What visuals does the name 'Paathshala' create in your mind'? A kid with a backpack walking towards a well-resourced school, with his or her friends in tow, laughing gaily and stepping along with enthusiasm. Really? Or is the child hurrying along dreary lanes with poor lighting, in order to reach home before it is dark, and sleeping with a measly roti in his stomach, unable to sleep?
While the words may be collective in nature, there are students who live vastly different lives and have experiences which are poles apart with regard to the institution of a school. At the base level, it boils down to what the school gives to the student in terms of amenities, services and opportunities; some may offer Olympic-level soccer fields, while others may be struggling to get the area for making a small playground.
In a country where procuring education ceases to be the incentive for encouraging parents to send their children to school and ends up being driven by the fact that the Mid-day Meal Scheme will provide food to them, the stark difference between what is offered by a public or a government-aided school and a private institution has driven the socio-economic divide between people of varying classes, deeper.
This issue is not just about playgrounds or meals or washrooms – it is a call to arms over the shift of the starting line of the race. The importance of good education is seen in the fact that without education, social and economic capital are nipped in the bud and have absolutely no space to grow. Furthermore, education is not just about books and lectures. What is targeted today as being a good educative experience transcends the basic identity of pen and paper, and goes on to include the kind of atmosphere which would encourage creativity, innovation and vision. Thus, the absence of basic computer and internet facilities, lack of developed playgrounds and fields for students to play and learn sports in, and the absolute dearth of experiences in vocational training and the arts has left a wide gap between a student from an under-resourced school and a posh establishment.
These disparate realities are what have spurred many to call for action. Project Paathshala is one such endeavor to help get the starting line to an equal and common position for all, so that students can run in the race towards a better life without anything constricting them. A flagship of LetsEndorse™, Project Paathshala aims to improve the must-haves of education in every Government, Government-aided and Affordable Private School in the country in the next five years in association with various stakeholders like Social Alpha (a Tata Trust Initiative). And our method is to deploy the most innovative, affordable and befitting solutions/models from across the globe, far and wide.
But, no initiative, however great, can create change on its own. It is only when Paathshala gets support of innovators, grassroot organizations, think tanks, philanthropists, individuals and groups who are as passionate about creating change for the better.
Let’s keep the momentum going!