Don’t Let Their Dreams Remain Dreams
“One! Two!” said Swathy, one of the four Teach For India Fellows who works at the Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil English School in Sion. “Eyes on you!” roared the 40 seventh graders, over the patter of the Mumbai monsoons.
Swathy introduced the two other interns from the Communications Team, and me, to the class and gestured for us to take over. All eyes, indeed, were on us. The kids were nothing short of ecstatic to see new faces in their usual classroom, and gazed at us expectantly. We were there to conduct a session for them on the choices they would have to make in the tenth grade – between the streams of commerce, humanities, and science – and how it ties into what they would like to pursue further.
To make the session fun, we devised a quick activity for the kids. We told them to hand in two chits of paper each. On one, they were to write what they were currently interested in – hobbies, subjects and sports. On the other, they were asked to write what they see themselves doing in the future – their goals. The purpose of the exercise was for them to be able to visualize how to connect the interests on one chit to possible career goals on the other. We were giving out instructions while the kids scrambled for stationery and paper. In the midst of this clamour, one hand shot up, eagerly waving to catch our attention.
When I called on him, he stood up and asked, in all innocence: “Didi, can we have two dreams?” That’s when the reality of the situation sunk in. This three-hour school visit was only one part of our internship; and yet here was a child on the brink of adolescence, asking my opinion on the magnitude of his aspirations.
A boy who, like his classmates, trudged through narrow waterlogged streets to get to school every morning. A school that is bursting at the seams trying to accommodate their benches and tiffin boxes and ambitions.
“You can have as many dreams as you want,” replied Lavish, a fellow intern. The three of us took turns describing to them the subjects they would get to explore depending on the streams they chose, and the professions it would lead the way to. For every sentence we spoke, a few hands would go up, asking us what they should do to become lawyers, doctors, professional footballers, musicians, architects, DJs, engineers, and artists. We weren’t able to answer each question in as much depth as we would have liked, and that only made me yearn for more – more time, and more people to help these children navigate through the next few years.
The amount of time and work we as interns have dedicated to Teach For India is but a blip in the larger structure of Fellows, Alumni and Staff that work for the futures of these kids. And yet, there are many children in many classrooms who might not have a didi or bhaiya to help them figure out their dreams. So the responsibility, I think, rests on all of us – to do whatever little we can, in however many ways we know, and join the movement.
One. Two. Eyes on you.