AN OPEN LETTER to Anna Hazare

Dear Anna Hazare, I have known you through the media from the past few months. I have been told that you are an practical and reasonable man. I would like to believe this, but there a few questions in my mind…

Your fight is against corruption and your solution to eradicating all corruption related problems is The Lokpal Bill. I am sure you are aware that we passed a historic Right to Education Bill almost 2 years ago nothing has changed on the ground. Are you serious that you want me to believe that by passing the Lokpal bill all my corruption related problems will be solved?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

We have innumerable laws and several bodies like the police, cvc, cbi etc. that are meant to keep the society in check. These agencies and existing laws have not worked well, is it the problem with the law or its implementation? Comman sense tells me that implementation and effectiveness needs to improve. But you are telling me that we should create another body and a new law?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

You keep telling me that all politicians are corrupt, all government servants are corrupt. Agreed our society is corrupt. Then where on earth are you going to land up getting thousands of spotless people to be the ‘Lokpals’ and if I may ask what will happen if the Lokpals themselves are corrupt?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I live in Karnataka and my state is struggling to find its Lokayukta. Do you have anyone in mind who has such a spotless character that can be the next Lokayukta, or do you suggest we get someone imported? Finding one in a state with several crores is a challenge where will we find thousands to fulfill the Lokpal requirement?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I always thought your fight was against corruption, then why does it sound like your fight is against Congress. I am a citizen of UP, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, I have to caste my vote next month. You tell me not to vote Congress, can you please enlighten me as to who I should caste my vote? Or you are telling me that all parties excluding Congress are not corrupt? I am confused kindly clarify?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

You have been telling the world that you are the voice of the people of India? I am an Indian citizen, I do not remember giving you my voice, then how come you are claiming you are my voice? You are representing me without my permission and you are fighting what? Oh yes corruption… Kindly clarify?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

Whenever I watch you on TV you keep telling me that you know the solutions to my problem of corruption. You sound too over confident, actually I think the right word is arrogant, not sure…
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

Whenever I watch you making your demands you sound like a five year old kid that threatens to cry if he does not get his candy. I know you are quite old, but when will you grow up?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

My value education book told me that education is the solution to all the ailments of society. I was wondering why you have not been telling people to give the right values to children at home and in schools. Why is education not a part of your agenda?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

According to the Lokpal Bill all the corrupt will be punished. Let me share a secret of my school days, whenever my teacher punished me I did not stop what I wanted to do, I just found another way to do the same thing. You want me to believe that punishment and fear will stop corruption, when that does not even work in schools?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

We have over 2 million NGO’s in India, yet we still have millions of problems in India. We all know how corrupt NGO’s and corporates can be, how come you do not want them to be covered under the Lokpal?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I watched you on TV when you said that you will be the first one to take a gun and fight against Pakistan. Can you please enlighten me as to which problem of this world was solved by war? And by the way you have been compared to the Mahatma Gandhi, you call your movement non-violent, and you nurture thoughts like these?
Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

I believe that corruption is not the biggest problem, it is the manner in which we have educated our children over the years that is the key issue. The most corrupt people in our country are the educated ones that went to school and studied maths and science but their schools and teachers did not teach them the right values. Parents told them to grow up get a good job and a good life, but forgot to tell them the importance of virtues and values. It is EDUCATION Dear Anna and not LEGISLATION that can rid societies of corruption…     Yet I would like to believe that you are a reasonable man!

– Syed Sultan Ahmed

December 2011 – Time will tell

I must start off by thanking all the participants of our Excellence in School Education Conclave that was held at the JN Tata Auditorium IISc Bangalore between 11th to 13th November. Leveraging joy, imagination and innovation was the theme of the conclave and over 400 educators got an exposeure to an amazing array of perspectives, views, thoughts, discussions, insights and debates on different aspects of education.

As an educator I was immensely satisfied with what I got in those 3 days and I walked away enriched from the conclave. If I were a principal of a school I would have made note of 3 key learnings:-

–        The present system is not churning out good quality teachers who are ready to impact students lives. Schools cannot hire teachers and expect them to teach the next day or the even the next month, they should take on the onus of training/coaching them for several months before they are put on the job. In addition consistent and constant coaching is a must.

–        Parents have to be brought into the learning fold, schools must invest time and energy to ensure that ‘Parenting Skills Education’ is an integral part of the school system. If you cannot teach parents you cannot do much with children these days.

–        Gone are the days when education imparted information, in this ‘google era’ information is available to all. People don’t goto get information, information comes to us! Tomorrow If children don’t come to schools, can schools go to children? How? This maybe the direction to think as the society gets increasingly disillusioned with education.

The overall response from the participants and the enthusiasm that was witnessed at the conclave is rarely seen in educational events. As a host of the event I learned that there is a great need for educators in India to come together in an atmosphere of ‘Meaningful Dialogue’ to learn, share and grow as individuals, thereby enhancing the quality of education.

In the early part of November I had an opportunity to participate at the World Innovation Summit – WISE Doha 2011, organized by the Qatar Foundation. I must admit that it was a great experience rubbing shoulders with over 1000 educators and innovators from over 130 countries. What came out clearly from the discussions and presentations is that across the globe people are struggling with the same issue – changing society and children. Keeping pace with the change is the biggest challenge for all educational systems. Everyone is in agreement that the future is very uncertain and the way we are educating today will no longer hold good tomorrow. How will we educate in future only time will tell. But my guess is that as long as ‘humanity’ remains we will always look up to another ‘human’ to teach us. The biggest challenge according to me will be able to ensure that schools in future enable generations who can still remain ‘humane’.

November 2011 – Make Children ‘Sensitive’

I had the privilege to visit Doda district in Jammu recently to launch the Manipal Life Skills for the government school students of that region. Doda is one of the remotest districts of India the entire area is hilly and is spread over an area of approximately 12,000 sq. kms. Less than a decade ago it was notoriously famous for terrorist activities and it’s was one of the most dreaded places to be in. Things have changed dramatically over the past few years and the priority of the government is to improve the standard of living for the people and special attention is being given to education.

 

The Manipal Life Skills program is a CSR initiative of EduMedia and it aims at equipping high school students from government schools with skills that will enable them to handle the demands and challenges they will face in life better. The program is sponsored by the Manipal Foundation and is designed and executed by EduMedia’s research and training division Activity. The program is presently adding value to over 40,000 students in Doda (Jammu), Nathdwara (Rajasthan), Gulbarga & Mangalore (Karnataka)

 

A day before the launch the Bhaderwah tehsil of Doda district was under curfew due to communal unrest. I was hoping everything went well, thankfully it did but during the course of launch I came face to face with a stark reality of Indian education.

 

The program was launched by Mr. Farooq Ahmad the District Collector of Doda in the presence of principals, head teachers, education officers and the media. During his speech Mr. Farooq touched upon a very real problem with education today. The pride of Doda district is its tehsil named Bhaderwah, which according to statistics has almost 100% literacy. But Bhaderwah is notoriously famous for its communal discord and there are riots and violence at the drop of a hat. Almost every qualified professional had only one dream to get a job and leave the district for better opportunities.

 

Sighting his own example Mr. Farooq said that he never remembered his mother telling him to grow up to take care of people around him or being human was more important that making money. It was the fault of the entire society – parents, schools, teachers and the system, everyone wanted to create professionals. None focused on making children ‘sensitive’ to the world and people around them or teaching them to be ‘human’. In the mad rush to become ‘professional’ they had all grown up to be insensitive and selfish. Every single ‘rioter’ during participating in the recent riots of Bhaderwah was an educated youth, so much for our focus on ensuring 100% literacy!

 

This is a real issue; we are already seeing telling signs of it in our society, if we do not buck up quickly to address the most important aspect of education ‘creating humans’ we could be in for some very difficult times ahead.

 

The focus of the first Excellence in School Education Conclave being organized by Mentor in November is to create schools that live & enable values for generations to come. I look forward to interacting with you during the conclave.

October 2011 – At the Receivers End!

Recently I got a very nasty email from a parent whose daughter had participated in an inter school competition conducted by my team. She was very furious that her daughter had not won an award and accused the judges of being ‘biased’ and the organizers ‘playing with the life of children’. She narrated how her child is so traumatized by ‘not winning’. This email came as a rude shock to me and my team as the event witnessed over 200,000 participants and in Hyderabad where this parent was from had over 8000 participants. We wrote back to the parent acknowledging her email and ensuring her that the event was done in all fairness and we never intend to hurt any child but organize such programs to encourage them. The response was emailed to the school authorities as well.

In response she sends another derogatory emailer this time marked several governmental organisations, NGO’s and accusing me and my organization of playing with the future generation of India. After 3 email interactions, I had decided it was enough. I spoke to the school authorities who were very upset with the parent and felt sorry for the entire episode as they had officially participated in the event and they had no objection to the judgement criteria or the way the event was organized.

I had to take a stand as I had done nothing wrong, we could not allow one parent to spoil the good work done over years for millions of children. A quote from the holy Quran states ‘Oppressing others is a sin, bearing oppression is a bigger sin’. I decided that I had to lodge a formal protest against the false allegations and acquisitions; I filed a defamation case against that parent in the court of law.

Right through this entire episode two issues kept coming to my mind – What is the kind of impact an obsessed parent like that has on her child & How are schools handling such parents. I am sure many educators out there felt very strongly about certain issues where they were on the receiving end with no fault of yours. Not many people will take the stand as I did in this incident, but are you as Principals & teachers aware of the rights you have? Do you know what amounts to infringing your constitutional right and legal rights? I think it is time for you to have a conversation with a legal expert and find out. Most contracts that schools sign with parents and other stake holders are half baked and have a lot of loop holes, please relook at that. Recently my company EduMedia underwent a Legal Audit, where a legal expert reviewed our entire documentation, records, contracts and everything that we did as an organization. A legal audit is a must for all schools!

My team is all geared up to receive you at the Excellence in School Education Conclave to be held at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore from 11th to 13th November. The line-up of speakers and the overall program is very exciting and I am eagerly looking forward to the conclave.

September 2011 – Transform and Empty Mind to an Open Mind

It is said that the true meaning of education is to ‘transform an empty mind, into an open mind’. It is quite ironic that we as a society are always hell bent upon filling up the minds of children with as much information as possible without the child having any clue when and where he would use it. This irony also reminds me of the impression that most people have about school principals – they are rigid, think that they know everything and it is very difficult for them to adapt to new ideas and change the way things work at school. Having worked with a lot of very sensitive and progressive educators over the years I do believe that this description of principals is not entirely true, but I have to admit that the majority of school heads out there are too full of themselves and find it too difficult to leave their ‘comfort zones’ and venture out to experiment with ‘their new learnings’. Unless a concentrated effort is made by the individual to learn, unlearn and relearn it is next to impossible to keep abreast with the changes that are taking place in children and in the educational arena around us.

 

We at Mentor have constantly strived add value to the educational space, I am glad to announce that in continuance of its efforts Mentor Magazine in association with IIT-Delhi, Eduexcellence and The Teachers Foundation will be organizing a very large conclave for principals, teachers, educators and anyone working in the educational arena. The Conclave is titled ‘Excellence in School Education’ and will be held at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore between 11th to 13th November. This conclave is the 3rd in a series of conferences organized by the faculty of IIT-Delhi.

Some very eminent national and international speakers and educators will be presenting their papers and leading workshops. The conclave will feature some very interesting topics like

 

  • Distributed Leadership
  • Creating happy schools
  • New age Curriculum
  • Quality standards in Education
  • Mentoring the Mentor
  • Lessons from the corporate world
  • De-schooling the society
  • Bringing social media in learning
  • Right to Education
  • Experiential Learning

 

 

In a day an age where a frail old 74 year old who answers to the call of ‘Anna’ can herald a path-breaking systemic change in our society. I am would like to see educators wage their own little battles to bring about a change in the way we run our schools and bring up our children. Equipping ourselves with new learning and interacting with educators from across the country and the globe would be a great way to equip ourselves for the battles ahead.

Normally the second term of the school is comparatively a lot more relaxed for educators and they have time to renew their knowledge, refresh their learning’s and recharge their souls. I urge the school leaders and teachers to spend quality time participating in learning programs and join us at the Excellence in Education Conclave.