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“Solving challenges that face my community”
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“Solving challenges that face my community”

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Ishan Agarwal picA small scale venture to promote education can be a first step toward economic opportunity, writes Ishan Agarwal, 20, a Correspondent from Kolkata in India, as he envisions a plan to help the poorest of the poor.

India, though termed as a developing country, is plagued by a multitude of social, economic, environmental, infrastructure, political and geo-political problems that have retarded its growth and prevented its masses from enjoying the benefit of economic progress it has made so far. In my opinion, India is still an underdeveloped country.

The list of infrastructure and social problems seems endless.

In my opinion, poverty and lack of quality education are two of the most pressing problems that I would like to tackle after I complete my education. The two are interlinked and often it has been seen that one leads to another.

The multi-dimensional poverty index developed by Oxford University declares India to be even poorer than Africa.

One of the reasons for this abject poverty is the lack of employment opportunities. This needs to be tackled through the creation of more jobs on the one hand, and encouraging entrepreneurship on the other.

One of the reasons for unemployment and poverty is the lack of both the resources and the will for education. While resources can be built, it is the lack of motive and will to pursue education that needs to be changed.

As a Peer Educator, I have interacted with hundreds of poor children, many of whom are as bright as you and me, and many of whom want to pursue education, but because of parental pressure they are unable to do so.

When I complete my education I have a plan about how I am going to change this mind set.

I plan to start in a very small way, with just a few students, in a model poor village.

I plan to enrol one girl and one boy from the poorest of the poor in that village.

This is where the donors will come in. I will assure the student’s family receives payment of twice the amount that these children would have contributed to the household income for the next ten years, in return for the parents’ assurance that they will allow their children to study and complete their education.

Through a system of voluntary peer educators, I will train these children and enrol them in a formal school. They will also get some vocational education, for example tailoring and carpentry.

Once they are of legal age to work, while they continue with their formal education, their vocational training will allow these children to contribute several times more to the family income than they were contributing initially.

If I am able to show how, through education, these children have been able to empower and liberate themselves, it is likely that many more children will then join such a program. It is likely to spread from one village to another, slowly gathering steam, as others replicate and implement it across the country.

Since this program starts with a few children, the funding requirement will not be large. In any case, Corporate Social Responsibility has become mandatory in India, and raising funds from corporate houses is not as difficult as it was before.

A lot of discussion and dialogue with the village heads, parents and society at large is required before I do this. I need to create, through friendly media, a sort of chaos to shake the very thought processes of my countrymen.

I firmly believe that the time to act for each Indian has arrived. Action needs to follow mere conversations, as just rhetoric will not suffice.

I appeal to all Indians to rise up and through the power of education empower our children and youth. Throw the monster of unemployment, poverty, hunger and misery permanently out of the lives of millions of our countrymen.

All of us can certainly do it. We just need to start, each one in his own small way. Let’s stop contemplating and start acting. Remember, it is tiny individual drops that together make the mighty ocean.

As more fortunate members of our community, it is our duty to see that the poverty and deprivation faced by these children is transformed by the liberating power of education to result in glee, joy and hope instead.

I am – and will be – a peer educator for life, and in my own small way will try bringing about a change in the lives of a few people at least.

photo credit: Kids on the Bus via photopin (license)
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About me: I am presently a student at the iconic Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree.
I intend majoring in Mathematics with electives in  Computer Science and Quantum Physics, and thereafter pursue either a MS or PhD degree.
I aspire to one day be able to use the superior power of quantum computing and mathematical analytics to transform lives and make the world a better, easier and friendlier place for everyone to live in.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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