We undermine the power of children, of youngsters, to inspire, to lead
Is it the pedantic nature of knowledge that we receive at school which make us believe that a leader is only a person with power, or somebody famous. Leaders are people who lay the ground work for others’ success, who change mindsets, however little that might be.Youth Survey 2016 Updated: Dec 20, 2016 13:27 IST
After a month into the Teach for India fellowship, Gitesh entered my class for the first time. During one of our classroom sessions, he spoke about spaceships and aliens. Gitesh’s mother remarried after her husband died, and left her two children with their old grandmother. He’s bright, empathetic and smart. He has to help with the household chores, but he has never missed studying for a test or finishing his homework. He has very little but he’s always ready to share it with other children. He makes me want to give my best every single day in the class.
That a 9-year-old child can inspire me, a 24-year-old, is amazing. This makes me wonder why we undermine the power of children, of youngsters, to inspire, to lead. It makes me wonder why we are so uncomfortable with youngsters taking up leadership roles. I don’t agree with 63% of respondents to the HT-MaRS Youth Survey 2016 who said they disagreed with the notion that India’s youth should play a leading role in changing the society.
It is the pedantic nature of knowledge that we receive at school which make us believe that a leader is only a person with power, or somebody famous. Leaders are people who lay the ground work for others’ success, who change mindsets, however little that might be.
Take any young change agent and you know they are as effective as any seasoned leader. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Nobel prize winner whose tireless fight for women’s education, for instance, is recognised all over the world. Brazilian teenager Rene Silva, who started a newspaper at the age of 11 and wrote a book when only 19, is effectively changing negative stereotype against the Favela community in his country. Closer home, we have Anshu Gupta who started Goonj in his 20s after quitting a job in an MNC, and Jai Mishra, a mechanical engineer who decided to join Teach for India instead of a high paying job.
With the changing education landscape in the country, I think we are providing our children with the necessary skill set to lead and bring about a change but we get too intimidated by the creativity, innovation and individuality of the youngsters because they are radically different from the way we perceive everything. They bring fresh ideas and different perspectives. We just have to move away from our conventional thought process, trust their ability and insight, and give them an opportunity because different doesn’t mean wrong, does it?
(A Teach for India fellow, Viddhi Arora is a firm believer that change starts from home. A Masters in Literature, she loves to read in her free time)
Read more stories from HT MaRS Youth Survey here.