by Climber Cathey Anderson
For those of us with children, we all remember the day our children started school. No matter what type of education you chose for your child, that first day was memorable. Being the mom of four kids, I remember what they wore, the look on their faces, their first teachers, and even what the weather was like. It was their first day of “on the job” training. Once the kids walked in single file to their classroom, the moms and dads wiped their tears and went on their way, anxious for the day to pass until they could hear how the first day went. Education was the key to their future and the path to freedom. And, of course, this was the accepted and expected course for all children in our country.
In India, the Dalit children have been denied access to education. It has been for the upper caste children, but it was rarely for a Dalit. When OM asked the leaders and elders in India what one thing they could do for the plight of the Dalits, it was unanimous: educate our children.
I’ve been reading an outstanding book, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and I highly recommend that all people grab a copy of it! One of the sentences reads, “More broadly, the single most important way to encourage women and girls to stand up for their rights is education, and we can do far more to promote universal education in poor countries.” Yes, we can. While I always knew that education was a good thing, I never truly understood how it can be a major catalyst, if not the major catalyst, in promoting freedom from injustice, poverty, and oppression of women and children AND transforming a culture that has robbed them of these dignities.
When we visited a Dalit Education Center, we saw hope in the eyes of the community. The faces of the children were happy, excited, and grateful for their school. They delighted in showing us what they’d already learned. Their parents joined their children during lunch and quickly hurried them back into the classroom when their break was over. We were told that other Dalit parents line up at the gate each morning hoping that they, too, can enroll their children in this school.
By educating a child, you give them hope, choices, and they are empowered to create a future that looks vastly different from the one of the generation that walked before them. We know this, we believe this, and we are committed to doing what we can to bring the world of education to these millions of children who have only dreamed that that world could be a reality for them.