towards eliminating the root cause- poverty in this case, nothing will change. I feel education is the only weapon powerful enough to fight the darkness of illiteracy that has engulfed millions of families in our country. 

By providing quality education to children, we can empower them to overcome the shackles of poverty. Education can give these children a new direction in life. Even an educated farmer can do so much to improve his produce and profit. And the same implies to every occupation and life skill. 

This experience, and some others along the way, have changed my perspective towards education and maybe even life! 

(The writer is State Head, Chhattisgarh at Samaprk Foundation. Views expressed are his personal)