To celebrate and explore the potential of student leadership, Teach For All is collecting and sharing stories from across the network and around the globe. When students LEAD, we all LEARN.

Teach For India

Beyond the gaps: discover the world beyond

Student Leaders
Priyanka, Maya Student and current UWC student
Adult Supporter
Sanaya Bharucha
Age of Students
17

Please describe how your students exercised their leadership and the impact they had.

Priyanka organized a 10 day internship for students from around the world to live in her home and teach students in various schools in and around her low-income community in Pune. They put up a showcase with over 100 children at the end of their 10 days.

Here is the note she shared with participants:

Beyond the gaps: discover the world beyond

Purpose: To create a platform for young individuals to experience a different reality and to share their stories, skills and learnings with children who are often left behind due to under-privileged family background.

Aim: To try and satisfy the needs of children from various age groups in the community by equipping them with the most basic skills.

Facilities provided: Accommodation will be provided at my house along with food. Travel expenses and any other personal expenditures will have to be covered by the individuals themselves. We will also be doing some historical and cultural visits of the city. 

Age of the individuals: 15- 18 years

Basic Activities: Working with different age groups of children in the community and equipping them with basic skills that they need including reading, writing, speaking confidently etc.Art activities such as painting,singing,dancing or anything that you are good at are also welcomed! However maximum attention would be given on specific activities based on the age-group we will be working with. 

Time period: 4th of July to 15th of July. Arrivals and departures can be based on your convenience but participation of minimum 10 days is required.

Challenges:Two weeks of intense work with the children and the community! We will begin our journey by identifying the problems and their graveness in the community which might be difficult for the individuals with first-time experience.Participants will be challenged to live with limited comfort facilities and will have to make an individual commitment to a personal journey for the two weeks.

Possible help and support: Teach for India an educational NGO, Epiphany English medium school, St John's Old Age home,and government officials in the community.

Here is a link to her project plan, showcase and agenda for the duration of her project: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxfBtgzrpRmTb0htWEhaM3psaEU/view?usp=sharing

What role did you play in supporting your students’ leadership?

Almost None.

What did you and your students learn in this activity that will endure beyond today?

Here is a link to Priyanka’s reflections:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxfBtgzrpRmTWVlMM3llaFAzS0k/view?usp=sharing

 What did you learn from the project? I had assumed that people with political, financial and social power were the ones who drive change or help others to drive change. In other words, the power holders are the leaders or the ones who help the leaders to initiate change. This belief was challenged when I was trying to assemble resources for the project. While I was going around the community and my neighborhood to gain support from these very power holders with high hopes; I was disheartened with tremendous replies such as ‘we have better things to do’, ‘he is not in the office today’ (for the fifth time in a row), ‘I am currently eating, sleeping, attending meetings for my publicity for the elections (which I found was ironic since I was asking him to help us with something which was ‘for’ the community)’. This was however not the reason why I say that I had my assumptions challenged. The reason behind this change in belief was instilled by a 64 years old woman who despite of her health problems walked with me house to house in sun and rain with priceless belief in me and my intentions asking for help. This day or rather this strong woman taught me that we underestimate the actual power holders in the community- the common people.

The project helped me to resolve the conflict between ‘serving and interfering’ in a community. Not only through the project itself but also through the thunderous discussions we had amongst ourselves while reflecting. Is an attempt to bring about a change in a community that I hardly understand appropriate? How do we differentiate ‘serving’ and ‘ignorantly interfering in a community’? These were the questions that we were faced with and tried to answer. I realized that even though we were doing this for the community the volunteers were still ‘the foreign hands’. And even though the purpose of this project was to unite the two diverse sides of reality trying to break the barriers that our financial, social circumstances create thus ‘bridging the gaps’; there was a lot of tension when some people/groups called this project an unneeded initiative which was also termed as a way of usurping money.  I faced lot of criticism behind getting international volunteers. However, this deepened my understanding of what ‘service’ means to me and taught me how to stand up to my beliefs even at times when they are challenged.

Things that could have gone better- The project was less focused on the ‘learning outcome’ and more focused on the ‘learning process’.  At the end of the project many kids were in tears due to the fact of not being able to see their ‘didis and bhaiyas’ again, many parents remarked how their kids have been reporting all the sessions at home with tremendous enthusiasm and how happy they were for their kids to have had at least some training in the arts that they like despite of not having enough financial aid to do additional and professional training. Even though we and the kids were satisfied after the show that they had put up for their parents, some of the performances that the kids put up lacked shape and professional structure. I think that if we had balanced the ‘learning outcome’ with the ‘learning process’, we would have had a stronger impact altogether.

Long term learnings- I definitely deepened the understanding of my community and the educational crisis that it faces. While doing the community walk when we accidently walked into the narrowest lanes of the community that had no further roots but ended abruptly and when we faced some more similar lanes over the walk a thought struck me. In spite of being ‘aware’ of the educational injustice that my community faces, taking up the role of doing something about the problem and yet being slapped in the face with the bitter truth that I will never be able to reach out to ‘every’ kid in the community (the kids that live at the end of every narrow lane) traumatized me but at the same time strengthened my belief that this is what I want to dedicate myself to. To enable every last kid in the community to get what they don’t only deserve but have the right to access- education (don’t misinterpret it for literacy!).