What should be free is costly. What should be a right is a privilege. What should be a platform for growth and learning is a money-making organization.
We can go on about donations under the table, high admission costs and other unfair practices of the Indian Education system, but the most basic of all the issues is the right to education, which many are denied because of financial circumstances. They are then denied jobs because of a lack of education and the same tale is retold with their children.
India needs organizations that recognize these vicious cycles and proactively solves the situation. We need – not an individual – a whole community dedicated to the ideal of ‘education for all’ for the country to make any real progress on this front.
Teach for India is one such organization that is leading the way to create a tradition of ‘education for all’ in a country which direly needs it. It is the cement poured into the gaps and cracks that have formed in the education system.
What is it?
Founded in 2009 by Shaheen Mistri , TFI borrowed inspiration from the Teach for All model in USA, after Mistri realized the magnitude of discrepancy that exists between the rich and the poor.
Here’s how it works:
TFI has a unique model which consists of courageous, ambitious and qualified young professionals from different backgrounds who sign up for two year fellowships.
The fellows may all have their own reasons for choosing a TFI fellowship but the common thread that unites them is to ‘be the change they want to see in the world’. Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but it will never lose its meaning for those who understand it.
What started out as a small but strong group of fellows and volunteers in two cities i.e. Mumbai and Pune has today expanded exponentially to more than 600 fellows in 6 major metropolitan cities in India. And that is a testament to the power of a single good idea.
Let me tell you about my time there
My experience with Teach for India started with an internship in my first semester of college. On the 17th of November, I apprehensively began my term as a volunteer in Ganesh Baug Municipal School which is nestled in the sprawling slums of Kurla city, Mumbai. I say ‘apprehensive’ because the idea of interacting with kids for the better part of my winter break was rather frightening.
But under the guidance of the three fellows of the school, Vignesh, Shagun and Anshuman, those few weeks left me breathless, figuratively and literally.
With TFI, the children are exposed to a lot more than just rote, book-related learning. Their English skills improve as they interact more with their teachers whom they lovingly call bhaiya (elder brother) and didi (older sister).
In addition to learning English, acknowledging that they are the future stakeholders in the global community, the kids are encouraged and trained to participate in Model United Nations at a very young age. This develops their critical thinking skills and allows them to come up with innovative solutions to key issues. They learn about problems that ail the world like child labour, poverty, hunger and lack of implementation of laws and government funds.
How is it different?
TFI doesn’t just end when the bell rings. The fellows make it a point to become completely involved in their students’ lives and immerse themselves in the community. They have raised a lot of funds from their personal circles to pay for better equipment as well as help parents pay unaffordable medical bills for their little ones.
One surprising thing I learned in that week was the importance of HUGS! At the end of each day, boys would often give me high fives or fist bumps while the girls of all ages would flock to me for hugs. I never understood how crucial this was until someone reminded me that some of these kids were from broken families that rarely ever expressed their love for each other. One hug would put a huge smile on their face that just melted my heart.
Why should you volunteer?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t choke up on the last day of my internship. Each child I taught, taught me something in return. The indescribable love and appreciation that I received from them made every hour completely worth it.
My question is: why not? It’s a beautiful way to spend your time – contributing to the development of a child. We can stand back and complain about the world without lifting a finger to do anything about it. Instead, why not embody the change?
There’s a zen saying: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. [Taken literally here] The students are ready. Will you be the teacher?
How do I sign up?
All the information you require is on the Teach For India website.
Fair warning: The testimonials of fellows will move you.
Images courtesy Maitreye Tambekar (TFI Fellow)