What Education Means to Me

28 Nov

“Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead,” said Aristotle, once upon a time. Education is an essential human virtue. Man becomes ‘man’ through education. He is what education makes him. It has been rightly said that without education, man is a splendid slave, a reasoning savage.We all go to school in order to get into college, get a job, Being educated is what separates us from the other co-habitants of this planet. Fundamentally during our schooling years what drives us to get an education is largely the premise that it will equip us with something to earn a livelihood. But education is like a huge canvas with many dimensions to it. The varied segments of this canvas present a sea of opportunities; from building confidence to  development of personality, enrichment of knowledge, and also enhancement of analytic abilities and comprehension. It also inculcates moral values, improves communication skills and articulation, and polishes cultural and intellectual fibre. I myself really never questioned what the true value of being educated was. I took it for granted. India has 270 million people below the poverty line (according to numbers released in July 2013), and there are around 272 million illiterate people in the country. No nation can grow economically or socially without education – and illiteracy perpetuates a never-ending cycle of poverty. What then does it actually mean to be educated? Many falsely perceive that being literate and being educated are synonymous. However it is not so. Anyone who can read and write is literate, but being educated is, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘the manifestation of perfection already existing in man’. Being educated is a right that should not be denied to anyone. It was born with the birth of the human race and shall continue to function as long as the human race lives. Wealth, health, pain, joy – all come and go, but education can never be taken away, it becomes a part of you. It adds to your human value. I live in Delhi, India’s national capital. For me, receiving an education was not even close to an option but simply an unquestionable necessity, as essential as chlorophyll is to a green plant. Like my class-mates I’ve had days of cursing whoever came up with the idea of this burden of the necessity of education. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Delhi has a number of slums with people living in tiny cramped rooms, no electricity and no sanitation. Open gutters run alongside every house, posing an ever-ready threat from disease. Then there are still those who aren’t lucky enough to live in a slum, those who live on the streets. Education is not an option for these people; it is just a far-fetched dream. I used to pass a slum area on my way to school every day, ignoring it like the hundreds of others who crossed the same street. Today I help out every week at that slum and it has changed my outlook on life radically. The children, who live in this slum, at age 5, are expected to look after their siblings and the home, run errands, and work meagre jobs. Their parents – uneducated – don’t bother sending them to school they feel it is unproductive. But some of these children make an effort themselves; little girls and boys come to learn – so they might have even the tiniest chance to fulfil dreams of doing something better than picking out the garbage. The desperation to fulfil their dreams, progress in society, and a longing for a better tomorrow, is writ large on their faces. These children are disadvantaged and marginalised but still persist with determination. At first it broke my heart to see them come – no stationary, torn books  and tired little bodies, but then their zeal and enthusiasm for learning made me realize where I had been wrong. I realized that you could come from the best of schools which might guarantee you a position at a good university, but you’re not going to get there just like that. A person who understands the value of what he or she is being taught, who realizes that education is more than just having a good attendance rate, and who has a burning desire to do something is the one who is probably going to do so much more with his or her life. Diogenes said that “Education is a controlling grace to the young, consolation to the old wealth to the poor and ornament to the rich.”I strongly endorse the view that education is a fundamental connector of all human societies. Nanki Singh is a Class 10 student at Modern School Vasant Vihar in New Delhi. She loves reading, writing, photography – and holds a Senior Diploma in Indian Classical Vocal Music. She’s also a swimmer and a track & field athlete in her spare time!

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