A Glimmer of Hope

When I left Dharavi on Tuesday, I felt helpless. What can be done? The problems of Dharavi, and poverty and education in general, appear to be so broad and complex that they are beyond help. For a moment, I felt that we could do nothing other than give up. Today, however, I saw a glimmer of hope in the Akanksha Foundation and Teach for India. Through after-school programs and charter schools, Akanksha is changing Indian education. They are helping kids realize that learning does not come just through memorization while emphasizing the importance of education. Through a variety of methods, such as keeping kids in school 40% longer every day, Akanksha is producing fantastic results. And perhaps most importantly, they are doing so on an increasingly large scale.

One of the concepts that we have discussed frequently is scale. Take, for example, providing access to clean water. It is easy to help 1, 3, or even 30 people. With a few boxes of Bisleri, I can provide, myself, clean water to someone who needs it. But what happens when I change that number from 30 to 30,000? Or what about 30 million? The problem because far more complex, far harder to solve, and, it would seem, far more hopeless.

But Akanksha has been able to achieve scale. In the next few years, their programs and schools will help educate some 10,000 children. And over time, that number is sure to grow. More importantly, perhaps, Akanksha is providing a model for other NGOs to follow; a model that is highly successful.

At the same time, Teach for India gave me enormous hope. The fellows that we met this evening were young, energetic, and extraordinarily passionate. As I’ve said, education is an enormous challenge, but if anyone has the capacity to meet the challenge, it is Teach for India fellows.

Thus, I have some hope now. Any road to better education in India will be wrought with challenges and hurdles, but I now believe that those hurdles can be overcome.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at mlloydthomas@andover.edu.