Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Inspired by a 16-yr old

I was pointed to a BBC story this morning by @ShashiTharoor, and was immensely moved by it. Wanted to blog about it, but was kept from it by work.

I would like to tell the story by quotes from the article itself:
[16 year old]Babar Ali's day starts early. He wakes, pitches in with the household chores, then jumps on an auto-rickshaw which takes him part of the 10km (six mile) ride to the Raj Govinda school. The last couple of kilometres he has to walk.

The school is the best in this part of West Bengal. There are hundreds of students, boys and girls. The classrooms are neat, if bare. But there are desks, chairs, a blackboard, and the teachers are all dedicated and well-qualified.

As the class 12 roll-call is taken, Babar Ali is seated in the middle in the front row. He's a tall, slim, gangly teenager, studious and smart in his blue and white uniform. He takes his notes carefully. He is the model student.

Babar Ali is the first member of his family ever to get a proper education.

So far so good. Lucky kid from poor family is able to raise enough money to pay for the transport costs (~1800 Rupees a year). Wants to study. OK. Heartwarming, but what is the big deal about this?

Well, this is.[emphasis mine]
The minute his lessons are over at Raj Govinda school, Babar Ali doesn't stop to play, he heads off to share what he's learnt with other children from his village.

At four o'clock every afternoon after Babar Ali gets back to his family home a bell summons children to his house. They flood through the gate into the yard behind his house, where Babar Ali now acts as headmaster of his own, unofficial school.

Lined up in his back yard the children sing the national anthem. Standing on a podium, Babar Ali lectures them about discipline, then study begins.

Babar Ali gives lessons just the way he has heard them from his teachers. Some children are seated in the mud, others on rickety benches under a rough, homemade shelter. The family chickens scratch around nearby. In every corner of the yard are groups of children studying hard.

Babar Ali was just nine when he began teaching a few friends as a game. They were all eager to know what he learnt in school every morning and he liked playing at being their teacher.

Now his afternoon school has 800 students, all from poor families, all taught for free. Most of the girls come here after working, like Chumki, as domestic helps in the village, and the boys after they have finished their day's work labouring in the fields.

800 students!! Holy Fscking crap!

The article goes on to say that there are a total of 10 teachers there now, all students at other schools or colleges, all voluntarily contributing their time.

The article also says that these kids do not have a roof to study under, so when it rains, classes stop.

But unlike (you and) me who was happy when school was off due to rains, these kids are surmounting HUGE odds to study, and to teach.

Seriously, read the article. There are videos there too.

Oh, how I wish I was able to take 6 months to a year off to do something like this :-|.

P.S. Another interesting post was made by Abi recently about the new NCERT books, which are making science and maths education more fun and relevant in Indian schools. Good to see some progress there.


  1. Wow!

    This is really good...n inspiring...at times really feel bad about wasting so much time..

    thanks Ani..

  2. Now, that's what I call inspiring!

  3. Whoa! This guy certainly deserves Respect from the bottom of my heart!

  4. Babar Ali, as a friend rightly suggested yesterday, should be the brand ambassador of ToI's 'each one, teach one' campaign and NOT Mr. Amir Khan.

    As for the second bit of news, about NCERT books, I can say I have seen some of them first hand and came away very impressed. Every chapter, especially in Maths, is dealt as a concept and not as a series of 'theorems', 'corollaries' and 'exercises' we used to have in the 90's.

  5. @Keerty, Khanna, Starman: I totally agree.

    @Varun: Nice point about the each one teach one. But how about Mr. Khan showing up at a ceremony with Babar, mixing his appeal with Babar's track record?

  6. incredible post....thanks for sharing!