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Hidden Figures: A Film Every Student Should Watch and Why

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In the vast tapestry of cinematic storytelling, few films carry the weight of transforming our understanding of history and the unsung heroes within it quite like “Hidden Figures.” This masterpiece not only unfolds the extraordinary tale of three African-American women who were pivotal to NASA’s success in the space race but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for students across the globe. As the world recently celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February, it is imperative to delve into why “Hidden Figures” is a must-watch for every student.

“Hidden Figures” brings to light the incredible journey of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, portrayed with compelling depth by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, respectively. These brilliant minds overcame the dual hurdles of racial and gender bias to lay the groundwork for John Glenn’s historic orbit around Earth. Their story is not just a chapter of NASA’s triumphs but a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who dare to dream big and defy societal constraints.

For students, “Hidden Figures” is much more than a history lesson; it is an exploration of the values of perseverance, integrity, and teamwork. The film adeptly captures the essence of these values, showing that success is not the reserve of a privileged few but achievable by anyone with the talent and determination, regardless of their background. This is the story of three strong women who are independent, making a way of their own in a time where people do not even believe that NASA hires women and that too women of colour. When they ask for what they deserve, they are frowned upon and rejected. They are expected to know what their place is and what is the way to look like a white person. Still, these women thrive. Today, the situation has improved for better but our students should understand what it took for the trailblazers and women like these three to bring the world where it is today.

The narrative rhythm of “Hidden Figures” mirrors that of an underdog story, making it relatable and engaging for a younger audience. It offers a linear and steady progression, showcasing the personal and professional challenges these women faced, their initial setbacks, and their ultimate triumph. Furthermore, the film’s emphasis on education and intellectual prowess as tools for breaking barriers is a critical takeaway for students. It highlights the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and the role it plays in shaping the future. “Hidden Figures” demonstrates that knowledge and skill are powerful agents of change, encouraging students to pursue their interests in these fields with zeal.

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The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the era it depicts but chooses to focus on the triumph of intellect and determination over discrimination and adversity. This balanced storytelling approach makes “Hidden Figures” an educational tool that transcends the classroom, imparting lessons of equality, respect, and the pursuit of excellence.

Hidden Figures is more than just a film; it is a catalyst for change, inspiring students to recognize and challenge the societal limitations placed upon them. It encourages a deeper appreciation for the contributions of women and minorities in science and technology, urging a more inclusive recognition of achievement in these fields. For these reasons and more, it is a film that every student should watch, serving as a reminder that history is made by those who dare to believe in the possibility of the impossible.

Education

Celebrating Nikola Tesla: A Beacon for Transforming Education

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Nikola Tesla | Image Source- Encyclopedia of Humanities

Cultivating Curiosity and Imagination

Tesla’s success was driven by his boundless curiosity and vivid imagination. He often emphasized the importance of nurturing these traits, stating, “The gift of mental power comes from God, divine being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power.” Encouraging students to question the world around them and imagine the possibilities beyond the obvious can foster a generation of innovative thinkers. Incorporating more open-ended projects and inquiry-based learning can help in this regard.

Embracing Failure as a Learning Tool

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Hands-On Learning and Experimentation

Tesla’s approach to learning was hands-on. He believed in experimenting and learning from practical experiences. Modern education systems can draw from this by integrating more laboratory work, maker spaces, and real-world problem-solving activities into the curriculum. Students should be encouraged to tinker, build, and experiment, thus applying theoretical knowledge to practical situations.

Learning as an Ongoing Process

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Inspiration

The Liberal Gift: The Key Lessons from “College – Pathways of Possibilities” by Saikat Majumdar

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"College-Pathways of Possibility" by Saikat Majumdar

Children up to grade VI who secured a rank within the top 15 were exempted from sitting for the annual exam at the school I attended. My academic performance was below average, so I never missed writing the annual exam. During classes, I struggled to learn the notes by rote; instead, I found myself drawn to discussions and debates on the topics at hand. Unfortunately, the classroom environment rarely encouraged such interactions, with teachers predominantly delivering monologues rather than fostering open dialogue. I neither listened to the teacher’s dictation of the book nor dictated the book in my answer scripts. As a result, my academic performance suffered, and I became accustomed to being identified solely by my exam marks.

Reflecting on this, I realized I was a curious mind asking questions, but since I was not meritorious, I often felt overlooked and misunderstood by both peers and parents. However, these challenges ultimately sparked a curiosity within me that transcended boundaries of traditional education. I discovered my passion for human interaction, leading me to pursue social work and later psychology. I specialize in the intersection of psychology and social work. Along the way, I realized that economics partly determines people’s behaviour in social contexts, which expanded my interest to include economics and a bit of history to understand the origins of human societies. This varied perspective was a burden to me until I read “College – Pathways of Possibilities” by Saikat Majumdar. The author’s discourse on education liberated my mind and soul, changing the course of my life. Through reading, I have come to realize that from the very start of my educational journey, I have been fervently seeking knowledge. However, when the expectation was to solely acquire information and reproduce it for marks, I struggled.

The book acknowledges my distinctiveness and is likely to do so for any reader. It is only fair if children who are natural learners are seen as individual persons functioning collectively for knowledge, with knowledge made available collectively. The author poses a radical question to the colonial system of education that is worshiped: Can fundamental arts and science education, or fundamental education per se, be imagined accommodating every individual? This is a magical question to me! I met some students today with whom I closely work on a Psychology student magazine. I asked them, in twelve long years of their school education and one year into undergrad, were they seeking knowledge or information. Their time paused for seconds, their pupils dilated, they looked at each other and collectively said, “Information!” Isn’t this true for most of us? When school and college students are confined within this rigid system that is not eclectically inherited and approached but rather coaches them to consume volumes of information, the nation buries thinkers, engineers mediocrity, instils low self-worth, and compromises their mental health. For a populous nation like ours, the scene is tragic!

This tragic outcome can be contained by opening our minds to the philosophy of liberal education, a luminescence elucidated by the author. The framework of liberal education, as described in the book, is a distribution model where inter-related related and contra-related disciplines speak to one another, offering new perspectives. Essentially, it is a framework that is less framework. This model of education provides the foundational work that allows for choosing a well-thought-out specialization. Specialization here is not about mastering a discipline but achieving a disciplinary depth that enables critical thinking and problem-solving. After all, problems in real life do not come to us specialization-centric. Do they? Even if they seem so, the solutions are seldom specialization-centric.

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To cite an example I recently came across, a renowned architect mentioned in an interview the gap between architectural academia and practice. He said that architectural engineers fail to consider the impact of climate change in their designs, thus missing out on addressing architectural dangers. The gap the architect mentions is indeed alarming, and this gap can begin to close right in the classroom by cultivating a contra-disciplinary understanding.

Liberal education can assert the emergence of true well-being, ending the rat race of firsts and seconds in educational institutions. I take this determinative stance for many reasons, coming from the perspective shift the book has driven me to acknowledge.

Knowledge! Do we acquire it, experience it, or create it? I believe knowledge is a culmination of all these. The author says there are two sides to knowledge: one is the consumption of knowledge, and the other is the production of new knowledge. We are trapped in a colonial system of education that attempts to train us to consume information, and the quantity of consumption is scored, possibly creating an uninspiring relationship with the subjects, as it did for me. Information in education is crucial, but information alone is not education; it is merely a component. Knowledge, which is education, is crucial for a life of sustenance and progress. Sadly, the colonial-influenced Indian education system is producing aspirants of information, facts, and data alone.

In a conversation with the author, he highlighted how even aspirants cracking the Indian competitive exams such as CAT, JEE, etc., focus on facts and figures but fall short on knowledge that connects them to the real world. They reach only a certain point in their careers and life overall, then lose themselves. These aspirants are supposedly the intelligent bunch, so what is the lacuna? This applies to anyone who is an active part of this education system. This broadens the vision to something primal. While information learned within a syllabus is vital, it alone does not suffice to thrive. After a certain stage, there is no syllabus handed over. It is knowledge seeking that drives the human race towards individual and collective development and well-being. How is knowledge seeking cultivated and nurtured from a young age?

The focus here shifts from the consumption of information to the consumption of knowledge. But how is this achieved? The author emphasizes the power of big-think questions in classrooms. When students studying any discipline are guided to ask and are asked big-think questions, they engage in the fundamental spirit and methodology of the discipline, as mentioned in the chapter “The Souls of Disciplines.” To quote an example from the book, history, at its heart, is a narrative of people, groups, communities, and places in time, beyond mere information about specific historical periods. Unfortunately, this spirit is often silenced under the maze of facts and information that constitute the body of the discipline, the author contends.

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When education drives a student to understand the epistemic form of the discipline, she will navigate her life well with her knowledge alone, with stealth and sensitivity, without needing to rely on a syllabus for support. Life with education begins with understanding the epistemic form of one’s primary discipline of interest and extends to drawing attraction to other disciplines, either interdisciplinary or contra-disciplinary. Reading about contra-disciplinarity can leave anyone amused! Can one imagine literature and computer science communicating? The friendship between the abstraction of literature and the concreteness of computer science is disruptive, and the author calls for it for a deeper sense of knowledge. Consumed in this way, knowledge transitions into the production of new knowledge at all stages of consumption. This makes education increasingly interesting, sustaining, evolving, and useful.

What resonated with me most was the author’s perspective on teaching questions and research questions. According to the author, no question is directionless. A question that lacks a definitive answer but stimulates the mind, ignites curiosity, and encourages deeper exploration into a paradigm is a teaching question. Such questions foster openness to various perspectives, acceptance of experiences, assimilation, and the consumption of knowledge. On the other hand, the counterpart of consumption is the production of new knowledge rooted in research questions studied empirically, theoretically, conceptually, and empathetically. Research allows for a deep relationship with knowledge and the process of scientific inquiry to produce new knowledge grants one a real agency. This process of questioning, learning, and constructing knowledge cultivates critical thinking grounded in knowledge. In essence, both the consumption and production of knowledge occur through questioning. When knowledge naturally flows between consumption and production, who better than students and teachers can move in and out and back and forth? This affirms the truth that education involves lifelong consumption and production of knowledge.

The book also reflects the reality, empathizes with the plight, and identifies the aspirations of a teacher-researcher trapped in a college constrained by the Indian university system of college operations. As a professor caught between the desire to lead oneself and counterparts with knowledge and piles of files, reading the book broke the silence. Bringing change to this system requires individuals, institutions, and policies to unlearn and relearn, marking the onset of a liberal mindset for liberal education. However, it only takes openness to begin this change in my classroom.

To conclude and commence, I borrow the author’s words, “Whatever the how, here’s the now.”

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Authored By-
Swathi Priya D,
Assistant Professor (Psychology),
Kumaraguru College of Liberal Arts and Science

 

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Education

Kerala Sets National Benchmark with AI Training Programme for 80,000 Teachers

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Image Source- Envato Elements

In an unprecedented move to integrate Artificial Intelligence into the educational framework, Kerala is set to launch a comprehensive AI training programme for approximately 80,000 secondary school teachers. Scheduled to begin on May 2, this initiative, spearheaded by the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), aims to revolutionise teaching methodologies and learning outcomes across the state.

Empowering Teachers with AI Skills

The three-day training programme is designed to empower teachers from Classes 8 to 12 with essential AI skills, enhancing their pedagogical techniques and ensuring they are adept at utilising advanced technologies in their teaching practices. The focus is on summarisation techniques to simplify complex documents and generate concise summaries from PDFs, images, and videos, ensuring key information is retained and even creating new content using AI tools.

Innovative Training Modules

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Further enriching the training curriculum, KITE has incorporated sessions on Prompt Engineering and Machine Learning, which will enable teachers to craft precise prompts that maximize the utility of AI tools. This hands-on approach not only enriches their understanding of AI mechanisms but also allows them to apply these skills practically in educational settings.

Additionally, the programme will introduce AI-driven assessment techniques, providing teachers with new methods for designing diverse question formats and optimizing the assessment process through customisable tables, graphs, and charts.

Master Trainers and Personalised Learning

Under the guidance of 180 Master Trainers who have undergone a comprehensive one-month AI training, the programme is set to deliver high-quality education and support to teachers. According to K Anvar Sadath, Chief Executive Officer of KITE, “This programme not only equips teachers with cutting-edge AI capabilities but also fosters a culture of responsible AI usage.”

The training also aims to personalize learning activities to cater to individual student needs and adapt resources to be inclusive for students with disabilities, ensuring a holistic and equitable educational environment.

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Pioneering a Future-Ready Educator Workforce

This bold initiative by Kerala not only promises to transform the educational landscape within the state but also sets a stellar example for other states to follow. The integration of AI into teaching practices is not just a progressive step towards modernizing education but also essential in preparing a future-ready educator workforce.

By investing in such forward-thinking programmes, states can ensure that their educators are not left behind in the rapidly evolving technological world. The benefits of equipping teachers with AI skills extend beyond enhanced educational outcomes; they include fostering an environment of innovation and critical thinking, crucial in nurturing the next generation of thinkers and leaders.

Why Other States Should Follow Suit

The success of Kerala’s initiative could serve as a catalyst for national educational reform. Other states stand to benefit immensely from implementing similar training programmes, which would not only elevate the quality of education but also strengthen the infrastructure of learning by integrating technology and innovation.

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As reported by India Today, Kerala’s AI training programme is a pioneering effort in the realm of educational technology in India, setting a benchmark for others to emulate. It underscores the state’s commitment to creating an educational system that is inclusive, innovative, and in tune with the needs of the digital age.

In conclusion, Kerala’s approach provides a scalable model of how technology and education can intersect to create impactful learning experiences. This initiative not only enhances the capabilities of current educators but also ensures that the educational sector can adapt and thrive in an increasingly digital future.

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Inspiration

Life of My Father: Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, a Pioneer in Education

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Source- www.cmseducation.org

A little over a month ago papa passed away and as I sit down to reflect on the remarkable journey of my father, Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, I am overwhelmed with a sense of pride and admiration, and the need to share his extraordinary life.

Born in 1934 in the quaint village of Barsauli, nestled in the heart of Aligarh district, his story is a testament to the power of dedication, compassion, and unwavering determination to make a difference in the world.

I remember countless evenings spent with him, engrossed in discussions about education, peace-building, and the importance of serving others. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his dedication to his mission served as a constant source of motivation for me and my siblings. My father taught me the true meaning of leadership – as a responsibility to uplift and empower those around you, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Growing up under the influence of his uncle, a Gandhian freedom fighter, my father was instilled with values of simplicity, service, and social justice from a young age. His longing to meet Mahatma Gandhi was shattered when he fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1948, leaving behind a nation mourning and a young Jagdish grappling with the loss of his idol.

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It was this loss that motivated him to become an agent of change in his own right. Inspired by Gandhi’s teachings on service and selflessness, he embarked on a journey of grassroots activism, mobilizing his peers to engage in community service projects aimed at uplifting the lives of those around them. His unwavering commitment earned him the endearing moniker of ‘Jagdish Gandhi’, a name that would become synonymous with his lifelong mission of service to humanity.

Despite the hardships he faced living in a temple and wearing humble attire, he pursued higher education and his tenure as the President of Lucknow University’s Students Union was a testament to his popularity and leadership qualities.

In 1959, he embarked on a new chapter of his life, founding City Montessori School in Lucknow alongside my mother, Bharti Agarwal. What began with just five students blossomed into an educational institution that today serves over 62,000 pupils, with the motto of ‘Jai Jagat’ echoing the principles of peace and unity that defined my father’s vision.

Driven by a fervent belief in the need for a world government to ensure global peace and prosperity, he ventured into politics, winning a seat as an Independent MLA in 1969. However, it was a journey fraught with disillusionment, as he realized that true change could not be achieved through partisan politics alone.

In 1974, during a conference on World Peace Through Education in London, my parents were introduced to the teachings of the Baha’i Faith, which emphasized the importance of unity, spirituality, and global governance. This encounter marked a turning point in my father’s life, leading him to renounce politics in favor of a more holistic approach to peace-building through education and interfaith dialogue.

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Freed from the constraints of political ambition, my father devoted himself to the cause of peace education, pioneering initiatives such as international exchange programs and annual International Conferences of Chief Justices of the World to promote the rule of law on a global scale. His efforts were recognized with numerous awards and honorary doctorates, including the prestigious UNESCO Prize for Peace Education. But beyond the accolades and achievements lies a man of remarkable humility and integrity, whose life serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who aspire to make a difference in the world.

My father was so many things to so many people. To his children and grandchildren, he was a doting, loving and sacrificing father and grandfather; to his devoted wife, he was a considerate and protective husband; to his employees, he was a generous, just and empowering boss, instilling in them a sense of their own capacities, believing in them, giving them autonomy and agency and trusting them. To his critics, he was forgiving, charitable and munificent. He rarely disappointed anyone and never turned away any soul. He went to every wedding and family celebration he was invited to, from the humblest employee to the highest.

As his daughter, I am proud to carry forward his life’s work, knowing that his spirit lives on in the countless lives he touched and transformed. His example continues to inspire me to stand up for what is right, and to never lose sight of the power of love and compassion to create positive change in the world.

Let us all remember the profound impact that one individual can have on the world, and strive to emulate my father’s unwavering dedication to service, justice, and peace. May we be guided by his example, and may his legacy inspire generations to come.

Authored By: 
Professor Geeta Gandhi Kingdon,
Chair of ‘Education Economics and International Development’,
University College London

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Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, Chair of ‘Education Economics and International Development’ at UCL Institute of Education, excels in the economics of education. Prior to this, she served as faculty at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford for 10 years. She advises global organizations like the World Bank and the EU, focusing on education aid in developing nations. Recognized for her impactful contributions, she received an Honorary Doctorate from Kingston University London. Notably, she manages the City Montessori School, Lucknow, the world’s largest school, recognized by UNESCO for peace education.

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Inspiration

International Women’s Day 2024: Are We Not Special?

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The image is generated using AI

The scene opens in a cozy study, where a mother Nishi, sits on a couch reading the newspaper. Her son, Neil approaches with a questioning look on his face.

Neil: Ma, what does it mean to be a woman?

Nishi: [Sits up with a start and puts the newspaper aside] Well, that’s quite a question for a 6-year-old, Neil, but let me try to explain it in a way that you will understand.

Neil: Okay ma! Please tell me.

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Nishi: Imagine you are a superhero and have this special power.

Neil: Like Spiderman and flying making webs all around?

Nishi: Well, something like that. Being a woman is like having the superpower of feeling. It means to be able to connect with people with the heart, without even touching.

Neil: Hmm, like when you know exactly what I want to eat when I return from school even though I do not ask you for it?

Nishi: Exactly so, my son. Together with that superpower, there is another added one. Do you want to know what that is?

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Neil: What’s that?

Nishi: It is the infinite power of love. No matter what you do, a mother’s love for her child is always there, strong and 100 bags full.

Neil: Even when I went and pinched my little sister’s cheeks thinking it would make her happy?

Nishi: Yes, even then. Though it was a little difficult then for I had to show you the difference between what makes you happy and what makes the little one sad. You did take some time to understand that, and that my son is also a super power that we have. Keeping a balance when there are so many little things to be looked after. 

Neil: [Grinning sheepishly] So, being my Ma is really like being a superhero twice over?

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Nishi: [Laughs] You could say that. What do you see I do not wear a cape, like spiderman does. I wear my heart on my sleeves?

Neil: Where is your heart? Which sleeve? Please can you show me that?

Nishi: [Pulling her son close to her in a tight hug] Can you hear the heart beat? Remember it beats for you and your sister and your father and all those whom you love.

Neil: That’s cool Ma. I can hear it loud and clear. Is Dad a superhero too?

Nishi: Absolutely! When he comes come ask him to hold you tight in his arms and you can hear his heart beat on his sleeves. Remember his heart too beats for you and all of us.

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Neil: You have taught me something very important today, Ma.

Nishi: [With a smile] What would that be, my son?

Neil: We learn from whatever we do, wherever we are and whoever we are with.

Nishi: Why did you ever doubt that?

Neil: I am seeing it through my Spiderman lenses now and let me tell you what happened today in school, superhero.

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Nishi: I am all ears.

Neil: I wore my costume and went on a rollercoaster ride. First, we went up and down with numbers, then I helped Rishi to take a wild turn with spellings and finally we all looped around with learning about earthworms and caterpillars!

Nishi: Sounds like a fantastic ride, spiderman. Did you overthrow any enemies today?

Neil: Oh yes Ma! I climbed the ‘Mount Fraction’ and spun the largest web around the ‘Spelling Summit’.

Nishi: That was amazing. Did you discover any treasures along the way, son?

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Neil: Oh, yes! As I was looping around the library, I discovered the hidden gems of knowledge there and collected quite a few in my big, red sack.

Nishi: What did you learn from this exploration, my superhero?

Neil: Learning is such an adventure, ma! Perhaps it is the greatest adventure of all. Now that we are all superheroes with our hearts on our sleeves, we can be fearless inquirers, brave thinkers and open-minded travellers.

Nishi: I have no doubt you will, my little Spiderman, be ready for every new challenge that life throws at you.

Neil: [hugging his mother] With my superhero ma with me, learning is going to be one great adventure.

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Nishi: Light out time! Off to bed, son.

When Nishi goes to her room a little later, she finds a little envelope tucked under her pillow. She opens it and finds some lines penned in a familiar handwriting, her husband’s. She looks around and finds him fast asleep, and does not disturb him. So quietly under the moonlit night she sits by herself and as the tears come welling up, she reads these heartfelt lines.

 

TO OUR SUPERHERO: MA

In the rich tapestry of time, she weaves her grace,

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A woman, in every hue, a divine presence.

Her worth, not measured in gild or gleam,

But in the strength of her being, God’s beautiful dream.

 

In her lap, the universe finds its peace,

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A reservoir of love for families.

With each role she pens and embraces,

A new story, a new character emerges.

 

A child is nurtured with utmost care,

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With hope and joy, beyond compare.

A mother, a wife, a sister, her roles unending,

She paints a new picture, a melody, unrelenting.

 

Her wisdom, a treasure trove, ageless and wise,

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A harbour for stormy seas, a rainbow in the skies.

She is the creator of dreams, a beacon of light,

Warm food for all, and a bedtime song for the night.

 

A woman transcends the bounds of time and space,

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For she is a marvel of creation, in God’s own image. 

 

This story and poem is Authored By: 


Sudeshna Sengupta
Director- Academics,
Vedanya International School, Gurugram 

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Edutainment

A Voice for All Ages: The Enduring Legacy of Ameen Sayani in Indian Education

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In the echoing halls of Indian broadcasting, the voice of Mr. Ameen Sayani resonated with a warmth that touched millions, uniting a diverse nation in the golden era of radio. Today, at the age of 91, as we bid farewell to this stalwart of the airwaves, his absence leaves a silence that is palpable and profound. Mr. Sayani was not merely a radio presenter; he was a cultural icon who personified the soul of India, a voice that became the soundtrack of our collective memory.

The voice of Mr. Ameen Sayani has been a familiar comfort in the homes of countless Indians, a testament to his incredible journey in broadcasting. He is best known for his work on “Binaca Geetmala”, a radio program that became a weekly ritual for listeners, showcasing the latest and greatest in Hindi film music. His distinctive voice and charming style turned the show into an institution, one that charted the musical landscape of India for years. His journey in the world of radio began at a young age, and his natural ease behind the microphone made him a household name. Through his programs, he didn’t just play songs; he wove tales around them, connecting with his audience on a personal level, making each listener feel as though they were a part of a larger Indian family.

Why should Mr. Sayani’s legacy be a part of our schools and colleges? It’s simple: he was a master storyteller and communicator, whose skills go beyond radio. He showed us the power of reaching out and touching hearts, of crafting stories that linger in the memory. These are the kinds of lessons that are vital for every student, no matter what they want to do in life.

Mr. Sayani’s voice brought people together, crossing barriers of region and language. His approach to communication is something we should all try to learn from – it’s about engaging with others, being culturally aware, and building a sense of community with our words.

His radio shows did more than entertain. They taught listeners how to listen to each other, to share in the joys and sorrows of others, reflecting the society of the time. As educators, we should aim to teach our students not just to be good at a job, but to be good people – and Mr. Sayani’s life and work offer rich lessons in this respect.

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To include Mr. Sayani in our curriculum is to honor a man whose passion became the heartbeat of a nation. We should use his story to inspire students to find their own voices, to tell stories that matter, and to understand the incredible impact they can have on the world.

As we remember him, let’s bring the spirit of his work into our classrooms, so that the power of his voice continues to inspire future generations to make their own lasting impact.

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Education

Farewell to a Pioneer: Dr. Jagdish Gandhi’s Enduring Legacy in Education

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Image Source: www.cmseducation.org

ScooNews deeply mourns the loss of the iconic educator, Dr Jagdish Gandhi, the visionary founder of City Montessori School (CMS), who passed away today. His unparalleled legacy in Indian education and the void his departure leaves will be deeply felt across the educational landscape. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Gandhi family and the vast community of educators, students, and parents profoundly touched by his lifelong commitment to education. ScooNews salutes Dr Gandhi for his significant contributions and celebrates the indelible mark he has left on the world of education.

In 1959, Dr Gandhi began his mission to transform mindsets through education with just five children and ten US dollars in borrowed capital. This marked the humble beginning of CMS in Lucknow, India. His journey, characterised by dedication, vision, and an unwavering commitment to peace through education, was influenced by luminaries such as Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. Dr Gandhi saw education as a powerful vehicle for cultivating peace, beyond mere negotiations and top-down policy efforts.

For 63 years, Dr Gandhi’s life was a testament to his mission. His days were filled with relentless work, sleepless nights, and a dedication that recognised no weekends or holidays. His focus was to nurture young minds globally, instilling values of peace, unity, and global citizenship. This dedication saw CMS become the world’s largest school, a testament to Dr Gandhi’s vision and the community’s belief in his mission.

Dr Gandhi’s holistic approach to education emphasised not only academic learning but also the human and spiritual development of a child. He fostered leadership, social consciousness, and global citizenship. His innovative initiatives, such as the Indo-Pak children’s friendship initiative and hosting international events, aimed to broaden youth understanding of peace and unity.

The loss of Dr Jagdish Gandhi is felt not just within the CMS community or India, but across the global educational landscape. His life demonstrated the transformative power of education. As ScooNews reflects on his remarkable journey, we are reminded of his resilience, dedication, and visionary leadership.

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In his honour, let us reaffirm our commitment to the ideals he championed. We will continue nurturing young minds, guiding them towards peace, unity, and understanding. Dr Gandhi’s physical presence will be dearly missed, but his vision, ideals, and spirit will continue to inspire future generations.

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Inspiration

A Former Monk And His Abode of Love: Jhamtse Gatsal

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There are only a handful of experiences in everyone’s life that get etched in one’s heart for a lifetime. My visit to Jhamtse Gatsal qualifies as one such experience; special, unforgettable, and forever a part of me.

View from Jhamtse Gatsal: Tawang Chu River marks the border with Bhutan on its left.

‘Jhamtse Gatsal’ literally, translates to ‘garden of love and compassion’. Standing true to its name, it’s a place where young souls are nurtured with love and tended to with compassion, much like seeds sown in a garden. It was opened in the year 2006, with 35 kids under its care and today it is home to 128 children.

The physical location of Jhamtse Gatsal is as enchanting as the philosophical essence behind its inception. About 50 Km away from the noise and bustle of the district headquarters in Tawang, it is located in the remote and picturesque Lumla sub-division. Built atop a hill, it is surrounded by majestic mountains that are lush green during summer and sparkling white during the winter. It overlooks the mystic Tawang Chu River meandering through the foothills and demarcating the international border with Bhutan to its left.

Far from the madding crowd and nestled in nature’s bounty, it is not an overstatement to say that the place satiates the yearnings and heals the maladies of the soul. Jhamtse Gatsal is a world in itself; complete and self-sustaining. The story of how it came into existence is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Jhamtse Gatsal is the brainchild of Mr. Lobsang Phuntsok, the former monk who left his fairly comfortable and thriving life in America and came back to his birthplace Tawang, to give back to the place and its people, all that was in his capacity. He is fondly addressed as Gen-la (‘Gen’ is a Tibetan term for an honored teacher and La is added to indicate respect. Together, Gen-la translates to ‘honorable teacher’), by everyone in Jhamtse Gatsal community and beyond it, by others in Tawang. Gen-la’s vision, grit, and conviction to transform lives and mold them, comes from the childhood he lived.

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A sit-out spot on campus overlooking Bhutan.

Born to an unwed mother, he was looked upon as “an uninvited guest in the universe”. Even though the pain and embarrassment his birth brought to his mother and family are not the best memories to go back to, he does not shy away from embracing and sharing his story. He rather acknowledges its instrumentality in shaping the person he is today. He recalls being a difficult child; often detested by the villagers for his notorieties. His loving grandparents saw no way out to mend his ways and finally at the age of 7, with the earnest hope for his life to take a better turn, he was sent away to a Buddhist monastery down south of the country to live a monk’s life. Notwithstanding, he recalls his young self continuing with his old ways in the monastery. Eventually, the faith, patience, and compassion shown by his Gurus set him on the path of self-transformation. Reaffirming the fact that behind different facades, lies the inherent human goodness in each one of us.

The children fostered by Gen Lobsang La at Jhamtse Gatsal share stories similar to his own; where the mere accident of birth in a certain family or circumstance left them in a position of pain or disadvantage. His mission is to give these children a fair chance at life and more importantly, guide them to transform themselves into better humans capable of being agents of change wherever they go, in making this world a better place to live in. He shares that, to love, care, provide for, and see the children happy is like time traveling back to his formative years; giving him a chance to relive his childhood through them and experience everything he missed out on. It is true indeed that the love we give is the love we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away.

Sharing knowledge.

In his 50s now, Gen Lobsang la has the exuberance of youth and his passion is evident in the joy with which he shares about his mission and the future plans he has for Jhamtse Gatsal. He is backed by a team of dedicated teaching and non-teaching staff, who are not only competent in their respective specialties but also share some common core values. Benign in their approach, they are professional with a human touch and value, laying the base of a healthy work environment.

Jhamtse Gatsal campus is at present, broadly divided into three main sections – the children’s residential complex, the academic block, and an area designated for building a residential colony in the near future. Together, they make up the Jhamtse Gatsal Community. Every aspect of Jhamtse Gatsal is well thought-out and holds meaning. The children’s residential complex is sectioned into four parts, each one of them a Khemsang’, meaning a family house’. The four khemsang have been named – Panggyen, Ganghla, Serchen, and Gurkum after rare plants with medicinal properties and healing capabilities. The thought behind this is to bespeak and symbolize self-healing and then, the the ability to heal others. It is rightly said,

“Hurt people hurt people. And healed people heal others. Free spirits free others, enlightened people enlighten others”.

Each khemsang and its children are looked after and taken care of by one ‘Ama-la’ (‘Ama’ means mother, ‘La’ is added to express respect. ‘Amala’ translates to respected/beloved mother). The four Ama-La(s) manage the four Khemsang(s) just like a mother does in a family. Along with the family-like set up with a mother figure, the older children are also taught to look after and care for the younger ones just like siblings do in a family.

It leaves no room for bullying or domination and instead, develops qualities of affection, a sense of responsibility, and mutual love between children of different age groups. These are just a few subtle and manifest ways in which the system devised at Jhamtse Gatsal empowers children and nudges them to a better path.

Gen-La with house mothers/Ama-la(s)

Keeping the ideals of a family, the mess at Jhamtse Gatsal has no fixed menu that repeats week after week. The Ama-La in charge decides what is to be fed. From ‘Thentuk’ (Hand-pulled noodle soup with mixed vegetables) to healthy curries, every meal is cooked with love and dedication.

Happy children posing for a photo after their morning study hour.

One of the inspiring routine events I was privileged to take part in, was the weekly one-meal fast (Wednesday dinner). It is not compulsory for guests or even for others in the community to participate, it is a completely voluntary choice. Dinner is still served for anyone who decides or feels the need to eat, along with the younger lot who are strictly exempted from participating.

The apportioned ration for those days is saved and donated to the needy in the villages around. In explaining the idea behind this observance of fast, Gen-La re-defined the notion of charity and sacrifice for me. He says the right way to gauge our dedication and love for fellow human beings is to see what we can forgo for someone else. He says, to be generous, donate, help only when there is an overflowing abundance, or give away that which we don’t want/wish to discard, hardly captures the spirit of charity or qualifies as one.

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Taking a moment to thank before the meal.

This made me rethink the idea of donating clothes we don’t want, and the leftover food on our plates that we give away, as an act of kindness. Sure, something is better than nothing and to feed an empty stomach is better than dumping it in a thrash bin. But it made me wonder that perhaps, cutting out from our portion for someone else is to treat the other person with respect, as equal sentient beings to share and care for, and not subjects of our kindness born out of a condescending privilege. Along with the standard curriculum for each class, children are engaged in a myriad of extracurricular activities, skill training, and other creative projects. The goal is to ensure an all-around development encompassing emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health.

Each child is counseled, encouraged, and helped to polish their unique strengths by abled teachers and Gen-La, together. Instead of trying to fit everyone in a specific predesigned box, each child is allowed to bloom at its own pace and shine in their unique domains. Teaching the science and art of sustainable living is a major focus and the base on which the edifice of Jhamtse Gatsal Community is built.

Children in the queue for an afternoon snack.

Children are exposed to lessons and activities that arm them to live scientifically and in harmony with nature, through fun and interesting engagements. From plastic recycling, waste management, and vermicomposting to arts and crafts, the children at Jhamtse Gatsal are taught and trained by teachers, Ama-la(s), and enthusiastic allies from across the world. Other than professional and academic lessons, it is ensured that children learn basic life skills – cooking, cleaning, and self-care across genders.

Jhamtse Gatsal is a beacon of hope for the world we live in today. In a world of information overload and easy access to social media, it is sometimes dispiriting to witness the tragic events happening across the world. At such a time, Jhamtse Gatsal is a place that felt refreshing and reaffirmed my faith in a shared brotherhood of humanity with the promise of a better, kinder, and harmonious world. In my assignment to write for The Borderlens, I feel fortunate to have discovered my Shangri-La at Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community; a place that felt like a remotely hidden, beautiful utopia.

Learn more about Gatsal: https://linktr.ee/jhamtsegatsal

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Education

Remembering Sardar Patel: Observing Ekta (Unity) in Education

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Statue of Unity | Image Source: Gujarat Tourism

Every year, on October 31, India comes together to observe Ekta Diwas or National Unity Day, a significant occasion that commemorates the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a stalwart in India’s struggle for independence and the nation’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Born in 1875, Patel’s legacy reverberates through the annals of history, especially for his pivotal role in integrating the princely states and colonial provinces, shaping the modern map of India post its independence from British rule.

In 2014, the Government of India declared this day as National Unity Day, a heartfelt tribute to Sardar Patel’s monumental contributions to the nation’s unity, integrity, and security. This declaration signifies more than just a date on the calendar; it embodies the collective strength and resilience of India against internal and external threats.

The celebrations on National Unity Day are vibrant and diverse, reflecting the essence of India’s rich cultural tapestry. Various activities, such as runs for unity, pledge-taking ceremonies, cultural programs, debates, quizzes, essay competitions, and exhibitions about Sardar Patel’s life, mark the day. The focal point of these celebrations is the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue standing at 182 meters (597 feet), dedicated to Sardar Patel. This colossal statue, situated near the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in Gujarat, Sardar Patel’s home state, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, 2018.

National Unity Day is not merely a ritual; it is a day of inspiration. It urges the citizens of India to emulate Sardar Patel’s ideals of unity, patriotism, and selfless service. Beyond that, it serves as a reminder, urging the nation to recall the sacrifices and struggles of the freedom fighters who toiled for India’s independence and integration. It is a day to cherish India’s diversity, a unique feature of its culture and identity, and a day to recommit ourselves to preserving the unity, integrity, and sovereignty of our nation.

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This day is a call to action, reminding every Indian of their duty towards their motherland. It instills a sense of national pride, fostering a spirit of belonging among the citizens. National Unity Day promotes harmony and brotherhood, serving as a beacon of India’s secular and democratic values enshrined in its Constitution. It strengthens our resolve, reminding us that as a united nation, we can face any challenge that comes our way.

National Unity Day stands as a testament to India’s unity in diversity. It is not just a tribute to Sardar Patel; it is a celebration of his legacy, a legacy that unites the hearts of every Indian. On this day, we salute him not just as a leader but as an icon of national unity, reminding us of the strength we possess when we stand together as one, undivided nation.

As we observe National Unity Day, let us reflect on Sardar Patel’s wisdom and vision. Let us embrace the diversity that defines us and work hand in hand to build a stronger, more united India for the generations to come.

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Inspiration

World Students’ Day: Celebrating Young Indian Entrepreneurs Shaping the Future

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On the occasion of World Students’ Day 2023, celebrated on 15th October 2023, we are showcasing stories of student entrepreneurs who are nothing less than an inspiration. They have left their indelible mark on the world through their work and innovation

Student entrepreneurs are young people who start their own businesses while pursuing their education. They are driven by their passion, creativity, and innovation to solve problems and create value in the market. Student entrepreneurship is a growing phenomenon in India, as more and more students are taking up the challenge of becoming their own bosses. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report 2020-21, approximately 81 percent of youth in India reported having the skills and knowledge needed to start a business. A survey by Amway India also revealed that over 60 percent of students in the country consider entrepreneurship as a good prospect for earning a livelihood. Some of the successful student entrepreneurs in India include Ritesh Agarwal of OYO Rooms, Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Cabs, and Kunal Shah of Freecharge. Student entrepreneurship can be a rewarding career option for young Indians who want to make a difference in the world.

Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra are the young entrepreneurs behind Zepto, India’s fastest-growing delivery platform that promises to deliver anything within 10 minutes. The duo met as childhood friends in Dubai and later enrolled in Stanford University, where they dropped out to pursue their dream of building a disruptive startup.

Zepto was launched in Mumbai in 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when the demand for online delivery services was soaring. The company leveraged its network of hyperlocal warehouses and delivery partners to offer a wide range of products, from groceries and medicines to electronics and fashion, at affordable prices and lightning speed. The company soon attracted the attention of investors and customers alike, reaching a valuation of $200 million in just one month of operation. By the end of 2022, Zepto had become a unicorn, valued at $900 million, and expanded to over 20 cities across India. The company also made history by making its co-founders the youngest billionaires in India, with Aadit Palicha’s net worth estimated at Rs 1,200 crore and Kaivalya Vohra’s at Rs 1,000 crore.

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Palicha, just 23-year-old and Vohra, in his early 20’s have also been recognized for their achievements by various prestigious platforms, such as Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Asia, Times of India’s Unstoppable 21, and Wikitia. They are regarded as the rising stars of the Indian startup ecosystem and an inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs.

Tilak Mehta is a 15-year-old entrepreneur who founded Paper n Parcels, a delivery platform that offers same-day delivery services within the city at low costs. He started his business when he was 13 years old, after facing a problem of getting his books delivered from his uncle’s place. He came up with the idea of using the Mumbai Dabbawalas, who are known for their efficient and reliable delivery of lunch boxes, to deliver other items as well.

Paper n Parcels has grown to become one of the most successful startups in India, with an annual turnover of Rs 100 crore. The company provides shipping and logistics solutions to various businesses, using its online platform and network of partners and suppliers. Paper n Parcels also offers value-added services such as parcel tracking, order management, and shipping insurance.

Tilak Mehta is an inspiration for many young aspiring entrepreneurs in India. He has been recognised by various prestigious platforms such as Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Asia, Times of India’s Unstoppable 21. He is also a TEDx speaker and the youngest Forbes panellist. He believes that age is no barrier to innovation and success.

Divya Gandotra Tandon is a rising star in India’s entrepreneurial landscape. She is the founder and director of Scoop Beats Private Limited, a company that provides digital media solutions and content creation services. She is also the chief operating officer of ASTNT Technologies Private Limited, a company that offers web development, app development, and digital marketing services.

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Divya started her career as a tech YouTuber at the age of 13, with a channel named Technical Divya. She later changed it to Tech Divya, which has over 30 thousand subscribers. She has collaborated with brands like Aquaconnect, Lazy Gardener, Coolpad, Infinix, and ASCENT Technologies. She has also attended launch events and confidential meetings of various tech companies.

Divya is not just an entrepreneur but also an influential figure in various domains. She is also the chairperson of the KiranPrakash Social Welfare Foundation, a role that reflects her commitment to giving back to society and making a positive impact.

Pranjali Awasthi is a teenage prodigy who has made a mark in the world of AI with her startup, Delv.AI She founded the company in 2022, when she was just 15 years old, and has raised nearly Rs 4 crore in funding at a valuation of Rs 100 crore.

Awasthi’s passion for technology and entrepreneurship was inspired by her father, who is a computer engineer and taught her coding when she was seven years old. She moved from India to Florida when she was 11 years old, where she got access to computer science classes and competitive math programs. She also landed an internship at the research labs of Florida International University, where she worked on machine learning projects.

Advait Thakur is a young and dynamic entrepreneur who has made a name for himself in the Indian tech industry. He is the founder and CEO of Apex Infosys India, a company that provides innovative solutions in automation, networking, and digital media. He is also a computer programmer, an AI researcher, and a tech influencer.

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Advait’s passion for technology started at an early age. He launched his first website at the age of nine and became a Google, Bing, and Hubspot certified professional. He has worked with Google’s AI and Cloud Platform for several years and has developed various applications and projects using them. He has also collaborated with brands like Aquaconnect, Lazy Gardener, Coolpad, Infinix, and ASCENT Technologies.

Advait is not just a successful entrepreneur but also a social change-maker. He co-founded Crophle, a social enterprise that aims to improve the agricultural supply chain and empower small farmers. He is also the chairperson of the KiranPrakash Social Welfare Foundation, a non-profit organization that works for the welfare of underprivileged children and women.

 

 

 

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