Oprah’s School

Sure, there is going to be a lot of critcism about the elitist nature of the enterprise, and about the immense amount of media coverage. But this one so obviously comes from Oprah’s heart. She is welcome to India anytime. Do read Nikita’s comment under “A Mother’s letter from Noida” where she sees Oprah’s actions as a mirrot to ourselves and asks if we are doing enough ourselves for the children in our communities. In India almost 50% of all children lack basic primary education. That is an awful figure for a country that aspires to be the next global power. I would like to share something my own driver told me ….

His four children live and go to a free goverment run primary school in a village in Maharashtra. However that’s just in theory. The teachers rarely come to the school, or they send someone else, while they themselves are picking up the salary for teaching but in effect are working elsewhere. That someone else is not a teacher.
So the village got together and pooed resources and started their own school ! Which the parents themselves look after. Now they are trying to convince the state goverment to recognize the school. But in the meantime atleast the kids are getting decent education.
In India I know of so many people that have taken the responsibility of educating atleast one child. My father who was a pedriatician always had a few kids who’s education he paid for. My mother spent years and years trying to create a school in Delhi for handicapped children. She suceeded just before she died. I do pay for the education of some children. Suchitra (my ex wife) goes every week to give singing lessons to street children in Mumbai. India is fairly generous like that.
The great thing about that is that instead of merely contributing in cash to an organization, you get to know the child and feel personally responsible. Could we all take repsonsibility for one child that is not our own, who’s education and other financial needs we look after ?
Yet there are millions of children that you never hear of. They and their families live outside the system. They are what I call the forgotton people. You will never get in touch with them because they are just not integrated into what we call the Indian society. How do we reach out to them ?
How does any system reach out to them. It was these scores of children that were so brutally murdered in Delhi recently. It was these children who’s bodies were cut up for their organs. It was these children’s parents that begged and begged the police to help find their missing children. And they were just laughed at.
And all this not in some outlying unconnected village, but in the heart of India’s capital city ???

11 thoughts on “Oprah’s School

  1. Dear Shekharji,
    It is true and I have learned from a great person not too long ago, that love is the mirror. How much do we really love? Are we really practicing it? Oprah may not have a complete verbal answer of what it means – but her school is enough of an answer. The children going to school there and whose lives will be influenced by this opportunity is enough of an answer. Their being able to live a decent and safer life is enough of an answer.
    Loving someone who is a complete stranger to me is not easy initially, but that is when I look within myself and go Beyond simple thinking. It must be hard, is it not? To love someone completely foreign to you? To try to imagine that these children could be our own baby sister or brother, daughter and son?
    If we can visualise in this manner and take action, we may be practicing true love, reaching full human potential for the capacity to love without limit – as limitless and boundless as the sky. I Never find it enough – when I look at the mirror to myself. The more I think I am doing enough to help, the more I realize I need to do more.
    And it is me who has to fold my hands and thank whoever I have helped for giving me the opportunity to serve them.

  2. Oprah is trying to build a leadership team in her native country, its going to be premier institute churning out leaders who later on would inspire thousands to be better citizens, this kind of noble idea could come from Oprah only. For India millions of Dollars are collected every year by thousands of organizations to run various social organizations, however there is no effort like this.
    If you build one leader, he or she would build another 10. Look at Jawahar or Gandhi or any other leader India produced. So need of the hour is train our new generation to be leaders and results would be excellent.

  3. Shekhar,
    I agree we should try to reach out to the underprivileged kids, because there is so much to offer & extend. Me & my husband send money to an orphanage every month, but I know that’s not enough & we will make efforts to give time as well. We don’t live in India, so we are helping the society in US in our own little way. However, on such issues I have been thinking quite globally; kids are kids after all indian or not, they all need love & caring. The Noida incident that you mentioned is indeed horendous! and the way police deals with it in india is equally pathetic.
    I am a regular reader of your blogs & you have been the inspiration behind me blogging my thoughts.

  4. It’s truly commendable of your mom to have started the school. I hope it is doing well. A relative of mine also ran a school for disabled by herself for many years after which she tried to get government aid many times which was denied and she had to close the school.
    I wish I could be part of something like GJ mentioned, someday.

  5. What makes me angry is that we as a nation =- and a deeply overpopulated nation – are irresponsible. It’s not about bashing this ‘country’, its ‘ethics’ its ‘police force’, its anything. A law and a constitution must be framed to protect the weakest of the weak, not the strong. And there is no one more vulnerable than our children.
    Yes, it’s fun to go around making babies. But do you stand by them, feed them, clothe them when you’re done? Or do you dump them to fend for themselves and go around living your own life? Then, please don’t mass produce babies.
    Once you begin to work, party, get a divorce, remarry, have other kids, if you are responsible for bringing a life – a vulnerable life that is completely dependent on you for everything – you have no business to not make this world the best goddamn world you can for that life.
    You have no right to turn away at the beggar child at signal and not look into a child’s eyes.
    I am made angry by people who bash thsi wonderful country. This ‘country’ is not some inanimate being that has a duty to do. It’s YOU and ME who make this country. So stop grumbling and do something if you can. We all obviously haven’t done much which is why our years of neglect are catching up with our children now. Deal with it.

  6. Isn’t it easy to find a punching bag to blame all problems on, whether it is water, pollution, overpopulation, crime or corruption?
    When will the people realise that it is they who make up the country that is, every action and inaction speaks ..
    it is no wonder that you find people marching on indian streets shouting
    slogans a la – ‘begaani shaadi mein abdullah deewana’
    and, horrendous events including 711 are met with a mute silence.
    so much for apathy and colonization and tolerance!!
    Hypocrisy at its best…

  7. I stay in Mumbai, a city of variety, a city of varied culture and hence you find equal amount of good and bad here. From college students to high profile people,I have seen number of them volunteering for various causes. At the same time I have seen people who don’t even blink their eye when a girl is being molested in front of them simply because they don’t want to be stuck in painful law of our country! Who should we blame in such situations? I don’t know.
    Poverty is another major cause for staying away from law. I was moved when I heard a parent from Nithari commenting on his raped and murdered child. He stated that they just couldn’t cry over their children because they couldn’t afford to and had move to back to their routines. It indeed takes guts and too much of courage to swallow pain of that extent.
    It is a hypocritical society. We stay in a country of dual law, one that is written in the books and the other that is implemented in front of our eyes and we, the so called educated people, don’t do anything because we term it as impractical and a waste of time.

  8. You also spoke about fogotten people Shekhar. I know one such group in Mumbai and I would like to share my experience with them.
    Three years back I visited a tribal village in Kandivali (a Mumbai suburb) through an NGO. The path was no less than trekking as they stayed on a hill behind the plush Thakur Complex in Kandivali. After struggling the climb, we finally reached the place. The place was one of the boundaries of Borivali National park and was so frequented by wild animals.
    The tribals were origanally the owners of the place where the plush societies were built. The owner, with the help of unscrupulous methods, got them out of the land. They were forced to reside in a place where there was no access to a single basic necessity. They had to walk down the hill for 4 kms to get a pot of water. In fact, when we were offered lunch, they politely asked us not to wash our plates since we were used to wasting water and that was indeed true. We were shown around the whole place and it was gratifying to be at such a place where people welcomed you even if they didn’t have a grain to eat in their house. We were treated as royal beings. They had no electricity. Their children were taught by volunteers in a small hut. They earned by selling cane baskets. Their case demanded frequent visits to govt. offices that cost them 50 Rs which is not even their income per day! It was also noteworthy that they were just fighting for their rights but never desired to be a part of the other world as the world that we stay in was ‘another’ for them.
    No water, no electricity, no basic amenities? I could feel for their worry but couldn’t relate to it probably because I knew I would be going back to my comfotable world very soon. But it was later in the evening, when I had to stay without lights for just 20 min at my place, that I realised how a few humans were stuck in inhumane conditions by the so called privileged ones.

  9. Building on your article, i’d like to question the role of ‘celebrity’ in india. not that the standard is particularly high in hollywood or anywhere else, but people are using their ‘fame’ in certain constructive ways such as giving a voice to refugee action (Angelina Jolie), AIDS (Bono), Global Debt (Bob Geldof), Education (Oprah Winfrey) etc. I guess its very easy to call any action on their part a hypocritical photo-op but it does do a lot of good for the organisations involved. dont get me wrong, i get that its pretty twisted, but nonetheless… You have Medha Patkar half-dead on the footpaths and its passing news, but Aamir Khan goes down to join the NBA campaign for one afternoon and theres a national furor. the point is, why are people who have the power not bothered enough to get up and make a difference? I hypothesized that living in a country like India, you grow up amongst poverty, no matter how separated from it you may be, whether its the servants working in your house, or the leper knocking on your window at red lights. from a very young age youre taught to build walls,because you know the second you give in youre sunk…

  10. hi oprah,is for me a great chance to find this adress. i’m a congolese refugee in south africa. and i realy wanna study but i do not have support. as you know south africa can not provide accomodation, educotion, salary for refugees.i’m here for three years looking for support so that i can study.i’m doing a job wich can not even allow me to pay rent or enough food for my self and this helped me to have an account number.i’m alone here even i can sleep outside but i realy wanna study. my story is to long and sad. i have seen how you are helping people. please help me also. if you can find it in your heart please use my account number 62117418534 by the name of ngwej tshijik the bank’s name is fnb branch yeoville thanks God bless you

  11. Hey oprah, its me again.I realy need your support please, i’m in danger cause i hope you heard about the xenophobia in south africa. i need need fianacially support from you, as i said i need to study, now thiws xenophobia is here, realy i don’t know what to do, i’m a refugee here and believe you me the gouverment is not doing any thing even in this situation. i’m willing to go even in mozambique or zambia if they can take me as a refugee, but the problem is how am i going to get there? i have no money, no support… please oprah help me. south african citizan have taken even my clothes and i’m staying outside with this cold please find it in your heart… thank you

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