Sachin's Story: Happiness Is...

“Some people cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go”

This quote, written on the classroom chalkboard, speaks to North Carolina teenager Sachin Raghavendran during his tour of Girls Government Middle School (GGMS) in rural Hoskote, India. He sees happiness reflected in the students of this poor, unmodernized town. Happiness over the things we normally take for granted: warm food, clean water and a good education.

This area of South India has an overall literacy rate of 70%, which may not be great by Western standards, but beats the country’s average of 59.5%. The GGMS, attended by both boys and girls from grades one through eight, is a government-funded school that partners with the Akshara Foundation, which uses the same child-centric, interactive learning methods as its Pratham model.

Sachin is awed to see such learning methods in action. “I saw a child reading Kannada [the local language] with considerable proficiency considering that she wasn’t able to read at all three months ago.”

In India, all subject areas are treated with equal importance, so English is stressed as well as math, science and the native language. Here, the teacher writes phrases on a large chalkboard and uses a stick to point out the words as she reads them. A little girl named Aruna slowly follows her, reading aloud: “There was a cat. The cat is fat. The fat cat ate a rat.”

“It is amazing to see a six-year-old child with the ability to read sentences in a foreign language so nicely,” says Sachin.

Like Pratham, the Akshara Foundation makes learning the basics a priority. If a child is taught properly and “led in the right direction,” then he has a better chance of moving forward in his education and being successful. In this vein, the teachers are relentless in their dedication to educating the community’s children.

“The teachers are humble, yet they hound the parents and continuously visit their houses until the parents relent and send their children to GGMS,” Sachin remarks. “It warms my heart to see the headmaster talk truthfully and eloquently with many of these parents and urge them to seize the chance for a free, quality education.”

The school’s facilities are good by Indian standards, however Sachin cannot help but compare them to American schools. The computer lab does not have enough computers, and power is erratic; the library is sparsely outfitted, although book donations are coming in. He also knows there are Indian schools much worse off than this.

The students at GGMS do not seem to mind. To be in a school with running water, healthy meals every day, two uniforms and quality teachers who care—that is what matters to them.

“All that we take for granted is a blessing in the eyes of India’s poor children,” says Sachin. “Anything we can do to bring happiness is vital to their success. Problems like crime and overpopulation can be solved by following Akshara’s and Pratham’s vision of providing quality education to children everywhere.”

Do you want to see Pratham’s programs in action? Schedule a site visit in India.

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