After hearing about brand strategies, blockchain and business-models, Teach for India’s Shaheen Mistri brought a different dynamic to TechSparks, with a heartfelt poem and many touching stories.
At TechSparks2018, Teach for India’s CEO Shaheen Mistri was a breath of fresh air. After panels and sessions on product strategies, education and scaling up businesses, the auditorium was enamoured with the emotion she brought in. "I often break rules...," she began, eliciting a few nervous laughs. "I was supposed to speak about technology...but, I am going to talk about why I do, what I do?"
Breaking into a beautiful poem around what she seeks in the children she serves, Shaheen took us on a journey. “I feel anger, sadness and urgency - as we sit in this Taj room, thinking of education and technology. Somewhere, a child is stifled at home and the mother is afraid to let him go out. A girl is raising her hand six times in a classroom, but the teacher isn’t responding to her, a boy is whacked on his head - and with that pain he loses his inclination to go learn," she said. Her stories aren't made up – they are real incidents that she has seen, heard, and had to deal with.
Teach for India is a non-profit organisation that believes in education for low-income communities. Their fellowship programmes encourage India's brightest minds to serve as full-time teachers for these children. Highly selective, the organisation shortlists only the top eight percent of the applicants – most from IITs and IIMs.
Shaheen introduced the audience to three beneficiaries from her programme - Jyoti, Khushi and Priyanka, all from low-income communities, who have struggled more than they should have.
Jyoti got in touch with Shaheen and told about her job as an event planner for high-flying companies like Land Rover and Jaguar. Jyoti introduced Teach for India to her client’s CSR teams.
Khushi emailed her teachers anonymously and sent them compliments and notes with nice things about them. She thought if the teachers were shown love, they will be better teachers. Now, Khushi and Shaheen are taking this idea to Nepal to spread more love. This could only happen because Khushi believed love has the power to bring in change.
Shaheen concluded the session with Priyanka’s story, who rose from Pune slums and went on to win a fellowship at an elite liberal arts college abroad. Today, she is trying to see how she can make the world more inclusive.
For Shaheen, education will make the world a better place to live in. And if these three stories are any indication, she is on the right track. She urged every member of the audience to walk with her, and take part in this journey. Today, Teach for India directly impacts nearly 38,000 children across seven regions in India.