Toastmasters Speech #9 has the objective of "Persuade with Power". You can do this by either inspiring people, convincing them or by issuing a call for action. In this speech, I have attempted to do the first two by talking about the dismal state of public education in India and the role of Pratham in ameliorating the situation.
When I was in the sixth grade, my family moved to a village. Since there were no good schools around, I had to take 3 buses and then walk a km to reach school. Imagine that! - a 6th grader taking 6 buses and 4 hours a day to go to school [Pause] and I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
For you see, there are 200 million kids in India who don't even get to go to school - that is 2/3rd the population of America. Of those that go to school, 100 million cannot read and 125 million cannot add or subtract.If you are poor in India, the doors of quality education are shut for you. And there is no shortage of poor people - a third of the world's poor are Indians. Education is their only salvation - their ticket to a better job, more money and mobility to escape the poverty at home. And yet, they are denied the very thing that will save them!
We can't complain that the government is not doing anything - The government of India spends 250 billions Rs a year to provide public education to its citizens. Yet India also suffers from the highest teacher absenteeism in the world. A quarter of its teachers are "ghosts" - no one has seen them or heard them in a classroom. And the results are telling - In 2009, India was invited to participate in the prestigious PISA testing program (PISA stands for the Program for International Student Assessment). The results were released this week - first the good news, we are better than Kyrgyzstan in math and reading. In science, we come dead last among all the 74 nations tested. A glorious moment indeed - I can already feel my chest puffing out in pride!
All that is well and good.. But why should you care? - because today India is standing at the crossroads. It is the youngest country in the world. If its teeming millions are not educated and are unable to find a job, trouble will soon follow. Civil unrest, religious discord and terrorism as more and more people fight for a shrinking pie. All of you must have seen the chaos going on in the Arab world. India has four times the population. Imagine what will happen when India erupts.