The burning of schools in Kashmir vindicates the belief that education is the most powerful agent of change. Destroying a school destroys the future of children forever. Education is a powerful tool. The question lies in the way you use it.
In the early years of Project Why we were faced with a certain amount of resentment that was even aggressive at times. This bewildered us as in our book education was something everyone should encourage and cherish. But that was not the case with us.
We were ‘evicted’ from the corner of a park by local residents and politicians. It was a clever ploy. We were told that we would be ‘give’ another park and marched to one that was a pig stye, as a local resident reared his pigs in it. The once children park was a stinking rubbish dump. Our detractors must have expected outrage and protest but all they got was a warm Thank You! They had not yet tasted the spirit of Project WHY. If this is what we got, so be it! We would work our magic. A series of negotiations with the owner of the pigs who was known for his muscle flexing and the help of a few friends, not only was the park divided between the hogs and us, we transformed the park into a lovely space. It had a huge yellow tented roof and plants all around.
The truce lasted a year. The next attack was bulldozers. It transpired that the park was now needed to ‘build’ a community centre. We moved lock stock and barrel to the roadside. But classes never stopped. The game continued for a while and then petered down.
It took us a while to understand the reason for such vehement resentment and then the penny dropped. Education was acceptable if it followed the norms, these being teachers from one side of the divide and students from the other. But that was not the Project WHY model, for us teachers and kids came from the same source. That meant social transformation and that was not acceptable. We were changing minds, teaching children to think for themselves, urging them to ask questions and giving them a voice. In short we were empowering a community and that could be dangerous.
Everything in the book was thrown at us from threats to spreading false rumours but we did not budge. We simply wore them down. Education came out the winner and so it will remain