As we enter 2017, I'm reflecting about the future of India -not just the year ahead, but the decades that await all of us.
I'm not one who believes in making New Year resolutions.But today , I'm asking you to join me in making an important commitment. It's the commitment to engage and to lead.
Over the years, we have watched our country make some giant technical and economic strides. We've seen innovations come, industries rise, and ventures bloom. Despite that unquestionable progress, there is still reason to despair.The constant cycle of violent news -from Syria to Uri -has desensitised us to the mindless poverty right outside our door.
In a world with so much wrong, are you one of those who wonders what you can possibly do? In my years of experience, my biggest learning is this: building a better India demands that we take the challenge head on. It demands that we commit to fundamentally fixing our problems instead of trying to be arm-chair critics and expecting government to solve all our problems.
We live in a country where 76% of our children will drop out before Class X, and 53% of our Grade V students can't read a Grade II textbook. And underlying all of that, data tells us that nine lakh teacher vacancies exist today -those vacan cies mean hundreds of thousands of classrooms without teachers. Building a better India is only possible if we fix our education system. And fixing education is possible only if we ensure that India's top graduates choose to teach, perhaps before choosing to join the corporate world.
And taking the challenge head on is exactly what organizations like Teach For India (TFI) are doing, every single day. Since 2009, I've watched more than 2,700 Indians make the courageous decision to teach and to lead. Many of them have left high-paying corporate jobs, while others have joined directly out of college.As a first step, they've committed to the two-year fellowship, and worked to transform India's most disadvantaged schools, impacting more than 42,000 low-income children across the country. By 2022, that growing movement of leaders aims to ensure that one million children across India receive quality education. And what are those 2,700 Indians doing today , after the fellowship? Well, they're everywhere.From corporate foundations such as Thermax and Axis Bank to heads of new ventures such as I-Teach and LifeLabs, these Indians are serving in positions of leadership and influence across the country .
I've been privileged to know and serve along with some of them. When Madhukar came into Teach For India in 2009, he was a BITS graduate who had left a well-paying corporate job to teach third graders in Pune.Today , he's leading the Pune City Connect Education Track and working to drive governmental changes for the betterment of children.
Before Tarun began teaching his own set of second graders, he was a sales manager with Unilever. After the TFI fellowship, he went on to get his masters' degree at Harvard Kennedy School. And recently , he founded a Delhi-based venture, Indus Action, which works to enforce the RTE's 25% provision for low-income children. That's the sheer beauty of Teach For India. As you commit to teaching, transforming, and building a better India, TFI commits to building you into the leader of tomorrow.
Building a better India and a better world demands courage and it demands leadership.You have it, and I do as well. Perhaps most importantly , our children have it too. We just need to tap into it.
The writer is Chairperson, Teach For India