Education is the holistic development of the child who attends the school. It also includes a close association with the aesthetic as well as the current world trends. But, do we have this 'holistic' implemented in the policies or even in the plans to make the policies about education? The answer is the rhetoric 'YES'. However, reality speaks otherwise.
We do take pride in the fact that 'Our Education System' has been the globally respected model. But, we do know that we have failed to provide the children with a meaningful process of learning which has reasons to study and learn, reasons to collaborate and serve the society, reasons to stay happy and not fall for 'blue whale challenges.
Last year, I participated in the Bhiwani Children's Literature Fest 2019 at Vidyantriksh Senior Secondary School, Bhiwani. The achievers who were on stage and the children who were the audience painted a hopeful picture of learning. The theme of the fest has been 'Inclusiveness' and the idea is very much alive when we experience the talks and tastes there. Being invited and then acknowledged not as a guest but a family member is what changes the whole paradigm of participation. This time, the assignments were larger than the 2019 version and the enlightenment was even larger. Meeting and interacting with the actual achievers is a common feature here. Padam Shri Dr Parkash Amte, his wife Dr Mandakini Amte, Chandeep Singh- The World's Fastest Para-Skater, Vidisha Baliyan- Miss World (Deaf), Kiran Kanojia- India's First Woman Blade Runner were among the ones who were not just walking and eating with us but were exactly the same we think a human should be. They are humble, honest to their words, selfless and appreciative of others around them. What makes them most special is that they connect with young children more than anyone else. They do have the option to live a life that we won't bother about, but they have chosen to 'walk the less travelled' and that does make a difference in the lives of those who get to know them.
I had the opportunity to speak to all of them and the insights they carry about life, education and the children are not just valid but valuable to us. They aren't trapped in the vices of the modern education business and are free from the 'Motivational Market'. What they say is what they live for. Padam Shri Dr Parkash Amte, inspired by his Gandhian Father Baba Amte knows only one thing and that is SERVICE and LOVE. His wife, the one who carries a blissful grace is equally inspirational as she is the one who supports the mission as the firm support. Chandeep, who does not have his arms and has nothing to make him feel sad says:
If we do not celebrate a birthday or a day of festivities for long, why to celebrate a day of loss or sadness. He lost his arms and then he moved on to become a champion in Skating and Taikwando and now he has firm eyes on Swimming. I must say that this young boy carries a smart presence and is quick to answer things in an impressive way, leaving all delighted. His youtube channel makes us see his dance moves as well. Not to forget, he is the FASTEST Para-Skater in the World (100mts).
Vidisha Baliyan is hearing impaired and can understand our words by her perfect Lip Reading Skills. She has beaten all odds to become the Miss World after being moved out of the tennis court due to injury. The joy she carries with her divine smile is contagious. She was so spontaneous in reading the words from the lips that one can hardly trace the physical limitation she has. Moreover, she made the students say WOW by the gorgeous looks she was carrying.
Kiran Kanojia, a very humble being, has a unique peace in her. She has only one leg to walk due to an accident that was actually a robbery and the criminals had pushed her out of the moving train. Having lost one leg, she stood up again and with the artificial limb, she runs in the race of life. She is India's FIRST WOMAN BLADE RUNNER. She is a Tedx Talks Speaker and a mother who is just like our own sisters and mothers, striving to win each moment. When she is in the ground, she is firm like a mountain; when she is on stage to talk, she delivers motivation and inspiration as a package.
I was in conversation with Chandeep, Vidisha and Kiran. These three represent the world which can easily be labelled as defeated due to their physical limitations. But the trio has proved the perceptions wrong. Without being able to hear, Vidisha speaks with subtle-supreme happiness; Chandeep Singh does not have arms but drives himself like a bullet on skates, he brings to ground his opponents in Taikwando and is heading to shine in the swimming pool; Kiran is also in the Hall of Fame through her determination to beat all odds. She does not have a leg but runs Marathons with the Blade and is the First Indian Woman Blade Runner.
The Amte couple carries a distinctive simplicity and an Everest of Conviction for their cause. We realise that it is the honour of the Padam Shri award that it is given to Dr Parkash Amte, not otherwise. They walk for 10 KMs daily, do yoga, eat healthy food and serve people. They are in their seventies now but the aura on their face makes them look younger than many around.
Eklavya, my son, came to the stage and narrated a story (Lion and the Mouse), adding a Haryanvi Song (Bata Mere Yaar Sudama) to its conclusion. Swati opened day -2 in an impromptu session and did storytelling. We ate too much and we learned more than that. The two days gave us reasons to believe in our ideas and perseverance. We re-affirmed our motto in teaching that we need to Coach the Children for LIFE; not for exams!
Dr Aarti Vidyantriksh and Amit Sir are the ones who deserve to be mentioned as Bravehearts. Not because they are doing something no one is doing. But they are doing something the way it SHOULD BE DONE. They are educating the children for life and are also allowing many to see this investment. Of course, they are not perfect in their mission and this is the beauty of their efforts. They aren't hunting for perfection and excellence to prove something. They are doing what they feel can add goodness to the learning and education of children. With the 700-800 students, they are walking towards Happiness and Inclusiveness in Education. Every child who comes to the premises of Vidyantriksh might not get transformed today, but the preparation and the thoughts that are planted around them shall definitely be the guiding light in future. The Achievers and Change Makers who come to the BCLF (Bhiwani Children's Literature Fest) are otherwise not available for free. I mean to say that you cannot buy their time the way they open their hearts here.
The way you see 10-year-old asking questions and the way they respond is serene and special. The way democracy is understood by the children in these interactions; the way they learn to TRUST their friends, families and teachers; the way they say that they want to be someone they WANT to BE; the way they laugh out louder than the suppressed self; the way the whole school toil to make it worth living is something rewarding. The Never Give Up spirit and the need to see the world before we quit are the takeaways from the interactions.
The annual pilgrimage is done in the first month itself. The reverence towards life and learning for life shall remain strong. Connecting with the achievers and making them part of our lives shall make us move forward with positivity.
May we be able to do our part in the classrooms and beyond!