need not be one or the other...

I have often been faced with dilemmas, some more challenging than others. And each time a message from what one may, for want of another word, call the heavens has come my way and dispelled all clouds. For the past few weeks now I have been pondering about how to bring about the qualitative change we seek and need at project why. The first option that came to mind was to try and bring about the change slowly, a class or two at a time, and add a class each year. The reason for doing it this way was dictated by our limited resources, both space and funds. It would have been unrealistic and unreasonable to do otherwise, or so it seemed.

I set out to write a small proposal for what I called a pilot project. Should have been easy but somehow it just did not get off the ground. I must admit that I was extremely frustrated and annoyed. I just did not realise that this was a gentle message from the heavens urging me to stop and review things. I left the unfinished proposal but found myself sharing my thoughts with friends and well wishers individually. Many warmed up to the idea. But my writer's block refused to go away. Then a mail dropped from someone unknown till then. It was a person who had stumbled on our site and wanted to help us. I of course was prompt in sharing my new quality mantra! That is when another message from the so called heavens dropped my way, this one louder and clearer: why not quality for all. The writer reacting to my mutation idea simply asked: is it just an idealist's expression of dissatisfaction at the natural gap between ideals and reality, is it a strategic internal brainstorming on improvements, perhaps both? Can quantity be maintained while striving for improved quality, even if it costs significantly more? Would it be possible to experiment with increasing to 2 hours instead of 3 on a trial basis, and grow gradually and in a more manageable fashion?

The words hit me like a bolt out of the blue. The whole idea that had seemed so right, was actually preposterous if you viewed it within the spirit of project why. Was I not the one who had always clamoured high and low about the unacceptable reality of having different schools and systems of education for different sets of children? Was I not the one who extolled the virtues of a common school? Then how could I have thought even for a moment that I could have within project why two parallel approaches? This was against the very grain of all we stood for. I can only say in my humble defense that I put forth this idea keeping in mind our limited resources. But were we not the ones who always managed some way or the other, who always rose up to any challenge and met it with a smile. And while I debated all these issues, another mail dropped by, this one from a dear friend and young mentor. My hope is that your "quality vs. quantity" debate need not be one or the other he gently chided. The writing was on the wall. Quality it had to be, and for all our primary kids! True we would have to sacrifice some small things like individual copy books for all or monthly outings for every kid, true we would have to crowd children in the limited space we have, but the small impediments would be amply assuaged by large dollops of enthusiasm and commitment.

The writing was on the wall, only I had been too blind to see it. It had to be quality for all right from the word go! Was that not what project why was all about.