The youth today, represent the perfect amalgamation of a rigid orthodox system of values and a flexible westernized culture. This implies that we are the youth of today and we represent values that we inherit from our parents and as well as morals that we learn from our friends.
We were born in a complex environment where major issues like economic inequalities, social divides, religious unrest and environmental challenges, were treated as minor problems. Hence, we rely on the younger generations today, to be the pioneers of a social change who would look into these socio-economic and cultural issues, like we never had. If every young person could be an agent of social change, would the society still look the way it does today? We need to equip the heroes of tomorrow with tools like empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving which will allow them to take ownership of their lives as well as create an environment conducive to growth and development in all spheres of life.
India has a demographic dividend of 1.2 billion people, with the maximum number of people lying in the middle age group. This implies that there is an immediate need to empower the middle segment of the population to address all the issues in a sustainable manner. Therefore, we have the need for a new kind of education – one which envisions and empowers every person to be a change maker – with the skills and the will to solve the problems they see around them.
The fundamental basis of such an education would be the importance of values like empathy – to be able to step into the shoes of someone else and understand how they perceive the world.
Secondly, a changemaker would empower the youth to be morally and ethically upright. A great way to start is to be inspired by the success of schools who have actively participated in this process.
Here are some examples of children from different schools who came up with innovative solutions to difficult problems:
1. 10th Graders Using Plastic Bottles For Construction
At TVS Academy, Hosur, 10th graders came up with the innovative solution of filling bottles with clay solution and mud and using them as an alternative for bricks, in the construction site. After two days the construction was completed. A group of students went further to decorate the construction by using broken tiles and another group created a design using bottle caps.
2. Self-regulation and Justice
Students in KCT Vidya Niketan School, Pune, proved that empathy is actually a choice. The turning point for this institution was when some students have seen eve-teasing two teachers on numerous occasions. Following these instances, the classrooms transformed into courts, there was shouting, blaming, and anger. Students solved this issue themselves by approaching it in an empathetic and ethical manner. They concluded that the students must apologize to the teachers.
Kshitija says, “It took us a couple of weeks to completely forgive them. After that, we were back as a team, more ‘together’ now than ever before.”
Then they decided to create a system of break-time supervision to prevent any kind of bullying or eve-teasing. The senior students of the student council organized themselves to supervise the different areas of the school during break time.
3. An Art Workshop
Students of the R. N. Podar School, Mumbai, once organized an art workshop with the aim of creating a sense of brotherhood and empathy between privileged children from the school and children-at-risk. Through the workshop, children learned about the habitats of different animals and explored different art forms through the theme of ‘an ideal world for animals’.
4. Advocating marginalized communities
Vidyodaya School, Gudalur, organized a camp for thirty students from four different tribes in Ponnani village. Every day the children divided themselves into two groups and went on a ‘padayatra’ through the local villages. They had conversations with the elders as well as the children and advocated for the need for education and campaigned against child labour and alcoholism. The campaign was very successful as many children enrolled themselves in school. “We found that children sharing their ideas with others were far more effective than adults,” a school representative stated.
These examples show us that, education is not just about what you learn from books but it’s also about how you correlate it to your surroundings in an empathetic and ethical manner. In this age of interconnectedness, schools are stepping forward to create platforms that inspire youth to have a global mindset and take local action. This is what it feels like to be an agent of social change.
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