By Dr Sushmita Biswal Waraich
Nelson Mandela rightly said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
On being quizzed about their understanding of the word “education”, students’ promptly reply – knowledge, qualification, placement, status in the society, so on and so forth.
This answer confuses me and puts me in a quandary. No one thinks twice about mentioning values. Whereas, CS Lewis says, “Education without value, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” It is high time students, teachers/educational institutions, parents and policy makers realise that all these things are short-lived, sans values. It is only when they live by their values that society becomes a better place, yielding in long-term benefits for all.
We all are a part of society and produce wealth from it. However, when it comes to giving back to the society, we end up thinking only about our own needs and social standing. Isn’t this being self-centred/selfish? On one hand India boasts of her demographic dividend, while on the other hand, poverty is looming large – the young minds completely ignorant of the same, except for writing good essays to win competitions.
What is the use when these young minds do not have the time to think about the rest of the society? After all, the society is an aggregate of individuals like us – professionals and entrepreneurs. Can the government alone be expected to come out with social benefit schemes like poverty alleviation, women and child development, environment protection among others?
Today, parents go out of their ways to fulfil the needs of their children and make their lives as comfortable as possible. They are only concerned about their children winning the rat race. Yes, one needs to be competitive in order to surge ahead. But imbibing values such as being helpful and giving, is as or more important than just contributing towards their children’s competitiveness. The sooner these values are inculcated, the better. If students do not have the time and/or are not made to think about societal problems then, how can they be expected to contribute towards the same? Is it that their only responsibility is taking care of their studies and getting a lucrative job? It’s only through proper sensitization from a very young age that they become empathetic and considerate towards the needs of the impoverished, their responsibilities vis-à-vis the deprived sections of the society. Not just the deprived sections, they could well contribute towards the environment, education and healthcare.
To reiterate, this emphasises on giving back to the society. Don’t you think society would become a better place to live in when we all are aware of our responsibilities towards it and do our bit? Let’s take the example of the Mumbai Dabbawalas. They have done everything from delivering health messages to taking part in civic cleanliness drives and more. They are also being roped in by the Mumbai Police to look out for suspicious activities and people on platforms and surrounding areas.
How many students really care about improving the quality of life in their own villages/communities? It is not always about doling out the tangibles but taking care of simple things like awareness related to hygiene, sanitation and safety. For that matter, how many students really bother to talk to the “Helps” working in their houses and offering them any sort of assistance in terms of counselling their children, assisting them in their studies and career guidance. Sometimes even as simple as treating them with love and respect. Even the educational institutions hardly take the pain of making community outreach activities as compulsory part of the curriculum. Though many institutions have some form of community reach activities only a few carry it out in the real sense. Students should be exposed to community services compulsorily, not just as a rigmarole, but get involved in it wholeheartedly. Apart from this, students need to discuss and read extensively to know what’s happening across India/ the world and how/where they will be able to play a role. If one is able to touch at least one or two lives that is also enough. Rightly said by Mother Teresa, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
It’s important for parents, teachers and the community at large, to inculcate such values as a part of education. When you respect others and feel for others automatically you will be inspired to give others. Education leads to empowerment; education also leads to awareness; this includes awareness of social responsibilities. The empowered-aware are best equipped to act towards their social responsibilities. Let’s all put in our efforts and entrust this responsibility on our educated youth. “Every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.”
When Rockfeller said this, definitely it was not meant for only a particular section of the society. It applies to all of us – as individuals, managers, entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers and business persons.