When you acknowledge uncertainty, yet through an exploratory and creative process you think up of various possibilities, even project and predict the likelihoods of an unknown future, you are future thinking. You may speculate that students of a school education system that is sometimes targeted for being based on rote-learning, cannot possibly be expected to look past the present and give their views on an unfamiliar future or an unseen past. Well, children of the country just proved all such assumptions wrong.
In an event to mark the 75th year of our independence in a joint initiative of three Departments - School Education, Posts and Culture - children from across the length and breadth of the country, studying in grades 4 to 12, were encouraged to write postcards to the Hon’ble PM on two themes – “Unsung heroes of our freedom struggle” and “My vision for India in 2047”.
It is estimated today that almost 50 crores Postcards are written annually in India. Out of these, over one crore postcards were sent by children to a single address in December-January this year – that of the Prime Minister! This overwhelming response by children was warmly acknowledged by the Hon’ble PM in Man kiBaat when he carefully read out some of the postcards and discussed their essence.
I am also attempting here to similarly mention the highlights of what the PM called as children’s Man Ki Baat. Unsung heroes have been discussed by children with a great deal of pride in their contribution and sacrifice for our freedom. “Matangini Hajra, an Indian revolutionary took part in the Civil Disobedience movement and was arrested for breaking the Salt Act. Though she did not receive formal education, she was an inspiration for many women to participate in the freedom struggle”, writes one child. Another says that we are slowly forgetting our heroes such as, Tara Rani, Tirot Singh, Durgabai Deshmukh, etc., therefore we must dedicate one day of the nation every year to remember these “GumnaamNayaks”. A student has dedicated her entire postcard to Captain Lakshmi Sehgal of the Azad Hind Fauj. Many children have written about Durgabai Deshmukh, Birsa Munda, Pingali Venkayya, NaniBala Devi, Kunwar Pratap Singh Barhath, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Madanlal Dhingra, Munidev Tyagi, Vishwanath Das, Bhikaji Cama and Hiraji Gomaji Patil. A student has elaborated the role of Bhima Bai Holkaras being the true definition of – “One may die for an idea, but that idea after her death will incarnate itself in a thousand lives.”
Quite a few children have written about child heroes too, such as, about the Bal Balidaan by Nayak Shirish Kumar of Surat, Gujarat and the heroic Kanaklata Barua, known as Birbala, who was shot dead at the age of 17 when she hoisted the national flag at the local police station.
To be able to imagine the country twenty-five years hence is no mean task. We adults sometimes find it difficult to visualise, but these children have shown a clear vision forIndia @2047. An eighth-grade student foresees India as “fully literate, harmonious, and self-sufficient. My vision for India is full of nature and heritage. Humanity and love prevail everywhere. My country will be the best place to live in – heaven on earth.” A child studying in fifth grade poignantly envisions an India “free from poverty, unemployment, corruption, pollution, ill-health, terrorism, gender discrimination, and food shortage.”
Many children have expressed that they are greatly influenced by the Make in India initiative. A girl child from ninth grade writes – “The Make in India symbol has lightened a proud fire within my heart. I want to roar out to all of India’s sons to come back and work for her.” “We will witness a country so powerful, yet so united” says a primary school child. In 2047 my country should be using only eco-friendly products; farmers should use much more technology and women should be respected everywhere says a class seven student. “Our country has to become one of the largest economies of the world which is food-sufficient, and a carbon-free, eco-friendly and plastic free nation” writes a girl child. Children have also written about an India that will regain its legacy of music and dance.
Then there are children who have let their scientific temper and imagination really flow. Children have written about developing high capability for space, an eminent position in the field of Astronomy, Chandrayaan-2 and a research base on the moon, and transforming Mars to make it habitable for humans. Quite a few children have written about achieving 100% literacy and becoming the most literate country of the world. One child hopes that “Yoga, Ayurveda and Agriculture shall become part of the school curriculum.” Many have visualized an India where women will be safe and “equal to men”, and a clean and green country, “where every citizen throws garbage only in dustbins.” Children have also written about a country where every drop of water shall be used judiciously.
The manner in which we learn from our past and the choices that we make today will create the future of our dreams. These children have convinced us that our future is indeed in safe hands.
(The Author is Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, Government of India)