Meet Adithya, Teach For India 2012
Meet Adithya, Teach For India 2012
Adithya Narayan is a 2012 Teach For India Fellow who teaches Grade 4 in a low-income school in Malwani, Malad-West, Mumbai. These are his words:
My first experience with Malwani was when my father decided to visit the community, to have a look at the school I was going to teach in. He lost his way in the community though, and a couple of wrong turns later, he stopped a lady to ask for directions. She asked him to turn right around and go back to the main road, because that this place wasn’t safe for him. My father, however, persisted and managed to find his way to my school. He also managed to come safely back home that night, but I couldn’t help but feel extremely uncomfortable about the community, and what it was going to be like, when my father told me about what happened that day.
A couple of days later I set foot in school, and almost immediately saw a few 3rd grade children who were literally begging for forgiveness, get thrashed by a teacher in the corridor in school for coming late on the first day. It began to sink in that some of what I had feared the most about the community might actually be true. I stepped into class on that first day with the realization that while teaching English, math, history, and science in an under-resourced school in a low-income community was going to be a difficult task, it was only a part of the big challenge that Teach For India spoke about, so often.
The kids that we teach in our schools come from violent, angry and deprived backgrounds. They are perpetually surrounded by examples of violence, pessimism, anger and failure every day, and the negativity breeding in these communities, coupled with a complete lack of inspiration, makes it impossible for them to desire to want to be something else. And the core of this lies simply in the fact that they haven’t seen (and probably never will see) enough of the other side to know any better for the rest of their lives.
Their lives are like dead leaves lying on the floor, that no one cares about, pointless, and with no love and care, because their parents while struggling to make two ends meet, have no luxury of time to spend with their children. This time, love and care that we took so much for granted, while growing up. It is depressing, to say the least, to watch children grow up in a community like this, completely devoid of opportunity, with no reason to live a better life, and worse, no choice for any other way to go.
And it is here that the ridiculous 94% school drop out rate in the country begins to make sense. These kids drop out of school by the time they reach high school because in a community like this, over a period of time, school and education stop making any sense to them and their parents. And right here, in the middle of all this chaos, lies the crux of what Teach For India believes in, and is trying to do. The potential for change that you can bring about single handedly as a Fellow, in the lives of these children from these deprived communities is overwhelming. You realize that in your class you have the power to show these children a world completely different from the one they live in. A world that appreciates hard work, and respects sensitivity—a world that you were lucky to grow up in. Most importantly, it comes down to you to make them believe that it is okay for them to dream from where they are, and that one day in spite of all the odds, they will achieve what they want to, their backgrounds notwithstanding.
Herein, lies the real challenge of the Teach For India Fellowship. The real challenge of the Fellowship doesn’t lie in teaching math, English or science to children who are at a lower learning level than their peers, but it lies in walking into a community thus, and taking charge of a classroom and changing it at any cost into a place where children believe that they can become whatever they want to become, in spite of what people around tell them .
And this experience is so powerful that it changes you as a person, in ways you often don’t often recognize. You mould yourself as a person, to become a better role model for your children, simply, because you feel your kids deserve a better person to look up to.
Some day, 10 years after you have finished your Fellowship, your children will step into college, and look back and remember the days when you walked into their class and changed it all for them, and gave them reason to believe that where they came from was not going to determine where they reached. And that is the sole reason that makes me get up every day. It's reason enough to try and do what I can do, to the best of my ability, despite the struggle and the hardships, for the children I teach every day.
50 million children in streets and slum communities across the country are living horribly impoverished lives, in violent communities with no future or any better life in sight, through absolutely no fault of theirs. Maybe one day, you will walk into their community and into their lives, and give them a reason to believe.