Sandeep Rai | Aleph Publishing Company | Soft cover | Pages 270 | Rs 399
By Ganesh Saili
I think there should have been a statutory warning in place on the cover of Sandeep Rai’s latest book Grey Sunshine. It would have been par for the course: ‘Reading this book may be hazardous for those with a social conscience!’ But when the hurly-burly’s done, this well told tale takes you into the lives of those tackling an educational crisis of unprecedented proportions. Half of our children studying in class 5, struggle to read a book prescribed in class 2. Seventy-six per cent of Indian students don’t make it to college. How I wish the list of alarming statistics could have ended here. You will find a black cloud straying over the sun when it is said of teaching: ‘That the year lasts six months; the month, twenty days; the day, two hours and the hour only forty minutes!’ Grey Sunshine is the human story behind the National crisis surrounding us—and yet we don’t see— until and unless you step into the shoes of hundreds of thousands of children from less privileged backgrounds, battling injustices of poverty alongside them are a few thousand unlikely leaders from Teach for India, a two-year Fellowship programme that places young people as full- time teachers in government classrooms across the country.
The stories of these students and teachers represent the struggle to reform a failing education system and the hope for a brighter sun to banish the dark. ‘Over the past ten years, I’ve met thousands of children across this country who are fighting for a better tomorrow. And I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of Teach For India Fellows and Alumni who are joining hands to ensure a more equitable future,’ says Sandeep Rai. When it comes to our country’s most vulnerable children, though, you realize that the sunshine is always chequered with greyness, thus the title Grey Sunshine. Of course there has been progress across the country as more and more students find access to classrooms and schools. There are pieces of legislation like the Right to Education, which ensure that every child has a minimum standard of inputs. But now that we’ve got our children into schools, an exponentially more pressing and daunting question stares at us: how do we give our kids the quality education they need and deserve? Perhaps the solution lies in starting organizations, running schools, serving in non-profits, and delivering change in classrooms across the country. We surely need more of them! This story is for those who want to learn more about the plight of our children. It’s an exploration into the stories- into the human faces behind the numbing statistics; a book for people who want to go beyond the many shades of grey to see the immense hope, potential, and promise that the country’s children hold. Teach for India takes you beyond the pale of its 4.000 leaders – or 275 staff members, or 3,000 alumni, or 1,000 current Fellows and their 38,000 students. It takes the reader through stories of change, leadership and struggle to part the grey that stains the sunshine. At day’s end of the day our lives are weighed by how we treat the least fortunate amongst us, by our recognition that we are all recipients of unmerited grace. After all, the cliché does stretch a bit to reminds us: ‘Why curse the dark when you can light a candle?’