While the rest of the world celebrates Children's Day on November 20 every year, India celebrates it six days ahead, on the birth anniversary of its most beloved Prime Minister - Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. With the Right to Education Bill passed successfully by our parliamentarians, education has become a fundamental right of children across the country.
However, education is not penetrating the darkest corners of India’s society, due to poor implementation. But at the same time, educationists across the country are doing their bit by stretching a lending hand to the needy and teaching the importance of education in a child's life.
Sharonee Mullick, principal of Singapore International School (SIS), Mumbai, said, "Even though the literacy rate has gone up in our country, there are large sections of society which are deprived of basic education. It is our duty to step in and share our resources with those who are in need of help."
Following the belief, the IB School, has adopted Vivekanand Madhyamik Vidyalaya (VMV) at Vikramgarh, as a part of a Saturday school project, since August 2007. "Our children teach their counterparts who are underprivileged, on health education and different types of vocational skills with a vision that it will help them for their livelihood. This was started by Grade 12 students and taken over by the Grade 11 with more involvement and participation even from lower grades," she added.
Meera Isaac, principal of Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort, agrees, stating that providing holistic education to children should be the main objective of the country.
"We have been striving to provide a holistic education that imparts knowledge as well as moral value to the children. At our school, we undertake several initiatives such as exchange programmes, social work etc to inculcate knowledge to them," she said.
With education gaining more significance in children's lives, the country is seeing an increased number of non-government organisations (NGO) working in the field. Child Rights and You (CRY) and Umang Foundation are some of the prominent NGOs working in the field of education for the needy children.
"We are involved in distributing free books, stationary and bags for the underprivileged children in the city. We will also be celebrating this children's day with such students, hosting fun activities for them," said Ashish Goyal, Umang Foundation. However, Avnita Bir, principal of RN Podar School, Santacruz felt that India is not able to manage the human resource it has to its full potential.
"People say that India has a very young population and that we have a demographic advantage of such a majority. However, this majority can achieve full potential and contribute only if education and skills are provided. Only then we will be able to meet the challenges the 21st century throws at us," she said.
Nitya Ramaswami, Head of Child Development and Academics at Kidzee and Zee School, one of the largest chains of educational institutes, firmly stresses on the importance of education.
"We call children are our future, but they are also the present. It is imperative that each one of us honour the right of every child to education. Education for children must be universal, enabling their development, free of discrimination, participatory and enabling them for life," she said.
She further emphasised that devoid of education, children would be vulnerable to exploitation. "Education must empower the child with life skills, build character and assimilate information, imbibe values, teach them to respect and act with responsibility. If we achieve this, we are creating an empowered and enlightened generation for tomorrow," she added.
Lina Ashar, chairperson of Kangaroo Kids Education Limited, said, "Children should indeed be educated to become worthy citizens of the world. Education brings to them knowledge, skills and attitude that helps them create their own paths to success and self actualisation. Without education their developments would be responses to specific stresses. As children grow up, they might find themselves unequal to the challenges that life might throw up at them."
Straight from the heart: Perspectives on the importance of education for all children
Farah Khan is a choreographer and film director
"I support three charities, Baljivan for the homeless, Sneha for the education of slum children and women, and Javyakeel School, which looks after education for mentally challenged kids. Only after I was blessed with three children did I realise that we do need to look after the children of the country and education is the basic necessity. When you are single you tend to be selfish, but when your own children come along, you realise that every one of us has the moral duty to realise that the children of the country, especially poor and downtrodden are our responsibility too and they all deserve good education. Someone has to take the initiative to do work towards educating these children. I think education is the key aspect, which could help our country grow in leaps and bounds, apart from of course, helping these kids immensely. I sincerely believe that education holds the key solution to most problems like population, diseases, etc. that are bothering the country. I think the sole reason why I did better than a lot of my peers is because I was perhaps better educated than them.”
(As told to Shubha Shetty-Saha)
Siddhartha Basu is a TV producer
"Curiosity is the key that drives learning, and if a child's natural curiosity is whetted and fed, unfettered by narrow confines of strict limits and restrictions of subjects, you have a sound foundation for life. Learning is vital to lifelong growth, and is too often made a slave merely to skills, application and careers.
It's never been easier to find things out for yourself. As never before, there's such a wealth of information and knowledge available at our fingertips.
The thing is to know how to look well and wide, yet thoroughly. If you equip a child to do this, and discover the fun of finding out, it will not only provide better answers to all those teeming questions in the young mind, but will make for a far better person and world.
When there is such overwhelming want of every kind in our country, the challenge, of course is to try and do this for as many children as possible. Its a gargantuan task, but that's what we need to work towards. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
(As told to Ranjib Mazumder)
Shankar Mahadevan is a singer and music composer
"Education is by far the most important requirement for kids in a country like India which is growing so fast. Basically a little bit of far sightedness towards education is important if we want to see our country literate, I mean complete literacy at all levels. We must make our education system successful. Every parents and teacher should focus on imparting education because it is the basic requisite for the wholesome development of a child. Education is the only tool which develops a child's personality and gives a confidence to face the world. And by education, I don't only mean bookish education. You can always differentiate very easily between a well educated person and a person who is not literate; education with knowledge gives the person finesse.
Whatever said and done, education should not be neglected. Just because I am a successful music director, it doesn't necessarily mean that my kids have to follow the same path. If they are interested, they can do so but as parents we give equal importance to education. Even when I was into music, I never neglected my studies.
(As told to Ranjib Mazumder)