Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world

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By Menaka Raman
We keep hearing again and again that the solution to many of our nation’s maladies lies in education.  And it’s true.
But when faced with staggering facts about illiteracyit’s easy to throw up your hands in frustration and say “The problem is just too big to solve. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about this.”

Well while we might not be able to eradicate illiteracy in children overnight or ensure that all children irrespective of their social and economic status are in school by next week, there are things we can all do to push for change.
It starts with giving freely. And not just your money.

Menaka RamanCharities Aid Foundation conducted an Annual Giving Survey in 2012, and found that in every single country, people gave more money than they did their time to good causes. There’s no doubt that funds are crucial to bringing about change, but foot soldiers are just as important.

So what can you at an individual level do? How about volunteering to be a Pratham Books Champion?  Pratham books wants as many books to be read by children as possible, and is always on the lookout for people who love telling stories to conduct sessions in government schools, libraries… and even in your own building. Be a PBChampion and read to the children of your domestic help, cooks and drivers. It might seem like a small thing, but it will have a huge impact on the children listening to you.

Companies are aware of the importance of their ability to make a significant difference in the society as well. Under the Companies Act, 2013, any company having a net worth of rupees 500 crore or more or a turnover of rupees 1,000 crore or more or a net profit of rupees 5 crore or more should mandatorily spend 2% of their net profits per fiscal on Corporate Social Responisbility activities.[9] The rules came into effect from 1 April 2014.
India Inc is heavily involved in education, health and infrastructure projects.Rustomjee, Builders is one such corporate that’s serious about educating children. Their CSR project is the Educate a Child Initiative.“It’s simple. Every time someone buys one of our homes, Rustomjee pays for a child to go to school for a year.”

Rustomjee has partnered with the NGO Aseema, who run high quality English Medium schools  through the PPP model. And it’s not just education at a school level that Rustomjee is involved in. The Rustomjee Academy for Global careers is a vocational educational and training Institute that opened its doors in 2008. The Academy focuses on providing students with contemporary learning that blends both academic and practical lessons, so that students don’t just land up on a job site with academic know how but the practical experience to put it in to practice. The Acdemy is tied up with Edexel Board, a leading European Board and with the Maharashtra Board of Vocational Education Examination. The academy turns underprivileged children from unskilled labourers in to semi-skilled foremen and Junior Engineers.

Today, over 8000 Rustomjee students are placed in 5 store hotels in JW Marriot and with automobile companies like Tata Motors and GM, earning anywhere up to 1 lakh p.a.It’s just as important to model this kind of socially conscious behaviour for our children to emulate too. Richard Weissbourd and Stephanie Jones of the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School for Education have simple, practical tips to help us teach our children empathy.

They say it’s important for parents to “Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations” and expand their “child’s circle of concern”. In today’s I, me, myself world, where will our children learn that it’s important to think about other people, when all they hear is that they should always put their needs and wants first. Use age appropriate newspaper articles to highlight the plight of children suffering in other countries and ask them what they think should be done. Children, when given a chance can come up with some wonderful ideas. One look at the Design For Change Challenge will show you that.

“DESIGN FOR CHANGE” is the largest global movement designed to give children an opportunity to express their own ideas for a better world and put them into action.”

Started by Kiran Bir Sethi of the Riverside School, Ahmedabad the Design for Change Challenge believes that  “I Can” are the two most powerful words a person can believe. Children who have discovered this are changing their world.
Design for Change reaches 34 countries and over 300,000 schools inspiring hundreds of thousands of children, their teachers and parents, to celebrate the fact change is possible and that they can lead that change. Why not ask your child’s school to take part in the challenge next year?As individuals and as organisations, we each have the power to be the change. All we need to do is find that vein of empathy and social responsibility that run within each of us.

(Menaka Raman is an education consultant and dabbles in social media in the field of education. She is a former advertising copywriter and freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in DNA, Marie Claire and Mint. A mother of two boys, this amateur runner hopes to do a sub-2 half marathon one day.)

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