I am in my final week as Sparsha.
I am both deeply saddened and ready to begin my travels. I have come to care more about these children than I knew was possible in such a short period of time. I have seen them progress academically and learn to love to read. They are SOOOO excited to bring me a book and say “I read, I read!” I wanted to read them a story and I didn’t get through the first sentence before they had began to shout “I want to read now!!”
I have always been passionate about education. My mother taught me to love to read and write, she gave me a yearning to learn. My father taught me to work hard and quietly pushed me to work hard and be tenacious.
I have always been passionate about education, but it was not until India that I truly understood the value of education. Here is the difference between slums and survival. Not just survival–success. One of the oldest girls, Kavita, just finished her 10th standard exams (comparable to our senior year). She scored incredibly well. In fact, she scored above students from more affluent backgrounds. She was interviewed on tv and a short story was published in the newspaper. Her education began years later than it should have because she went to the construction sites with her mother. She worked when all I did was play and she was still able to achieve success leaps and bounds ahead of her peers.
Kavita is amazing. In the time surrounding this achievement I have become more cognizant of the semantics that come along with an achievement like that. “can you believe it? The daughter of a construction worker!” “Her mother carries bricks on her head and she can do anything in the world!” It’s true. It is astonishing and inspiring and it gives me hope that any child can achieve any education aspiration that he/she sets her mind to.
But (you knew it was coming), I wish that we lived in a world where your parents background didn’t dictate your access to education. I believe in the power of education to be the great equalizer to to facilitate true growth and knowledge across the world. But, it doesn’t work if stories like this continue to be completely and utterly astonishing. No i am not saying that we shouldn’t commend children who have worked hard and surpassed the odds. We should always do that. Education, however, should be something that is for the daughter of brick layers, and of construction workers, and of McDonald’s employees.
I want to live in a world where everyone has to choice to receive a good education. I want to live in a world where there are more organizations like Sparsha that provide round the clock support and housing for children. Organizations that empower kids to love to read, to value education.
These children value education and reading in a way that more people should. Education should not be the thing you are forced to do until you’re 16. Knowledge is a paradox of right and privilege. Everyone should have the right to an education, but we also need to appreciate that knowledge is a privilege–something to be cherished.
I am leave early Saturday morning. I will be able to come back and see the girls one more time before I leave. I only hope that I can refrain from crying too much.
Here is a photo of me in a Sari, they dressed me, gave me a big red bindi, did my makeup, and braided my hair.