Commitment to the Future

Pictures and articles about the contrasts between the haves and the have-nots of India do not prepare you for the irl experience—the poverty in Old Delhi versus modern architectural structures in high-tech Bangalor. However, the most significant contrast is in opportunity. Research on the U.S. economy has shown that few people are able to improve on the economic class into which they were born. In India, the challenges of moving upwards look insurmountable. This is especially true regarding the status of girls where attitudes about girl child infanticide, not just access to education, are being combated. In this context the Rabea Girls Public School is nothing but extraordinary. Established in 1974 by Hakeem Abdul Hameed (the school is named after his mother) it is now run by Principal Dr. Naheed Usmani. IMG_20151117_074904_632-2It is a unique school for Muslim girls, where their education includes working with electrical circuits and writing business plans. What’s notable about the school leader is that she didn’t talk about changing the world. Dr. Usmani talked about helping individual students become good human beings, about giving girls the “right values and confidence” so they would not falter, in whatever path they followed. Recognizing that many of her students get married by the 12th grade, Dr. Usmani talked about increasing the number of her students going on to university (20 last year compared to just 2 students in 2011, when she started as the school’s principal). Though many education leaders look to take on new challenges after a few years of a successful program, Dr. Usmani did not talk about what she planned to do next. “There is no exit strategy,” was a statement made by another school leader, Geetha Narayanan, founder of the Srishti Institute. Both women, like so many of the eduction leaders we met on this trip, have a commitment to providing opportunity that focuses on the individual student. Though I was surprised to see John F. Kennedy quoted in the Rabea School Magazine, I was not surprised by the sentiment—“…those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.”