Tell us about learning.
How were wheels invented?
How were trees formed?
How did the world begin?
If we connect many powerful computers together, can we see the face of God?
These are just a few of the several questions my students ask me. The kids are extremely thirsty for knowledge, and their genuine curiosity inspires me so much.
I began my class by sharing the story of my grandfather. A 7-year-old Hindu in the newly created Pakistan, how he had to vacate his home, leave his friends behind, and start life from scratch after he walked across the border into Amritsar. The fact that he was able to work hard, sell fruits on the streets, save enough money to educate his kids… is something that the students connect with. Everyday, they see their own parents struggling to make ends meet, whether it is pulling a rickshaw, working 12 hours in a factory on minimum wage, or making handicrafts. These kids are their only hope of transition out of poverty, through education and luck.
In a few class sessions, we have talked about evolution, universe, politics, women’s rights, and money-lending practices. We have talked about what a democracy should be and what it becomes if corruption is unchecked. My students want to know how they can do their little bit for positive change. They want to succeed in their lives, and their idea of success is to be able to add prestige to their family and country.
I asked Vijay about the career prospects for the kids. Some of them do not go to a regular school yet, some are a couple of years or so behind by age, and many of them, especially girls, are unlikely to be able to attend high school. Life, employment and stuff tends to happen before all that. “The next generation is likely to see bigger benefits. With this batch, my hope is that they do not become day laborers or rickshaw pullers. They can become security guards, peons, office boys, and 1 or 2 might get a decent government job if luck is by their side.”
The last I asked them, at least 3 boys in my class want to be engineers. 2 girls want to work in the police force, and another 2 want to be doctors. I hope their dreams come true…