In the race to demonstrate maximum impact in the development sector, we often overlook our own fulfilment derived from the work we do. I believe that if one is comfortable in their role, they might not be motivated enough to give their all. I have noticed that not many people working in this sector share their thoughts, learnings and failures in the field with higher-ups in the organisation or even with their peers.

Someone once said, “If you do not speak for yourself, then why should anyone speak for you?” On that note, let’s talk about what I feel, hoping you will relate to it having experienced similar experiences during your time in the field.

I do not know for sure what needs to be done to create happiness for thousands of children. However, I know that I derive my satisfaction from the times I work directly on the ground with the beneficiaries, children. I usually refrain from asking people for their impressions of the work we do. Instead, I prefer engaging myself in conversations with children in order to understand the impact of our interventions. This gives me the scope to understand a wider range of issues afflicting the individual or the community at large. Such informal conversations give a more nuanced and detailed range of responses and leave the door ajar for further conversations.

While in the recent past most organisations have changed their core work, there are a few which have attempted to swim against the tide. NalandaWay Foundation’s aim is to create a joyful learning environment for the comprehensive development of children. I am fortunate to have had a chance to discuss different issues with my team and manager and they were happy to accept my suggestions. I am also delighted that we often try to reach out to our stakeholders to get their input. We also openly discuss problems that we have encountered or expect to face in the field with our donors. During my journey in the development sector, I have observed most organisations do not necessarily take donors’ views into account while dealing with the issue at hand.

After the pandemic, I have had a lot of opportunities to interact with children and their parents – something I thoroughly enjoy doing. I spoke to students about their thoughts, the kinds of activities they like (or disliked) and different things which bother them. Parents wanted to know how we can help bridge the learning gap caused by the pandemic. After having long discussions with parents, I noticed that some parents complain a lot about their children but hardly encourage them in their pursuits. 

Let’s talk about a solution and hope

While keeping the needs of the children in mind, I believe that every organisation should use visual and performing arts to their advantage.

We often hear people say that every child is unique – if that is true, then why are most children still being exposed to only one type of learning – rote learning? Children need to be able to use visual and performing arts to better explore and understand the world around them.

In an inclusive environment, everyone has the freedom to follow their interests, access to basic facilities as well as justice from the society and the state. Education is one such basic facility that needs to be ensured by the government. But what kind of education should they provide at the primary or secondary level considering the unique learning abilities of every child? Many schools in our country have very good infrastructure including a playground, library, laboratories, skilled teachers and more. Children studying in these schools may have the freedom to truly explore what they want because they receive individual guidance. But what about the schools that don’t have the basic infrastructure? It is difficult but it is not impossible to make learning enjoyable for children in a way that helps them grow up to be happy, responsible and successful. That’s what we are working towards!

Some views about education from experts

  1. Every individual has a unique potential, regardless of their physical or psychological inequality. The goal of education is to aid every individual to achieve their unique potential so that they may make their unique contribution to society. (Dewey, as cited in Garrison and Neiman, 2003, 23)
  2. Education is ‘the practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the ‘transformation of the world’. (Freire, 1977)
  3. The function of education is ‘to bring about a mind that will not only act in the immediate but go beyond … a mind that is extraordinarily alive, not with knowledge, not with experience, but alive’ (Krishnamurthy, 2003)
  4. Education should be the stepping stone to knowledge and wisdom that ultimately helps the seeker on the spiritual path. It should not be seen as a narrow means of making careers and achieving social status, but for seeking a larger role for self and society. (Mahatma Gandhi on education, Gandhi Research Foundation)
  5. Education has large, consistent returns in terms of income; it counters inequality. For individuals, it promotes employment, earnings, health, and helps in reducing poverty. For societies, it drives long-term economic growth, spurs innovation, strengthens institutions and fosters social cohesion. (World Bank, 2017)

Written by Nadeem Alam. Nadeem has been a part of NalandaWay Foundation since 2017. He is involved in the planning and implementation of various projects in Delhi NCR such as the Art Labs, the Delhi Children’s Choir, and the Art in Education programme.

Nadeem worked as a child labourer in a brass factory in Moradabad, UP for more than seven years before he was rescued. Now, Nadeem has devoted his career to focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of vulnerable children.

He has completed his post-graduation in Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy from Jamia Millia Islamia – New Delhi and has done himself proud by completing various fellowships such as the Gandhi fellowship, SSE India fellowship and the AIF Clinton fellowship.