In this conclusion of our series ”Voices from a Path Breaking School,” we cover why educational initiatives like Isha Vidhya are absolutely essential for India, and how you can make miracles happen in a child’s life. Over the course of this series, we detail the insights and experiences of an Isha volunteer intent on sharing the stories of transformation brought about through Isha Vidhya.
“For integrity to flourish in society, we have to nurture it – within ourselves, in our children, in our education systems.” - Sadhguru
A Broken Romance
After visiting Isha Vidhya, my romantic idea of village children dropped. When I was taken to the areas where over 50% of Isha Vidhya students live, I saw: old women and men with desolate eyes, fleshless young women carrying logged wood or water, small children sitting on a street side washing vessels using ashes and water streaming on the roads, 6x6 thatched houses with no furniture filled with families of 5–6 members. I saw the heart wrenching impressions of poverty. It was difficult to hold back tears.
However, I also saw hope and pride shining bright in the eyes of people who were working in Isha Vidhya or had their children studying there. Soon, as we were traversing the village lanes, every time we encountered an unhappy looking child, I would turn and ask the accompanying principal, “Why is this child not in Isha Vidhya?” After a while, she replied grimly, “How many children can we really accommodate with our current resources? How many teachers can we inspire to work at the low salaries we can afford with our current financial status? How many people can we employ for our current operations?”
She was right.
My perception evolved. I now know Isha Vidhya is not some fancy initiative of a social missionary. It is a burning necessity. An essential responsibility for us to do whatever we can to uplift our children from sinking into the pits of poverty. It is our legacy to create an atmosphere of joyful learning so children do not drift into depression, drugs, or thoughts of suicide from exam pressure.
And it is in OUR hands. Every single donor can do miracles, because in Isha Vidhya, the love and dedication of the teachers, caretakers, and helpers transforms every rupee into something more powerful than money: possibility.
Education – the Ticket out of Poverty
Social reformers of all times have known this – education is the biggest socio-economic enabler of the masses. Thanks to the work of successive post-independence governments and NGOs in the country, today it has seeped into the consciousness of even the most underprivileged people of the country that education is their children’s ticket out of poverty. So even those living in severe poverty aspire to send their children to school.
Education becomes a cruel joke when after 15 years in school, one is still unemployable.
As a result, India today has the highest school enrollment and literacy rate ever in its history. Yet, we are far from having achieved the ideal of universal education or reap its benefits. This is partly due to the deficiencies in the implementation of the education policy across the country. Inadequate infrastructure, staffing, absenteeism of teachers and students have not only resulted in high drop-out rates but also in poor quality of education. Even when students successfully clear qualifying exams, employers have often complained that our graduates are often severely un-employable. This is a travesty in itself.
Imagine an impoverished family struggling to barely make ends meet investing in 15 years of education, only to find that their child has no employable skills. Imagine the life of a child who gave the best 15 years of his life to a system that later tells him he has received nothing in return.
Education creates cultural aliens ashamed of themselves and their roots
The second part of the problem is intrinsic to the nature of the education itself. The current system, as practiced in most of our schools, is mostly of colonial design, the fundamental nature of which is to alienate a person from his tradition and roots. The massive, mindless application of this system is largely responsible for the creation of a whole class of cultural orphans who are derisive of their roots and pine for the affluence of the West. Any society as rich and diverse as India is, bereft of its cultural fabric, is a disaster in the making – at both an institutional and individual level.
Sadhguru has often spoken about how we do not have enough land, resources, or even sky for all 1.2 billion people in India. Human resources are our only and biggest resource. He says, “If we don’t skill India, we will kill India.” And it is as plain as that. However, without a humanistic approach to education, without absorbing and nurturing the natural cultural ethos within our children, if we were to blindly pursue literacy goals, we would be creating a large mass of unemployable youth who are cultural aliens in their own skin and surroundings.
Contribution of Isha Vidhya: Quality Education Ingrained with Traditional Values
It is in a scenario like this that path breaking efforts of institutions like Isha Vidhya are of paramount importance. Their community-based holistic approach to education not only ensures that the academic deliverables are not compromised upon, but at the same time produce individuals who are well-integrated into their communities and cultures.
While their academic skills enable them to develop into their full potential and earn their way out of poverty, the cultural rooting that they receive in the school make them valued members of their community. Producing such individuals is the key to ensure the continuity of our cultural heritage and passing it on to future generations.
So if you are an Isha Vidhya donor, or a sponsor, or a supporter, you should know that your contribution is creating this priceless infrastructure, one child at a time.
If this is the first time you have come across something about Isha Vidhya, I encourage you to immerse yourself, like I did, into a journey through their community and see for yourself what kind of magic human beings have created.
Editor’s Note: “Innovating India’s Schooling” is a conference, designed and conducted by Isha Vidhya, Isha Home School and the Isha Leadership Academy to bring together concerned individuals and thinkers from the fields of education, government and industry. Through a series of lectures, debates and discussions, the conference seeks to redefine education as a tool to not just create a highly productive workforce, but also shape an inclusive, responsible and joyful society. The event also marks the tenth anniversary of Isha Vidhya, the rural education initiative of Isha Foundation. Learn more. Follow #10YrsOfIshaVidhya on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.