Let each one teach at least one

“I believe the children are our
future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”

– Greatest Love of All by Whitney
Houston

These beautiful words sum up the
thought behind the extraordinary work done by students of NIT, Jalandhar, and
IIM, Ahmedabad, to make a difference in the lives of ordinary children, mostly
from the underprivileged section of the society, to give them a brighter and
better future.

It was way back in 2008 when the
beautiful journey of touching young lives started at NIT, Jalandhar. A handful
of students from this engineering college stood outside the huts of the
construction workers engrossed in deep discussion with them. The students were
keen that workers allow their children to study, not at the school but special
classes run by them. The students had to bargain hard with the reluctant
parents. With scarce resources at their disposal, students had a tough time
persuading construction workers who were proud of their children being
‘workers’ rather than ‘students’. The see-saw negotiations went on until they finally
gave in. But conditions applied in this deal. The workers agreed on just an
hour a day; children could attend classes run by students but only in their
spare time. The smiles on those students’ faces were inexplicable after all, this small measure promised a better future for these children.

What started as a project for some
students trying to fulfill the curriculum requirements soon turned into
something bigger than they ever imagined at IIM, Ahmedabad. The project which
started at IIM A was about teaching the underprivileged kids. Education meant
making them literate. And it came as a great relief for students that these
children lapped up this opportunity. The smiles on those tormented faces
brought a sense of responsibility and belief to change the world, to change the
future.

The little project, now officially
called Prayaas, gradually found its way in other cities and colleges. The big
cities welcomed this initiative with open arms, trying to create a better
future for such children. The real challenge was still out there in the small
cities.

The movement that found its way in
NIT, Jalandhar, had to deal with a lot. The small city mentality not just
limited the growth but also made a mockery of it. It was seen as a fad and the
‘cool’ people thought that those volunteers were in dire need of a ‘life’. In
contrast, ‘Prayaas‘ in IIM, Ahmedabad, staying true to its name, never gave up.
It slowly grew into a bigger force, and today has 300 registered students with
60 dedicated volunteers in and around the college who have found a purpose in
their lives. This student-run initiative is the crowning jewel of the
management college, which not only provides education to the graduates and
undergraduates but is also the first school for many underprivileged children
who are taught English and Hindi along with basic moral education. The craft
class is certainly the most popular one. Prayaas has taken it forward by
inviting the children of nearby villages and even visiting certain areas to
provide education.

But it is not a one-way traffic. As
Ankush Kamboj, a dedicated volunteer of Prayaas for three-and-a-half-years now,
says, “we are there to teach them, but they teach us so much. Selfless love is
what I learned,” adding, “It is priceless to see their childhood unfold in
front of my eyes.”

Still, there is a long way to go. The
families of those children still find it difficult to allow them to earn rather
than learn. Migration is another big problem. The change is happening and now
it’s our turn to give it a little push to this thought.

Let us spread this movement to more
schools and colleges. Let us teach, or contribute towards it in some way or the
other. Let the students become the masters and the children become students.
Let the world become a better place, let the children be free. Let us take out
these children from those dark tunnels and give them a better and brighter
future.

This article is part of PaGaLGuY’s innovative internship
certification programme for engineering students. Currently,
two such programmes are on – one is an Internship in Creative Writing, and the
other is a Certification in Digital Media. If you are interested in partaking
and bagging a certificate, besides learning the nuances of effective writing,
write to us at
wordslingers@pagalguy.com

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