When we talk about “Nation Building” on the basis of policies, politics and (old) people; we miss a very important critical role which has to be played by the youth. But thanks to the changing scenario of our country – people have started realizing that the youth are not useless, but are just used-less.
I am a firm believer of the youth power and feel that if it gets connected to the society, a lot can be changed. But this connection has to be a deep rooted one, it can’t be a superficial effort to bring in bigger changes; it has to be at an emotional level. During my graduation days, I was trying to grab opportunities to work for various social causes and also connect my friends to them. What I realised at that time was that there were many people who wanted to work for a good cause but the problem was finding the right opportunity.
I was fortunate enough to get a few opportunities during college days and then, Teach For India happened. Teach For India gave me a chance to work at the ground level and understand the problems pertaining to the people belonging to the bottom of the pyramid. I joined Teach For India because I wanted to understand the need of “Bharat- The Real India”. I wanted to connect to these people, be with them, be a part of their lives and eventually find a way to connect youth and make it the solution of ever growing problems of this nation. Teach For India is the place where I met like-minded, committed and passionate people who were ready to come out of their comfort zones to make a difference. These young people made me realise that we all have the capacity to challenge the challenges of the world; they gave me hope and empowered my belief in the power of youth.
My classroom and community gave me the opportunity to learn more about the basic issues that are ignored not only by our government but also by the so-called civil society. Every day was a new lesson for me. The under resourced classroom taught me to be resourceful, 52 kids in the first year and 38 in the second year taught me perseverance, patience and sense of possibility. It actually made be believe that yes, “I Can” and “I Will”. The love showered by the students and community gave me the strength to work harder even in the gravest situations. Being a teacher is a phenomenal experience and one of the toughest ones.
Working in a government school for two years has immensely helped me understand how the government system is made dysfunctional. Education, which is one of the most important tools of our nation’s progress, is given least importance in a school. Today, I can say that in most of the government schools where focus should ideally be on its students, it is in fact on completing attendance registers and admin work. The system is made in such a way that the officials give least importance to studies; the teachers are engaged in so many other things that they hardly have any teaching time.
As an example, this year in the month of February and March, teachers were pulled out of classrooms to conduct population surveys. Classrooms were without teachers for more than a month and nobody cared. Why were only school teachers selected? Why were bank employees not selected or new people hired for this project? The answer is that the profit and loss of banks is easy to assess and is tangible. Our education system is made in such a way that there is no accountability check at any level. The first check, in case of the schooling system in India, is at Grade 10. Till then, a student has been under at least ten different teachers who can’t be held accountable in case of failure. Banks and PSUs are also government departments but they are profitable because they regularly check their profit-loss statement.
The big question is – why is education, especially primary education, ignored in our country? For a kid – the first profession that s/he witnesses is teaching, then why don’t we make our primary teachers the real role models?
Here is where I feel the role of Teach For India alumni strengthens; the journey actually starts after the two years of Fellowship. The two years of Fellowship, for me, are the learning period that equip one with tools to come out and be the change. To sum it up in a line,“Empower yourself to a position from where you can bring in the desired change.” I strongly feel positive about the potential of youth and hence, I am currently working to connect the youth to a cause under the flagship of Youth Alliance. Youth Alliance is an organization that I started during college and now it serves as a platform for youth to work for different causes.
Teach For India has taught me to question my actions before pointing out to other’s follies. Hence, at the end what matters is, “What will I do about it?”
“Service before Self”
PrakharBhartiya is currently working on connecting youth to social causes through Youth Alliance and on NGO Reach Program with NIIT Foundation. He taught for 2-years, full-time at a Municipal School in Mumbai as a part of Teach For India’s first cohort of Fellows (2009-2011).
The ‘youth’ of a country is the faction that is a time-honoured scapegoat and never fails to be a source of disapproval to someone at some point. They don’t have focus; they don’t wear too much, they smoke too much, they don’t do too much, they don’t participate politically, they ‘participate’ way too much socially – the list is endless! Even in calmer times, there’s a sword of Damocles hanging over them as a reminder that a slump in positive feedback isn’t too far behind.
The Youth Alliance, initiated by Prakhar, should keep that slump well at bay! Youth Alliance was visualised as a website that would serve as a comprehensive database of the social sector and that’s what it has turned into. Its mission statement – ‘Connect Each Youth With a Cause’ is completely understandable in a world where people are often blindsided by the amount of information there is out there and by the prospect of having to spend time going through it.
A highly motivated person, Prakhar who is a consultant with NIIT, spends a majority of his spare time on the Youth Alliance and the load of work that accompanies it, though he informs us that he should begin working on the endeavour full-time in a short while. The organisation has as strong an offline presence with projects being undertaken (such as volunteers heading into a village near Kanpur to replace all bulbs with CFLs) that would put high-level NGOs to shame.
“I have volunteered with Janaagraha when I was in my second year of engineering in college and later even became a fellow with Teach for India. Post attaining my fellowship, I went on the Jaagriti Yatra (an 18-day train journey that takes hundreds of India's highly motivated youth on a national odyssey to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship). Through my experiences, I found that even though I wanted to help, there wasn’t a cohesive platform to go to. I wanted to create such a platform,” says the activist earnestly.
What has the response been like, we ask? “(The response)...hasn’t been very high but it’s all relative. We had a seminar for Mass Communication and MBA students recently and about 150 people turned up. They were quite interested and asked a lot of questions,” says Prakhar.
If you ask who’s behind the Youth Alliance, Prakhar eagerly tells us that Youth Alliance is a family of 7 to 8 core members with 55 volunteers in Delhi alone. They have a host of volunteers in Kanpur and Lucknow and are looking to expand to the south of the country, if possible.
Endeavours like the Youth Alliance should be supported fully since the goal that they’re furthering is too important to be allowed an indecent burial under the aegis of being ‘a lost cause’ or even worse - ‘unattainable’.