Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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Teachers for the out-of-school children

When someone mentions the word ‘Teacher’, we know that the person is referring to a school or college teacher or a person who takes tuition!

We forget about those dedicated persons who teach but are not ‘teachers’!

When someone mentions the word ‘student’, we often conclude that the person is referring to someone who is trying to learn something to earn a degree/qualification and is part of an institutional structure. 

We forget about thousands of underprivileged kids who are outside the formal educational system but yearn for knowledge for a living.

Meet here a team of persons who have devoted their life for schooling the non-school going children. ‘Bal Utsav’, the NGO led by Ramesh Balasundaram and Binu Ramesh is bringing in educational revolution among the children of construction workers, slum dwellers and labourers in the city of Bangalore and elsewhere. 

Padmini, Binu and Ramesh

Let us hear from Mr Ramesh Balasundaram about his unique mission in teaching.

What was your inspiration (incident/person/experience/ or anything else) in taking up the field of teaching non-school going children?

The year was 2010 and there was a lot of celebration about the Right to Education Act (RTE). It was surprising to know that Out of School Children even existed, because everyone we knew was in school. Even our maids’ children were in school and every second road had a school.

When we took a focussed study to understand what the RTE was all about is when we realised that elephant in the room that nobody was talking about - Out of School Children and Children Who Drop Out of schools.

Can you brief us about the nature of different teaching work undertook/ being undertaken by you and team?

We have identified the top contributors to out of school children and built interventions around each of them.
Children from Urban Slums - Museum School, Bangalore 
Children in Construction Sites - Schools working from within Construction Sites
Children From Tribes - Schools set up inside various Tribal communities.

According to you, what is right or wrong with our present formal educational system?

There is a clear demand & supply issue. Resulting in the possibility of seeing parents wait overnight to seek admission in schools for their wards. Since supply is an issue - obviously there is little or no effort to understand quality.

The issue that is plaguing the system though - is for parents, teacher and schools to understand the purpose of education. While learning to read and write is an outcome of schooling it is not the purpose of it. If each parent and teacher could understand the purpose of education the schools today will be a different place.(At all Bal Utsav schools the purposed of education is to facilitate the mental, physical and spiritual growth of the child)

Most of the children fear schooling/syllabus/exams etc. Famous sociologist Ivan Illich went to the extent of arguing for deschooling society. What do you say about the perception that school is an inevitable EVIL for children?

While schools have their own role and are meant to be learning spaces for children, (as homes are not designed for learning in children) the fact that the purpose is not established is exactly like playing a game of football with great facilities, coaches, best of merchandise but no goal post to be seen. This results in children not knowing what they are expected to do, parents ensuring that the children reach the ground wearing the best of merchandise and teachers/schools ensuring that the children are always on the ground and learning to play a game (without understanding the goal) in the absence of a goal post. 

Can you narrate any incident (one or more) that motivated you or deeply touched you or disturbed you or delighted you, while you were teaching children?

The sight of joy in every child when they discover something is worth everything. If the focus is on enabling the child to discover himself/herself - the child is totally interested in the task at hand. Wants to be in school everyday and reaches a stage when they don't want to go home/let go off what they are working upon as they are totally interested in what they do. This  joy that we see in the children's faces that we work with is what helps us and every person in the team to keep going. 
This journey of discovery, even once saw us witness a child who wanted to vein school that day inspire of seeing her own mom being rushed to the ICU after an accident, earlier that day.

What role you see for the educated and employed youth in teaching the non-school going children in India? 

The youth need to understand the critical role that teachers play and choose two of the most critical roles that define our tomorrows - that of Teachers and Politicians. Instead of treating the role of teachers as someone who couldn't get placed because of their inability we need to have hordes of young learners, take to teaching. The only way we are going to have a better tomorrow is if our youth take to teaching both children in schools and those who are pout of schools. To fill this gap, we at Bal Utsav have recently started a Teacher training program that exclusively focusses on churning out High Quality teachers who are inspired to teach and are not here because they didn't have any other job to do.

You can read more about the above initiative in one of my earlier blogs. Click to read: My mid-day break with pearls from the slum

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. So much dedication. i wish the team of Bal Utsav good luck on their good work.


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