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Inspiring underprivileged students to dream big

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Poor families are finding meaning in sending their children to school to acquire knowledge and guidance and to chalk out a course of life

A child’s dreams and aspirations are to an extent influenced by the surroundings he lives in and the atmosphere he gets at home. With poverty around and parents striving hard to earn at least two meals a day, children seldom complete their studies and drop out midway. They are expected to join their parents into menial jobs to help them financially once they reach adolescence.

With no education and limited exposure, these children have no option but to continue doing odd jobs all their life and hence the vicious circle of living in penury goes on from generation to generation.

“For poor families, school is just a place where they can leave their young children while they are out for work. They do not understand what positive change education can bring in their children’s lives and have the mindset of withdrawing them from school after they are capable enough to work,” said Sejal R Patel, a teacher at the Government Higher Secondary School in Daman.

Explaining further, she said that they children also come to school because of food (mid-day meal), clothes and bags.

Education is the last thing in their mind as they grow up in an atmosphere where they have seen their parents and grandparents doing a set of odd jobs and never encourage children to go to school or follow their dreams, she added.

Patel, who teaches science from 8th-10th classes, had the herculean task of changing the perception of children toward education resulting in an improved retention rate in the school.

“I had to motivate and inspire them enough so that they start taking education seriously and aspire about a good future,” Sejal said

Patel identified some educated community members who are successful in their professional life. She then started narrating their struggles and determination in completing their education, starting a career and leading a comfortable life.

“The core of each story is that how education helped them to go up the ladder in life. The students can relate to these role models as the latter come from the same background and regular families,” Sejal said

Patel, who has been implementing this idea since March 2018, takes examples of people living around her students so that they get influenced by seeing these people every day. In a step further, she also plans to call the community members to school and conduct sessions about their life and achievements.

“The result has been very encouraging. Students, especially those from higher classes, have started showing interest in studies and discussing their future career path. The change is gradual but sure,” she said.

Patel shared her idea during the teachers’ orientation program under Sri Aurobindo Society’s Zero Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI) in Daman in April 2018.

With this method, she became one of the ZIIEI innovators and her innovation would be featured in the Innovations Handbook of Daman and Diu, benefitting other government school teachers in the union territory.

ZIIEI was launched in Daman and Diu in April 2018. Over 500 teachers were oriented and 455 innovative ideas were submitted out of which Patel’s was one of them.