a losing battle?

We work hard to raise money so that we have the opportunity to help people but the more children we educate the more are being born that... so we are tempted to say that education will help our people to overcome poverty but if the resources remain the same and the population continues to grow... it's a losing battle.

These very frightening words were sent by a dear friend who is a volunteer with an organisation that is deeply involved in education projects all over India. This friend also is a young highly educated Indian the very people on whose shoulders the destiny of India lies. I understand her concern ans perhaps would have shared it had I not been part of project why!

The education scenario in India is abysmal. But it is not only the state of education for the poor or underprivileged but also that of the so called rich and extremely privileged. A strange caste systems now prevails in school and one wonders what schools have become.

The simple definition for the word school in any dictionary is: a place for educating children. The crux of the matter lies in the definition of the word education and the one we at pwhy adopt is the one based on Delors 4 pillars of education: learning to know, to do, to be and to live with others. He says: these four pillars of knowledge cannot be anchored solely in one phase in a person's life or in a single place. There is a need to re-think when in people's lives education should be provided, and the fields that such education should cover. The periods and fields should complement each other and be interrelated in such a way that all people can get the most out of their own specific educational environment all through their lives.

To me the most important pillar remains: learning to live with others as therein lies the true success of education and this is sadly what is disappearing from the society we live in. Schools should be a level play field but is now turning into a mirror image of the social strata you belong to and the habitat you live in. Hence the richer you are the fancier looking your school is, and the poorer you are the more pathetic it will be. So any exchange, peer learning, learning to live with others is doomed to fail as you remain within the tiny part of society you belong to.

But I have digressed as the concern voiced here was that of population growth, or have I really? That is the moot point. Education we all agree is a spring board that can enable one to change one's destiny but is the education we are today giving the children of India the right one to do that? The question raised has within it another element that we may tend to overlook: static resources or we can even say dwindling resources. And I speak with a certain authority as I was spent almost a decade raising these very resources.

Education alone can change the destiny of India and even help arrest population growth and maybe one day reverse it. Sadly it is perhaps not the kind of polarised education we see around us but one that would merge different strata of societies into schools that look like schools and not of seven stars resorts or slum backyards! That in itself would alter the content, change mindsets and bring a transformation that we cannot begin to imagine. All election oriented and fund draining dramatic programmes will lose their relevance as a symbiotic learning will emerge on its own.

Today we have idiosyncrasies like a pass percentage of 33% and a college entry point of 90+%! reservations in higher places of learning when we know the slum kid will never reach. These could slowly vanish on their own without laws and programmes.

But there is also another change that such an approach can bring. It may also address the resource issue as the better off kids may in such a situation become aware of their won responsibility and add to the resource pool. Pay it forward a simple fiction made into a movie launched a movement and a foundation. A child helps another and in return asks him or help to help three others and so on.

When we took on the challenge to give four kids the best education possible we were derided by many, particularly by those belonging to the rich side of the spectrum. And yet everyday these kids shows us that we cannot be wrong. In a pay it forward situation a rich kid could sponsor a poor one who in return would commit to help three or any number when her or she was in a position to do so.

Daydreaming? Perhaps or perhaps not. Change requires bold and seemingly preposterous action. Only one thing remains unchanged education is, cannot and should not be a losing battle!

We have to find the resources both financial and moral to go on!