Thursday, January 9, 2020

Day Out at ZPBHS, Yellareddy, Kamareddy District

E Chandrasekharan, CEO, ECS Consultants engages in a lot of philanthropic work besides running a successful financial services company. He is deeply patriotic and wants to do his best for the country. He is also very humble, provides opportunities to a  diverse group of employees and employs differently-abled people as a rule. Frugal to a fault, he uses every penny wisely and helps many.

ECS as he is also known, identified education as a game changer and sponsors Zilla Parishad schools in faraway Yellareddy village in Kamareddy district, a distance of 138 kms from here. He also sponsors another school near Pondicherry. I am not really clear why he chose those two schools but he does. ECS asked me a while ago if I would like to address students in the Yellareddy school to motivate them to do better in their final exams - they come from poor backgrounds and do not take education very seriously. Most drop out after their tenth. I agreed then, not knowing what I signed up for.

On 8th January ECS told me he would pick me up at 630 am and he was home by 625. Bad roads make the 138 km travel a three and a half hour journey. When he travels by himself ECS tells me he travels by bus which works out to 4-5 hours one way. I am sure he does not want to spend on his comfort what he can spend on the project.
A first for me - flowery welcome!
So we went there by road in his Maruti van - past  Medak through some lovely forest areas, past the Pocharam reservoir and to Yellareddy. At the Zilla Parishad Boys High School which is located to one far corner of the town, 80 students of the 8th and 9th class are to attend the talk. I am still not sure what to talk about. ECS and his assistant Srikanth, a young multifaceted 19 year old, set it all up with the school staff. The kids are curious. I wait in the staff room which has so much information - periods, attendance, biometrics and even a poster - 'I love my job'.

Some 80 kids came forward to listen to the talk. There was a mike. I had to speak in Telugu which I was not very confident of and was absolutely unsure how I'd make any difference. To my pleasant surprise I was given a guard of honour with students lining up on either side on the corridor and giving me bougainvillaeas, yellow wildflowers, a rose or two, anything they could lay their hands on. Some showered me with petals. Nothing like I ever experienced before - the best bouquets ever.
Event about to start!
After a lamp lighting ceremony, some intros, I spoke. I told the students my Telugu was bad and worse than the Telugu they knew. That made them feel better. Then I told them to accept that they know a little and don't know much - and that when they don't know they should say 'I don't know'. It's not a crime not to know. Then they must ask their teachers and pester them until they understand. If the teacher cannot answer them, they should ask their fellow students. But as students, all they should do is ask, and learn. They all shouted out loud - I don't know. I also asked the Headmaster if it was ok for them to ask doubts and he was very happy to say they should ask. (As an example I asked what Parishad in Zilla Parishad meant and not many of us knew, me included. One teacher said it was 'block' - so I demonstrated how we can learn by asking!)
Speech on - in Telugu
Then I asked them how the weakest in the class can top in the next 90 days. Work hard they said. I told them that was right - that there is a difference between putting in 1 hour a day and 5 hours a day. We made some calculations and realised that at 1 hour a day they would put in 90 hours while at 5 they would put in 450 hours. They agreed that it would certainly help.
Clarity on SMART Goals - be specific about what you want
But why don't we study then?
Rajendra speaking - first time for him
They said because it is not interesting. I asked why it is not interesting and they finally said because they did not understand. So we came back to going to the teachers and asking questions and discussing with their friends until they got clarity. I told them to get up early and study so 1 hour would be equal to two hours without distraction. Also their parents could not ask them to work in those hours. One guy aid he would wake up at 5, another at 4 and one even at 3. They agreed more hours would help.
Gifting the teacher's gift to a student
Then we looked at their goals. I asked them to write down their goals. Driver, police, engineer, cricketer, teacher, army officer. I explained how they should be more specific. Instead of police, they could write - constable, or inspector or an IPS officer. The bigger the goal the bigger the preparation required -  so being clear helps. Same with wanting to be a teacher - at ZP school at IIT, at Harvard. Each had its own preparation. The bigger their goal, the bigger their preparation. Go for big.
The doctor to be in a red shirt, and so many other future stars
I shared the story of Suman, who is Chandu's son. Chandu washes my car and Suman his son, studied hard and now works at Deloitte. He earns 50 k a month - or perhaps more. I told them that in the next 90 days and then the next 700 days of their Intermediate - if they studied hard, they could also earn 50k a month and better their lives and that of their parents. One could see them struggling with the idea but trying to hold it.
Some after speech interactions
Then they shared their goals. It was beautiful to see them - will work hard, get 9/10 GPA, become a doctor, farmer, teacher, bank officer. One boy told me he would become a bank officer and invite me then to the village. At QA time Dasarath, a student, asked me to clarify how one achieves a goal. I told him that the first step to be clear about the goal and always keep it in your sights - most times we are not clear about our goal. Then the teachers wanted the students to speak which was a good idea.
Outside the school with all the teachers and Mr. E Chandrasekharan (in white t shirt and cap)
One was the son of parents who eked out a living by begging, (wants to be a police officer), many work in the market the teachers said, coming from extremely poor backgrounds. And on and on. The infectious energy caught on and where no one came to speak up earlier, now every child wanted to come up and speak. Most said they liked the fact that they could say 'I don't know' and ask for help. The teachers got so excited that they started offering the shy students cash prizes of 100 rupees from their pockets. The quiet Head Master Chiranjeevulu, Srinivas, Bari and all other teachers kept plying students with cash from their pockets. So did Mr ECS who was as effusive in his love for them. Their love for their wards was beautiful to see. After several cash awards were given we finally wound up. I feel some small beginning was made.
At the Government school in Lingareddy village, the Head Master in the red shirt
We were already behind schedule and hurried to the small school in the neighbouring Lingareddy village and met young students there, full of energy and beans. Then we saw the Vidyalaya ECS had built near that school - a place for learning where teachers are available for students desirous of learning.
At the ECS Vidyalaya in Lingareddy
And then we headed back. A stop at the beautiful Medak church, lunch at Chandra Bhavan and a long journey back.
At the beautiful Medak church

One of the most satisfying days ever for me. Thanks Mr. E Chandrsekharan. Thank ECS. And good luck ZPBHS boys. Looking out for you achieving your goals.