By Sanjay Mittal, Teach for India Fellow
As a ‘Teach for India’ fellow, I have witnessed first-hand the immense challenges associated with teaching in a resource-poor environment, having taught two 2nd grade classrooms in a low-income community in Pune. My students came from poor backgrounds. Parents of my students earned a living in various ways, with both males and (more frequently) females contributing to the household. Their livelihoods ranged from daily-wage workers, house cleaners and auto-rickshaw drivers to tailors, roadside tobacco stall owners, janitors, security guards and drivers. The average monthly income for my classroom, based on data gathered from parent surveys, was of the order of INR 5000/ ($100 a month). On top of this, all the families had at least six members living in a 100-200sq ft. shanty.
I was surprised to discover that the factors I considered barriers to student education when I interviewed for my ‘Teach for India’ fellowship were no longer what I think prevents students from succeeding. Initially, I thought the barriers included low levels of student achievement and lack of initiative among students, overworked and unmotivated school staff, particularly due to low salaries, and a lack of infrastructure.