An update from Radhika Maheshwari about India and Amar Seva: For the last four years I had not visited India, it had become completely unrecognizable. Malls twice the size of American Malls every mile, Industrial Parks and offices sky-high, and apartment complexes so large they often form cities of their own. The modernization of India excited me, not only because of the infrastructure improvements, but also because it provided jobs to hundreds of people. Yet in all of this positivity lays an ugly truth, which is that, the gap between the rich and poor only increases. The rich lead a luxurious life, where as the poor struggle to earn even two dollars a day. One of the biggest issues that India’s poor faces is that there is no value of education. They live by the motto that education is a luxury not a necessity. I was shocked to hear that this was the main belief, considering on all streets, alleyways, highways, and billboards there are advertisements relating to education. What majority of the general population in India, doesn’t understand is that education is the only way to stop poverty. Through out my entire journey, I learned that the hard work and dedication of a select few has been changing the lives of thousands of kids. I was fortunate enough to meet and interview the selfless people who are changing India’s education system.
The first person I met and mainly worked with was Sunita Yadav. From a young age she set out to change the fate of her peers older and younger than her. When she was just 14 in 2002, Sunita started the school for students. Students that don’t even care about education and are raised not to care. Society does not care about these children either. Why? They belong to the “Harijan” caste also known as the untouchables. India’s caste system is something that has been instilled for thousands of years, and it is away for the higher ranked people to gain more edge over the lower ranked people. Furthermore the “Harijans” have been at the bottom of society for hundreds of years and have had no equal opportunities. Sunita has especially sought after students from the Harijan caste because with out school they would waste away their days playing in trash. The students that Sunita nurtures and helps are children of hard laborers. She is giving them a once of in a lifetime opportunity, one to raise themselves out of poverty.
The location of the Amar Seva Samiti School is a haven for the Harijan children. The school is open air and simply breath-taking. Surrounded by amber mountains, under a huge tree, the Amar Seva School provides the perfect home for the young learners. The school is at the top of the hill and over looks the entire city of Jaipur. Amar Seva Samiti School is the only building standing pristine in a landfill. The school has one main building, which is made up of bricks and other materials, yet it is completely open, and each classroom is only separated by thin walls. The students lack several basic necessities such as no bathroom and no electricity. Despite the fact that the school is operating on the bear minimum, Amar Seva Samiti School has persisted in bettering the futures of these children. Through the last 10 years Sunita has attained partial land rights for her school, yet the Forest Department refuses to grant her full land rights. The Forest Department of Jaipur, has continually troubled her for not having full land rights. They have destroyed the school 3 times in a row, sometimes overnight and on holidays, yet Sunita has continued. She has rebuilt the school and made sure it remains open 6 days a week and all year round. She explained to me how if the school closes for even 4 or 5 days that some of the students would never return. Another major issue Sunita faces is she is continually undermined by chauvinistic men in her society. They have harassed people who have donated to the school and have slapped her publicly. These problems are something she accepts and welcomes because she knows that she can overcome them. Sunita Yadav is a person who believes in empowerment and she is someone who is changing the face of her community. I was able to see her work and advise students, and I enriched myself by teaching the students at the Amar Seva School.
For the two weeks I spent in India, I visited the school to teach and to learn. On the first day I was there I was assigned a group of kids who ranged from fifth grade to eighth grade. When I first started teaching I felt intimated because I don’t speak Hindi as well as they do. I did not want to make a fool of my self. I read them 3 stories from a storybook. I would then explain to them what happened in Hindi and even if I stumbled some of the students were still able to translate what I was saying. One of the students stood out to me, her name was Komal. She was able to grasp on to when I didn’t know how to say something, and she was able to translate for everyone else. For the following week she assisted me in teaching the students, especially when I could not explain it word for word in Hindi. When I felt comfortable I learned a lot about her, her dreams, aspirations and what she does after the school day ends. Not only was I able to build this trust with her but also several of the other kids opened up to me. I learned that all the girls stitch clothes after they finish school. They spend hours making textiles and other clothes for factories. The boys help their fathers out with labor or any other small jobs they can get. I learned that most of them have big dreams of becoming: doctors, engineers, police officers and several other careers.
I don’t think words can explain how much of an impact the Amar Seva School has had on me. Every day I wanted to come back and spend more time with the children and I loved how captivated they were by whatever was taught to them. Even if they didn’t understand it, they would patiently work with me until they understood it. I loved how committed they were to learning. I have never been in a classroom with so many children who are excited to learn. Their interest and zeal has made me more thankful. Not only are the students passionate and dedicated, but also the board members' efforts that are into the school are inexplicable. Sunita actions have taught me that you can change what you see. Sunita has no wealth or advantage over her students because she came from the same caste and lifestyle. This has made her work years to see these children succeed. Despite the fact that only five kids have been able to make it too college, she still continues forward. She still wants these kids to do well, even if they themselves don’t care. She wants to give these children a chance that they have not had for hundreds of years because of their caste. She knows each and every family’s story and household situations. She is resilient and that is why this school is a model for India. Sunita Yadav’s efforts will revolutionize India’s education system.
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