Ashiya Kumari (11) and Sofia Sheikh (14) study at the PES School in Yerwada, meant for children from low-income families. While Ashiya’s father works in a clothing factory in Mumbai, Sofia’s father is a small-time caterer. Despite their socio-economic background, the two girls have impeccable English-speaking skills. Recently, as part of the TedEd Club, one of the initiatives of TED, which is headquartered in New York, Sofia and Ashiya have recorded videos on topics “Everyone is a Teacher” and “Each Voice Matters”. The duo’s videos have received hundreds of “likes” and views on social media. Ted is devoted to spreading ideas, mostly in the form of short, powerful talks.
Stressing on the thought of ideal teacher-student ratio as 1:1, in her video “Everyone is a Teacher”, little Ashiya says, “In our school, there are 300 students and just 10-15 teachers. This creates a lot of stress on the title holders (teachers). Sometimes when they are not around, the students don’t learn anything new. But why do students have to rely on those few teachers? Why can’t student realise that there’s a teacher in them? These questions always bothered me and I decided to do something. Whenever my teacher is not around, I monitor the class, give them sums etc,”
On the other hand, in her video — “Each Voice Matters” — Sofia tells two stories. The first story is about a girl who was born in Bihar. She really wanted to go to school, but her parents always used to tell her that she must sit at home and work as she had to get married. She asked why were her brothers sent to school? She insisted on studying and finally began going to school. She dreams of becoming an IPS officer. The second story is about a girl who stayed next to her house. Her brothers were sent to school, but she wasn’t. She kept working at home and one day got married. She regretted not raising her voice. She goes on to share in the video, “The first story is mine and the second one is of a girl from my village. According to UNESCO report, the literacy rate of men in India is 82% and women is just 65%. But I believe that instead of waiting for things to happen, we must raise our voice. Each one of us have voice and power to move things.”
TedEd Club was introduced at PES School over six months ago by Teach For India (TFI) fellow Manisha Upreti, who worked with eight students of PES School to prepare a talk on a topic they felt strongly about. “It so happened that more than six months back, I was browsing through the website of Ted and read about their TedEd Club. I had been wanting to do something exciting with the students and so decided to apply for the Club. We had to go through an extensive application process followed by a video conference, after which we selected a mixed bag of students. Initial few months went into discussions after which we asked them to prepare for a topic. The TFI fellows worked with them on voice modulation, articulation, body language, hand gestures etc. We also researched and added some data to make it strong,” said Upreti.
Speaking about the experience of making the video, Sofia says that though initially she was nervous, she got better gradually and is thrilled about it.
Other than Sofia and Ashiya, other members of TedEd Club members explored topics like “One hour of music in schools”; “It’s easy to learn anything that we want”; “Innovation in Road and Safety” and so on.
Interestingly, the TedEd activity inspired the students to start their own clubs in the school, shares the TFI fellow. While two girls conducted a reading club with the students struggling with literacy skills, other two conducted arts and crafts club to build a sense of creativity, self-expression and discipline in students. One boy was seen holding a science club where students would explore different science concepts and then test it through experiments with the help of science manuals and books, another boy conducted a singing club in school to build love for music among kids in the school.
“In this entire process, we slowly came to realise that there are a lot of things that go beyond the ambit of performance tasks and assessments. These are stories, voices, ideas and experiences which deserve to be heard with a hope to inspire many,” said Upreti.