A Harvard and An IIM-B Graduate Are Bringing A Better Future For Kids By Empowering The Parents
“Have you ever had trouble reading names of medicines? Have you ever faced the trouble of not being able to read a text message sent by your father, brother or husband? I had problems pursuing my studies because my father had drinking problems. But I don’t want my daughters to go through the same,” said Geeta didi, mother of three daughters, her eyes gleaming with an inexplicable ire of misfortune. On the other side, Mangilal ji, who has never been to school himself has gone back to drawing, first one he has drawn in thirty years for the sake of his daughter. He has pledged to do whatever it takes to keep his daughter away from the struggles of his life as long as possible.
Shobha Didi is speech and hearing impaired, yet she hasn’t given up her dreams and aspirations for her child. She wants to raise him to be a pilot. Beena Didi’s story is that of a migrant trying to survive in the harsh life of a ‘big city’. She sold off her ancestral house in Eastern UP to shift to Delhi for her two daughter’s education. Frequent shifting of accommodation has adversely affected the studies of the children. She had come to the city with big dreams which has been replaced by a question which haunts her every day. “Should I forgo my daughters’ education and go back to our village?” she says.
The birth of Meraki
The fight to fulfil aspirations and making the world a better place to live in is what unites Geeta didi, Mangilal ji and many other parents together. Most of these parents belong to an underprivileged background and their children are the first generation learners. They have migrated to urban areas and they want to provide education to their kids which they did not have access to. This is the area of intervention which Meraki, an organisation started by Seemant Dadwal and Ghazal Gulati, IIM Bangalore and Harvard graduate respectively, are looking at.
This is the area of intervention which Meraki, an organisation started by Seemant Dadwal and Ghazal Gulati, IIM Bangalore and Harvard graduate respectively, are looking at.
When The Logical Indian spoke to Seemant, he said, “Meraki essentially is a story about parents who haven’t been to schools themselves. They are fighting to put their children on a different life path by providing them quality education.”
Ghazal and Seemant re-connected their experience while teaching underprivileged kids at Teach For India and realised students across India were not learning. Their parents were still not getting the support they deserved. The founders believed that parents are pivotal to the growth and development of the child. The inclusion of parents in this equation is their primary motto. After working extensively on the ground, the founders realised that among the kids that they work with, over 97% of children in the third standard cannot read a simple sentence. In second grade, over 70% of the kids are anaemic.
All parents, regardless of where they come from, have sky high dreams and aspirations for their children. However, one of the biggest misconceptions about parenting, especially among low-income parents, is that if you have children you must know how to raise them. There are organisations who are intervening upon the education of the child but hardly anyone focuses on the parents. To ensure a better future for the children, one needs to understand the problems faced by these parents, then equip and empower them. Meraki is empowering these parents who are trying hard to rise above these dire situations by providing them with a better future for their next generation.
Over 140 million children are enrolled in primary education and most of them struggle with basic issues of health and academics. Similarly, there is an equal number of underprivileged and uneducated parents whose children struggle with basic issues of health and academics. These unsettling facts primarily boil down to one reason – these children don’t get the required support they need from their home. A child spends over 16 hours at home. Parents can play a defining role to cater to the child’s education and health outcomes.
Creating empowered parents
“How do you improve healthcare and learning outcomes by intervening right at the family levels? Can we teach the mother to be a teacher at home?” Seemant asks. Parents need to believe that they can contribute to the holistic development of the kids. Meraki is trying to build the knowledge skills and mindsets of the parents – knowledge of how to attend to the academic and healthcare needs of the children and what kind of environment at home is conducive to bring about a positive change in kids. The organisation is trying to reform the mindset of these parents by telling them that they can actually contribute to the child’s education.
herefore, there’s a need to build individual capacities of families and communities to cope with these issues for the sake of their future and children.
To bring a culpable change in the scenario of education for these children and to implement a wider-scale implementation, they have created parent’s collectives. Parent’s collective are aimed at dealing with technical approaches to handle academic and health issues and create a positive environment conducive to learning. There is also the other aspect of helping each other in mitigating issues they face collectively. The collectives come together four times in a month and discuss whatever they learn in workshops conducted by Meraki.
What Meraki is striving to do?
These collectives talk about the challenges they face and learnings they gain from the workshops and try to teach the structures that are needed at home to improve the health and educational outcomes. “Parents themselves lead complicated lives at home. Supporting them would be the only way they can involve themselves fully in the programme of building a better future for the children,” said Ghazal, one of the co-founders of Meraki to The Logical Indian.
Meraki aims to equip parents to transform their children’s lives. It aims to solve the intergenerational burdens that disadvantaged families carry.
Through its work over the past year, Meraki has realized that these knowledge skills and mindsets can be built if parents have a constant source of learning and support on-ground. Therefore, Meraki has engendered a unique ‘parent kit’ that boosts the knowledge of parents about their child’s need, the environment that their child needs to succeed and their role in it; the skills required to build this environment and the mindset that they can change their children’s life for the better. To enable support, Meraki is building parent collectives – groups of like-minded parents who support each other on issues they and their children face in daily lives.
Meraki is working hard to empower the parents so that they can dream big for their children and these first generation learners can actually achieve these dreams. They have conducted workshops to help parents identify the barriers that are stopping them from contributing to the maximum in the child’s education. Parents, believe that they are on the path to building a better environment at home and are equal partners in schools. One of the prime examples of Meraki’s success has been that parents have started to thought partner with the school leaders on ways to reduce anemia in their school or instituting learning structures through mobile applications at home and in their communities. In the next year Meraki will work with 1000 families to improve the learning and healthcare outcomes of children across 6 different locations in Delhi. In the next 5 years, Meraki aims to work with 1,00,000 families across the country; to support them to achieve age-appropriate learning outcomes for their children and to put children on a different life path.
On asking Seemant about his message to the readers of The Logical Indian, he said “Meraki, through it’s parent collectives, is trying to engender the voice of parents in the education system. There have been multiple initiatives that have targeted students, teachers, school leaders and even school managements as beneficiaries. But there hasn’t been a lot of work done to target parents of first generation learners. We want parents from low income backgrounds to have confidence to voice out their opinions and fulfill the dreams they harbour for their children. Let’s do our bit in bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”
The Logical Indian community applauds the founders of Meraki. It is inspiring to see them working towards the holistic growth of the society which focuses equally on the parents and the children.
To know more about Meraki, click here or you can get in touch with them at +91 9582294715
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