On July 12th, students in India celebrated their teachers in an annual festival called Guru Purnima. It’s a day of thanks for the time, knowledge, and dedication they give, and an opportunity to reflect on the impact they make. Teachers, after all, encourage students to grow and often act as catalysts, guiding students as they turn goals and aspirations into reality. In addition to our wonderful staff at AIC, we have a budding teacher among our students this year.
12-year-old Priyanka, an 8th standard student at AIC, receives 2 hot meals, afternoon classes, and additional benefits as part of our Education Outreach Program, and dreams of becoming a teacher. She has a passion for sharing knowledge with others, so much so that even after a long day that starts with housework at 5am before the sun comes up, she has begun holding nightly tutoring sessions for her neighborhood friends in English, Marathi, and mathematics.
Priyanka lives with her mother, a construction worker who leaves home before sunrise and returns at dusk, an older sister who does odd jobs for a living, and an older brother who attends the 8th grade. Though she does not belong to either the Waghri or Sikligar communities, it is a common practice in her area for parents to keep their daughters out of school. Fortunately for Priyanka, her mother was one of only a few who supported her when she came to AIC in the 3rd standard. She began to make steady progress after a difficult transition period, and her teacher Shweta reflects on her first months in the AIC Education Program: “it took some time for her to adjust to her new school. The workload was immense and there was a lot to take in. There were days when she used to feel terribly overburdened. We always encouraged and her and were supportive. Now she’s one of the highest achieving students in her class!”
As Priyanka grew academically at AIC, so did her interest in teaching. In an essay assignment from class on the topic of ambition, she writes about what becoming a teacher would mean to her, “My dream is that every child should prosper and that would happen through education. I’ll work hard to bring underprivileged children on par with the rest.” She continues, “I want the day to come when I give my first month’s salary to my mother. I want her to be really proud of me.”
During playtime with friends in her neighborhood she used to receive requests for help with homework. After this became more frequent, Priyanka saw an opportunity. She tells us, “every evening a lot of us used to gather to play together. Inevitably, we created a lot of ruckus. One day it just struck me to start teaching them, mostly to discipline them but also because I knew they didn’t study properly at their schools or homes. We discussed the idea and everybody immediately agreed. We revise lessons taught at school. Some of my friends need to have concepts clarified, so I do that here and also prepare them for their upcoming class tests and exams.”
Her teacher is very impressed with Priyanka and says, “she really has a passion for this. She comes to me before her coaching at times to learn the best method to teach a particular concept. If she hasn’t been able to solve a question posed by her students, she’ll ensure she learns it here through examples,” she says. When we asked Priyanka what she liked the most about her classes, she replied, “it’s the sense of satisfaction and achievement when I see their marks. A lot of them have shown tremendous improvement. I feel happy then from the core of my heart.”
Not only has Priyanka grown academically, but in the years that she has been involved with AIC, she has also developed important personal skills and positive relationships. She shares, “it’s like having many friends. I don’t feel lonely here.” AIC’s support will help her continue to flourish and work toward her goal of becoming a teacher, which could mean preparing for college exams, helping with application paperwork, and exploring scholarship opportunities when she is older. There is no doubt that her passion for improving the lives of other will be a powerful motivator as she grows, and we are excited to have a role in helping her achieve her goals.
Happy Guru Purnima, Priyanka!