Everyone is working to become a ‘superstar’ and the shout of “Lights, camera, action” is all that takes for absolute attention. Their teacher, a visual communications expert on a two year sabbatical, is one of the 700 fellows of Teach for India (TFI), a nationwide initiative of professionals and college graduates working to bridge educational inequality among children, and leading change in innovative ways!
A change for good
TFI, a project of Teach To Lead, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2008, works across five cities; Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai, with around 700 fellows. A two year full-time paid commitment, the TFI fellowship programme places
promising graduates and professionals as full time teachers in under-resourced and low income schools. Rigorous and challenging, it provides fellows an opportunity to develop themselves as leaders and transform the lives of the children in their care.
Technical skills and leadership training includes a five week residential training before they start teaching, followed by on-going training and support throughout the two years. In the second year of the programme, each fellow undertakes a ‘Be The Change’ project wherein they ideate, plan and execute a project that benefits their classroom, the school or the society as a whole.
Field level realities....
Says Animesh Priya, City Director, TFI-Chennai: “two fellows are allotted to a school, generally in Grade two and three, handling all classes except Tamil. We currently work in 15 Corporation schools in Chennai, and 8 low income private schools. 68 fellows work with around 1900 students. These pockets of excellence will surely begin to make differences.”
Prithvi Kumar, who teaches in a school in Ekkattuthangal, says “children who were studying second grade in an English medium school, came from poor families with no role model, no source of inspiration and no motivation or zest to life. They couldn’t comprehend a word of the teacher.”
Murali Mallikarjunan of Coimbatore, who is teaching in Thiruneermalai, says: “incorporating basic values such as respect and humility towards fellow beings, and getting them interested in their own growth has been my major challenge. It’s amazing to see the happiness on the students’ faces when they learn a new thing but each kid has his own way of understanding things.”
Creating change makers
TFI believes that only collective action can address this multi-sectoral issue of educational equality. The two years a fellow spends in the classroom is the beginning of a lifelong mission to ensure that every child in India gets excellent education. A longitudinal study initiative introduced in association with Columbia University tracks and measures how students are growing over an extended period of time, from July 2012 to March 2016. Most applicants to the fellowship are young and a small percentage between 35 and 40 years.
With the placement cell forging partnerships with corporate and non-profit organisations, at TFI’s recently concluded Career Fair, over 30 organisations recruited fellows in a range of leadership positions as education specialists, from functions like marketing, general management, finance and consulting and technology. The employers included ICICI Bank, McKinsey, Ernst & Young, NIIT Foundation, iDiscoveri, ICICI Foundation, Give India...
“Sometimes, there are no tangible results despite the best efforts in classroom instruction. It helps to stay connected with other TFI Fellows--discussing our victories and challenges. This helps me to come back the next day, more determined to ensure that my children are all on the right path,” said Rachel Chenchiah who once worked as a corporate lawyer in Mumbai.