Education- the one theme that leaped out to me from the diverse panels at the Social Good Summit. Be it a panel on empowering girls, Michael Roth‘s charismatic talk on “How to Change the World,” or, celebrities like Alicia Keys and Lily Cole, on the Social Good Summit stage, they all agreed that education is the one, true, powerful tool solve most social problems. But providing education to all comes with a complciated maze of challenges, from the side of the community, the nonprofits and governments.
When I first started working in Kalighat, Kolkata’s renowned red-light area, in charge of the education of ten children of commercial sex workers, I spent the first six months, picking them off the banks of the Ganga, kicking and screaming, for a mere 2 hours of numbers and letters. I managed to admit the children in a private school, thinking that would be the end of my responsibility towards their education. But that is when I realized the real challenges in implement quality education projects in India.
When implementing education projects for children from marginalized communities, the biggest challenge is making the children shift from an unstructured life of waking up, eating whenever they want, playing all day, to a structured life of waking up at a particular time, getting to school on time, sitting through a whole day of classes. To overcome this challenge I had to force the children to go to school every day, until they had adjusted to this structured life and it became a habit.
In communities where the first generation is being educated, it is a challenge to communicate the value of education to the families. The family of the child has a significant responsibility towards the child’s education in terms of creating a home environment conducive to studying, encouraging a child to study. In marginalized communities, it is a challenge to have families support their children’s educational needs.
However, the major challenges to implementing educational projects do not lie just within the beneficiary community, but in the educational sector itself, ie. lack of an interesting curriculum and captivating teaching methodologies for children. Boring syllabi and dry lectures drive children away from classrooms and fail to inspire them to study and learn. I feel like it is our responsibility in the development sector to develop innovative curricula and teaching methods to make education attractive for children.
After the community, the development sector, the third stakeholder in the educational system is the government. The problems within the government that prevent the effective implementation of quality education projects is the obvious evil of corruption. For the past decade the Central and State governments have been allocating large budgets towards educational developments. The challenge is in having the funds ripple down through the administration to the children.
I think the government has made an effective move in making NGOs a stake holder in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, because the development sector has much to contribute towards the effective implementation of educational projects through their own funding and human resources. Instead of duplicating efforts, if the non-governmental sector and government bodies work together, India’s educational needs can be effectively met. Being part of the non-governmental sector, I want to contribute my innovative ideas, my learnings from my experiences and my hard work towards effective formulation and implementation of educational projects.