Anitha’s life changed when she scored a goal in a football game where she was the only girl. Today, at the age of 22, the self-admitted sports fanatic has certification from the All India Football Federation. For a child from a conservative, underprivileged home, she’s overcome many difficulties to get to where she is now.
Harshvardhan changed several schools before the age of 12 because he always seemed to get into trouble. It took a chance performance in a creative skills class to discover his singing abilities. Today, the 14 year old composes lyrics and raps in his mother tongue Kannada.
Both Anitha and Harshvardhan are first-generation learners in their family. Their households are part of the 182 million in India that are low income, where parents are usually small farmers, rural artisans, security guards, vegetable vendors, and domestic help. In many cases, the family income is just enough for basic survival. Most of these children grow up in an environment of adversity i.e. lack of love and care, malnutrition, abuse etc. This ultimately affects their development, resulting in low cognitive skills and life skills such as the ability to build relationships and overcome difficulties. To add to the challenge, these students face a frantically changing world.
There is growing evidence coming from various fields that apart from cognitive development, life skills are important for building emotional strength and maturity to handle difficult situations and thrive in changing environments. And yet, the education ecosystem is not connected with real life requirements and does not help them in building the critical skillsets and mindsets. As a result, many of these students drop out of education and are unemployable. A 2016 study of employers indicated that 80 percent of graduating engineers in India are believed to be unemployable for current job roles. The problem will only get more acute in the future as these students move into jobs that are yet to be created today.