The first time I visited the Gori Palya area of Bangalore over a year ago, I noticed the smiling faces of students, teachers, and parents. They were eager to learn more but didn’t know how to do so in their existing school system. The lack of opportunities for these curious and self-motivated students shocked me. I endeavored to make a change.
I spent a summer teaching a more creative curriculum to students and teachers. Teaching them was easy; they progressed rapidly. Making my work last, however, seemed impossible at the time.
I’m a high school student from Hong Kong. My friends Aishwarya Suresh and Megha Sreekanth are from California. Living so far away from Bangalore, I find it hard to maintain the projects I begin in the summer with Mantra4Change. Nonetheless, I am determined to make a long-lasting change in education. The children of Gori Palya need more than a summer of a creative curriculum—they need a lifetime of it.
Ever since I left Bangalore last year, I have been thinking about the best way to continue working with Mantra4Change. Curriculum research seemed the most feasible option, but I wanted to do more. Absolutely confused on how I could help, I began learning about other people’s endeavors in community service. After reading Muhammad Yunus’ book on Social Businesses, the idea finally struck: I could establish partnerships with organizations that could continue my work while I am away.
Overjoyed that I had finally found a solution, I began work right away. After months of Skype calls, crowd funding, research, and discussions, Aishwarya, Megha and I arrived in Bangalore once again. This year we were determined that our projects—the digital library, STEM workshops, Peer2Peer learning, and eye camps—would be continued by the school while we are gone. That’s why we refer to our projects as the “SelfEd Initiative”. We want to empower students with resources so they can have long-term control over their learning.
Over this journey, I am most grateful to the Mantra4Change team. They have been by my side since I was 15 years old and experiencing Gori Palya for the first time. They have considered my ideas and provided valuable insight and guidance at every stage. Today, at 17 years old, I am inspired by their selflessness and commitment to each project and the impact they are making on education.
My greatest source of learning has been Zaka Sir of Florida English School and the headmistress of RM school. On my first day in Gori Palya, Zaka Sir asked me “How will you make a change in a month?” At the time, I was surprised by his skepticism, but now I understand it completely. Change is never easy, and especially not when three teenage girls with only one month are driving it. Zaka Sir taught me that real, sustainable change requires prolonged effort from the entire community. That is the change I strive for today.
The headmistress of RM school also taught me about the value of the community. She said that many of the girls drop out of school because their parents want them to get married. She said that parents who don’t see the value of education won’t come to the school or collect books—they only enroll their children for the food the school provides. Hearing this was heartbreaking, but I learned that educating the community is the first step to educating the children.
I am very thankful to Mantra4Change and everyone who I have met and learned from during this journey. Your motivation and passion have instilled in me a desire for education transformation. Back in Hong Kong, I am excited to continue working with Mantra4Change and further developing the SelfEd Initiative.
-Written by Ms. Naina Mishra, Summer Intern, Mantra4Change