As I Experienced it!

We do not invent the wheel every day. But I can at least request you to come and experience AID NOIDA.
I joined AID NOIDA in December 2009, and like a typical overenthusiastic volunteer ran out of steam in a couple of months. But when I came back after 6 months, kids still remembered my name!!! They asked me why had I stopped coming. I knew the answer but was too guilty to admit: I had been plain and simple complacent. That magical moment sealed my relationship with AID.

Do you know which country has the largest illiterate population in the world? It is India. We have an adult literacy rate of mere 66% and child literacy rate of 82%. One might argue that 82% is not that bad but dear friends let me inform you that the world average is around 88%. We are way behind the world standards. On one hand we boast of being the second fastest growing economy in the world and on the other hand we allow this demon of illiteracy to devour our young generations. What should we do? Sit back and relax? Wait for the tiring Right to Education Act, Mid Day Meal scheme and Sarva Shikha Abhiyan to make an impact or should we rise up, take responsibility and try to create a difference through our efforts.

AID Noida is one such education initiative that aims to create a difference and bring a change in our society. AID Noida is an attempt by young working professional to develop a sustainable education model which instils the importance of education among the residents of the Noida slum community.
The model is based on a three step process, each of which aims to develop a self sustainable system.

Step 1:
If the kids do not go to school, bring education to the kids.
Most of the kids in the community do not go to school or drop out because of lack of good government education system. Government schools do not motivate kids to perform well in schools and do not take responsibility for poor academic performance. This unaccountability seriously decreases the learning intent of the kids and forces them to drop out. Smart young souls with huge potential lose their way in the anarchic maze of our education system. Why wouldn’t they? After all, we all need guidance at some point in our lives. In fact, we need it most when we are naive, when we are susceptible, when we are young. AID- Noida provides that guidance which helps in decreasing the school dropout rate. We take up classes on weekdays which cater to primary school subjects such as English, Hindi, Maths, Social studies and Science. The classes aim to develop basic understanding of Science, English, Hindi and other subjects among the kids. But as all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy; we organize activity classes on the weekends to develop the kids' creative side. In weekend classes, kids participate in plays, sing songs, play games, identify countries on the globe and learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, rains and lot more. In summary, AID- NOIDA aims to make education fun and enjoyable. But, is this a sustainable model? Without formal education, kids will not progress beyond a limit. They need degrees and diplomas to make it big in life. The next step addresses exactly this issue.

Step 2: Formal education
Once kids develop interest in education, the next step is to ensure their admissions to recognized schools. Prayas Noida volunteers visit various schools in Noida such as Nayi disha, OM foundation and others. They persuade the school management to organize entrance tests and if kids do well admit them with full scholarship. Many of our bright students have got admitted in good schools and are performing really well. For instance, Jaanbaaz, one of our students, has scored 74 out of 75 in mathematics. Just imagine a kid from an underprivileged sector, whose family barely make its ends meet is performing so well in school. AID NOIDA was recently able to admit 4 more students of the junior batch to OM foundation public school.
But again, is this enough? Is this approach sustainable? No it is not. Because AID NOIDA will not be there with the kids forever. In that case, who will encourage them and keep a track of their performance? I know the answer.... It is the parents and more specifically the mothers. Here comes step 3.

Step 3: Educate the women.
Women are the foundation of every society. If the women of the house are educated, it is guaranteed that the children will be educated. Prayas organizes weekend classes for women with an aim of imparting basic education. The women learn basic mathematics so as to keep a track of their house hold expenses. They learn to read and write. Now the community women can write their name instead of using the ubiquitous thumb as a sign of their identity. They manage the family grocery store and maintain the accounts independently as their men go to work. All these small changes have empowered the community women. Now, the women are not just fringe players in their family, they have a voice and an opinion. Moreover, Women have realized the importance of education as they have seen the difference it makes. Hence, they want their kids to be educated. The women keep a tab on the kid's school performance by checking performance reports, meeting school teachers and ensuring that kids finish their homework.

Now, we have a sustainable system in place. A system that thrives on itself: Young children hungry for education - good school system- Parental support that ensures continuity. So friends this is what AID NOIDA does, but what will you do? Most of you were lucky to be born in affluent families. You and in fact I, did not have to worry about the basic necessities of life. We just had them all around us. But look around, there are lot more people who do not have this privilege. Therefore, it is our responsibility to share the gift of knowledge with others. We can take some time out of our lives, not much, just 2-3 hours a week and share our knowledge with the underprivileged. I do not expect you to just come and start changing the world. After all, we are bunch of cheerful young people who are trying to make a difference through education because we believe Education is not a privilege, it is a necessity.

Himanshu Singh