My favorite 100 off the cricket field:
I entered to the welcome of several smiling faces and excited students. It was a sense of satisfaction as I walked in the corridors of a revitalized school, which was made possible through the Coca-Cola NDTV Support My School campaign.
This visit was to mark a special century off the cricket field. It was the hundredth school that we had reached as part of the first season of the campaign. I told the students that this was a unique century, as it involved thousands of people across the country.
When I look back at the journey we made, I think the response to this campaign in the very first year has been fantastic. To be able to impact 43,000 students in schools and to be able to provide them facilities is just fabulous.
The highlight of my interaction was when I had a chance to meet the students. They had put together an entertaining program, and we witnessed some true talent among them. They asked me several questions - about my life, my childhood, my days of growing up, my education. I told them what my coach had once said, "Learning should never stop, however painful the journey may be." I also told them of my days of long practice sessions, travel in unreserved train compartments, and my happy times with friends. I also told them stories about my childhood heroes and how they inspired me. The core of my discussion with the students revolved around the importance of education.
A large majority of students across the country still attend schools that do not have basic amenities, and the state of these schools need immediate attention. Looking at this pressing issue, we need to come together to help restructure the facilities in these educational institutions and give every child the opportunity to be able to get a meaningful education.
Since I have been involved with the campaign, Coca-Cola and NDTV along with partners UNhabitat, Sulabh International, Pearson Foundation, CAF and Tata Teleservices have worked meticulously to raise awareness about the issues and also offered a platform for likeminded organizations and individuals who want to make a difference. With 100 schools, the journey has just begun, and I want these revitalized schools to produce students who can play an active role in shaping India's future.
We know that all over India the dropout rate among girls accelerates where there is lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Even in schools where at least one toilet is available, girls are expected to take turns with boys. And in schools where there aren't any toilets, children use nearby fields, which is embarrassing for the girls. After implementation of these basic amenities in schools as a part of the campaign, enrollment and attendance has shown an upward trend.
Because India is such a vast country there are so many children who still don't end up going to school, and we should try to achieve more this year. In cricket, whatever is the score, we say double it. Here also I would like to say the same thing, let us double it. The challenge is for all the partners and everyone who wants to work toward a better education for all Indians. It is for the betterment of India, and I have a strong belief that it is something that will surely change our nation in the times to come.
Through season two of this campaign, we will try to raise awareness and also money for at least 250 schools impacting nearly 100,000. I welcome our new partners Plan International and Worldvision, who will help spread the word and the campaign even further. I welcome everyone who can contribute in whatever capacity. It is not about how much you contribute or how you contribute, it is about what your heart tells you to do.
I am proud to be part of Coca-Cola NDTV Support My School, and I am sure we will continue to make a difference in the lives of children around the country and bring happiness to their lives. It is definitely going to change our nation, believe me. There are challenges along the way, but we will strive to do our bit, and together we will make a difference.
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