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Gifting an education to a child who needs it, is among the most constructive and rewarding ‘treats’ – for both the giver and the receiver.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats
A bunch of us were at work, chatting over a cup of coffee, talking about a lunch treat we recently went to for a colleague’s birthday.
It was now almost a ritual; every birthday came along with a lunch treat at a restaurant near the office. It’s like every restaurant owner knows about this, because every restaurant chain in the city has a branch in the IT corridor, plus ‘corporate discounts’.
The guest list for a ‘treat’ automatically includes everyone who knew about a birthday. Which is quite unfair, considering that it is also a ritual to send out ‘Happy Birthday’ mailers each month – a futile task aimed at giving joy for a few moments when your inbox is flooded with email wishes, but ends up costing you big bucks at the end of the day!
The average cost of lunch for a small group of 5-6 people, in an average restaurant on the IT corridor is about INR 2000/- (including tips and the ‘corporate discount’).
All this talk of unwanted spending stemmed off another topic: ‘giving back to the society’.
We spend so much on amusement each year. I am not advocating the life of hermits who keep nothing for themselves; but what about expenses like this, which can be converted into something more constructive?
We ran over a few ideas, and landed on the one that appealed to all of us: giving a child the gift of education.
One of us had a friend who volunteered at a local orphanage on the weekends and tutored kids. We got in touch with her and she spoke about an exceptionally bright kid with excellent grades, who could use some help. The orphanage could not afford to put her in an English-medium school, and so she was currently studying in a school run by the State Government in the regional language. We got in touch with the orphanage, and it was soon agreed that we would sponsor her education in an English-medium school.
We did not want to give away chunks of money each year to the orphanage, and not know whether it was being put to use. Thankfully, the orphanage felt the same. So we decided that one of us will be marked guardian for this child, and will act as the representative to pay the school fees directly to the school, along with buying school supplies for the girl.
But it turns out, when we made the decision, it was just a few weeks ahead of the last fee paying date. So we gathered money from our savings, and what we were short of, we asked others. A few were apprehensive and unwilling, but there were a few who were enthusiastic about our little project. And so we began.
It’s been over 3 years since we started. She is now in the 8th grade, doing amazingly well in class. We have never seen numbers lower than 95% in her progress card so far.
Soon, she will finish higher secondary education, and if we can afford it, we will also attempt to put her through college. Else, she will still be eligible for a job in a BPO after school. She will then have a chance at a decent livelihood, and an opportunity to give her kids a better life and education.
This year, her school fees was Rs. 16,000. When contributed by 8 individuals, it amounts to Rs. 2000 per year, which is less that the cost of a birthday treat. It is a very small investment when you look at it from a social perspective. It is true that in the beginning, we found it hard to shell out the money each year, as we each had family commitments. But over time, it became easier and easier. And we didn’t have to ask others for help.
We are a large nation, with a large number way below the poverty line and a smaller number obscenely rich. If we all try, and work towards helping one another, we can change the fate of this country, and stabilize the social inequalities that now obscure our economy.
Education is the difference between a developing country and a developed nation. You and I can make that change. Let’s be the change we want to see in this world.
Child learning image via Shutterstock
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