The Importance of Educating the Poor

GK Swamy
The Importance of Educating the Poor

G K Swamy, Founder-Secretary Purkal Youth Development Society, on the only tool with the power to break the cycle of poverty

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~ John Dewey

In 1740 South Carolina had passed a law making it a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment, to help blacks learn to read and write. Most Indians are familiar with Thomas Macaulay’s warning in 1840, about how the colonists needed to destroy the then prevailing excellent Indian educational system that imparted both character and culture, before they could hope to conquer this country. No better testimony to the power of education to transform the poor!

South Carolina was petrified by education’s ability to metamorphose. Macaulay knew that education had imbedded the culture and the living philosophies of India into its people. It is this understanding that led Purkal Youth Development Society (PYDS), to practice this as our business for nearly two decades. We educate the poorest. Education remains the key to escape poverty while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education. Targeted investments at PYDS are designed to counteract the effects of poverty on educational achievements, via intensive preschool help, extended school hours, providing healthcare and nutrition support, as well as parental training and mentoring programmes.

We realize that poverty is an inter-generational pattern. This is about a family where the father and mother were uneducated and unskilled. They lived hopelessly 15 years ago. With a piece of unirrigated land they were eking out a life. The man was 34, married with two daughters and two sons. With very little cash, they lived in penury. Despairing he lived dishonestly and remained inebriated. Chance and grace brought the children to PYDS and all are now at various stages of a career. The master of the house has become a teetotaller; built a home and is building his family. Education gave him hope. They have moved from poverty to looking forward to a fulfilling life.

Education has helped two young boys from the upper reaches of Himalayas, who migrated practically penniless. They are now an electronic engineer and a merchant marine officer. Growth of their mind and their attitude to life has helped these two boys plan a life of comfort and luxury. PYDS made this possible.

A girl who was abandoned due to poverty at age 13, survived with her robust emotional intelligence, escaping suicide. With 8 years of PYDS care, she is now a proud executive paying back to our society, a monetary contribution she believes she owes. Her robust emotional intelligence is complemented by her quality education. This is a case that helps me conclude that people, who faced acute adversity, emerge much stronger than those who did not go through this fire.

One example can trigger paradigm changes in many minds. The daughter of a roadside vegetable vendor won a scholarship to the US. Stimulated, we now have three from the school in the US. SAT is now an aspiration. One successful child changing into a self-confident bread earner can change the fortunes of the entire family. A family of 9 children who were rag pickers on the streets are all attempting successful lives, investing in education. Their next generation will prosper, since mothers have discovered the power of education. Investment by PYDS in food security, nutrition and education has helped to reduce malnutrition and increase the children’s ability to learn. Educated girls help prevent maternal mortality by making sure of trained healthcare during births. Lower birth rates have already happened as well as delayed marriages and motherhood. One of our Muslim girls, from an extremely poor family of 11, tells me how she escaped marriage at 16 because we took her on providing boarding and lodge. She finished her high school very creditably, and in four years will qualify as a physiotherapist.

The educational experiment that we have carried out has helped our direct beneficiaries escape poverty and prevented the transmission of poverty to future generations. But what children learn matters. We need to focus on quality, learning and teachers. Contents are important since it must help communities tackle changes, preserve nature and its resources. Poor children cannot access higher education because of their inability to afford tuition and fees. If we promise our children a future, we need to make it attainable.

At PYDS we also make quality higher education affordable. Immense lack of job opportunities for youth is a major challenge globally. Education for entrepreneurship and business management is important to educate and enable young people to develop their own business. Relevant technical and vocational education is an important support for this purpose. An education that promotes innovation and efficiency can contribute to productivity. Indeed education is the only tool that has the power to break the poverty cycle.

About the Author:

Mr G.K. Swamy is the CEO & Secretary of the  Purkal Youth Development Society (PYDS). PYDS educates the poorest. For Swamy and PYDS, education remains the key to escape poverty while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education. His wife Chinni heads the “Purkal Stree-Shakti Samiti” a sister Society, which creates designer hand- made patch worked quilts and other quilted products with the help of girls living in around the Village. Over 175 women earn a living due to Stree Shakti. Swamy and his wife Chinni spend their entire Life working for and raising support for the Mission that they have created. Both of them give their services entirely free.

This article was originally published in the Anniversary (August 2017) issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.

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