India is a country of light and darkness. It is a country within a country. It is a country of progress and a country where farmers are committing suicide due to debt and failed monsoon or children are dying of malnutrition. It is a country where each year Indian billionaires feature among world’s wealthiest men and a poor man fights to survive on less than Rs. 24 i.e. 50 cents. And worse is, this dichotomy has manifested itself further into a complex set of problems. The most important being a ‘mindset’ fed on age old customs and traditions.
This mindset allows them to commit horrible crimes such as killing their daughters or worse selling them off, as a commodity. This mindset gives birth to a complicit and complacent attitude such as ‘ as long as my children are fed, or my house is safe, why should I bother about others?’. It is the same mindset which propels them to oppress or be oppressed. A mindset that fears change.
Therefore the biggest challenge before me is to bring about a change in this mindset, an attitudinal and paradigm shift. And the one way to make it possible is to ensure that people are educated, and to make a compelling case on the importance of education in their lives and those of their children and the community members. Sadly in India, 7 million children under 14 years do not have access to quality education and approximately 50% of all children drop out before they complete their elementary education. And the reasons are many — lack of infrastructure, absence of quality teachers, corruption in the Government machinery and understanding its importance by poor and illiterate parents.
To improve the situation, I propose to organize a movement with the civil society members and other key stakeholders, so that collectively we form strategies to mobilize the community members and assert the importance of sending their children to school. Form vigilance core groups among the community members so that erring or corrupt administrator can be held accountable and pulled up for failing to implement schemes such as midday meal and free education under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education for children from 6-14 years. Also establish institutions which will provide bridge courses or remedial centres for ensuring re-entry of school drop outs. Bring about a policy change so that vocational skills relating to the needs of the market, features prominently in our education system.
In realizing this solution, online communities such as Pulsewire, play an important role. With its wide network of writers, entrepreneurs, non- profit workers and change makers, it creates ample opportunities to forge partnerships, have access to different community models, seek help with grants or resource sharing. For instance, I can get ideas on cost effective creative tools to make learning interesting for schools or request members to donate/help.
Already help is pouring in. I heard from a Pulsewire member who is interested to increase the computer literacy and accessibility of the children in India. I am smiling.