Inspiring TED Talks: Change-makers in Education
While we may come from different backgrounds and places, the fight for education has united many of us towards one common goal – every child deserves a quality education.
While we all try to make small differences in our own ways, we would like to take a moment to appreciate the personal journeys of these inspiring education leaders, who have made significant contributions towards transforming the education landscape around the world.
Kakenya belongs to the Massi community, where boys are trained to be warriors and girls are trained to be perfect housewives. At puberty, girls have a huge ceremony involving genital mutilation and get married soon after. While Kakenya was engaged at 5, her mother ensured that she went to school. At 12, Kakenya placed a condition that she would only participate in the ceremony if she were allowed to continue school.
Kakenya returned to school angry about trading a body part for education and even more determined to bring about change. Kakenya worked hard for admission intocollege, and since the community felt that a boy would have been more worthy, she had to convince the village chief and 16 other men before she was allowed to pursue her education. She completed college and returned to her village, where she built the very first girls school.
Charles advocates the need for radical and transformative changes in education. Understanding that the fastest growing young populations come from rural areas, it is imperative to make them realize what education can do for them. Charles believes that students should be attracted to the power of education and be motivated he feels that dropout rates need to be curbed and education should work by a pull rather than push factor. He suggests that technology is a strong source of hope to make education fun, and it encourages the use of computers, music, dance and art as a primary learning path rather than a supplementary one.
He also explains why the Chinese restaurant model versus the McDonalds model is a better step forward. While McDonalds is a chain that maintains a standardized front across the world, there are no chain Chinese restaurants and instead, they adapt to their market while carrying similar menu items. It’s a battle of scale (McDonalds) versus spread (Chinese restaurant) and schools needs to cater to their communities’ language, ability and requirements and spread across the rural communities rather than scale up their operations.
Shukla launched her first school under the Parikrama Humanity Foundation with 165 slum children, and today she has grown to 4 schools and 1 junior college teaching 1800 children. She focuses her efforts on the quality and outcome of the education rather than the number of students and infrastructure. By understanding the needs of slum children, which is to be educated but live a peaceful and contented life, Shukla has worked one child at a time to create a difference in the slum families. She ensures all content is in English and teaches the children how to use Google, raising children with a global view of the world. To ensure that their children continue school, Shukla organizes after-school learning programs for their mothers and engages their fathers into jobs, such as providing meals and maintaining the schools.
Sugata is well known for his ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiments, aimed at proving that children can be taught by computers very easily without any formal training. A 13 year old illiterate was browsing on the computer within 8 minutes, without any adult intervention. By placing computers in 23 rural slums across India and then repeating his experiment in Cambodia, Sugata concluded that learning is a self-organizing system and poor children are equally able to embrace educational technology despite their economic and language barriers.
Another interesting point he raised was that educational technology should reach the bottom the pyramid first before the urban areas, and not the other way round like we see. The relative change technology brings to a rural school is significantly larger than that in an urban school, which is already doing well. In rural areas, where infrastructure and teacher retention pose as problems, alternative education methods using technology are crucial.
Sheryl is a writer and she has often highlighted how education has enabled girls to transform their communities and lift their families out of poverty. In her personal experience, she shares the story of Dai Manju, whose parents struggled to pay her $13 school fee, and lived in a shanty home with no electricity and water. She studied, attended high school, got a decent job, and shifted her parents out of the vicious cycle to a better home and life.
Sheryl feels that, in a society where spending is mainly done by men, money is wasted on gambling and drinking rather than invested on education. She feels that women are indeed the solution to poverty, and only by educating them can we lower births, facilitate wise spending and break the poverty cycle
A shot an education grants youth a fair chance: at employment, to support their poverty-stricken families, to improve their communities and to break out of poverty.
These stories help us realize that education is indeed a privilege for many. Let us not take it for granted and do our part in achieving education for all.