Lina Ashar, one of the pioneers of pre-school movement in the country, talks to Afternoon D&C about her journey and the importance of gratefulness and empathy with kids in an exclusive chat with Aishwarya Iyer
In the early 90s, Lina Ashar came back to India from Australia, to explore her home country. Her first step was to join a school in Mumbai. That's when she realised that teaching in our country lacked imagination and creativity. She took the next step by setting up the first Kangaroo Kids pre-school in the city in 1993. For your information, the concept of pre-schools was yet to be known those days.
"I wanted to sow the seeds of creativity, leadership, gratefulness and empathy in my kids," says Ashar, who is a firm believer of neuroscience. The reason behind Ashar wanting to infuse these qualities is because she, herself, believes in it.
Recently, Kangaroo Kids and BillaBong High School which is, again, founded by her, started an initiative to start a campaign called 'Adopt a School', where the students of the aforesaid school will adopt a school and provide the underprivileged schools with libraries and books. The campaign focuses on orphanages, government schools and NGO's where there are kids, who can't afford to buy books. The books which will be distributed, are handpicked by Ashar and they cover all the theme based books. Similarly, the students in BillaBong school, have a similarly pattern of education, as the founder believes in.
Explaining the reason behind such an initiative, Ashar said, "There are various types of donations. I believe in donating too, but for me before donating something I should know where my funds is reaching. And about this initiative,I know where my donation is going to reach. Its for the kids. And I love it when kids learn, specially new things. Hence, giving books to children is more important for me than any monetary donation.The process of the donation is donating books which equalises to donating education. Moreover, the initative is by me, but the rest of the work is done by my school students. And when students do something like this, they learn, they grow. Their tiny brain, start sunderstanding the value of 'sharing'. By kids understanding the worth of sharing with the underprivileged ones, is something they will remember even after growing."
Gratefulness and empathy!
Since the beginning of the interview, Ashar, was seen emphasizing on these two words- gratefulness and empathy. According to her, students should realise the value of their senses. After realising it, they will perceive of how it feels to not have those senses. That's when they will be grateful about their senses. The next is empathy! Talking about empathy, she said, "Today, we have everything. Everything is in abundance for us. So, with the abundance and comfort, students tend to forget the value." For example clean drinking water. She continues, "We (students) never faced any problems related to drinking water, so we don't know how it feels without water, because we get it easily, without any hardships." A to how to make the kids realise the same, she said, "In our school, we took the grade one students to slums, where we showed them how these people survive in a water-less condition."
Via these trips, students are taught about water crisis and the importance of clean water. This way, their mind will automatically turn off a running faucet because now they know the worth of water. Ashar feels that they value education class, which are mostly conducted inside four walls (of the classroom), is something baseless. According to her theories, such classes should be organized where there are masses- where the reality lies. "We have to create the circumstances, and craft the experience in the kids to develop various important elements," she shares.
Advice to the students
"Do your best, academically. Don’t think that if you can't score 100 on 100 in your examinations, then you are going to fail in life. Because, hey, exams don't design your life. You are ones who design your life. Remember, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, once failed, but now you who they are. You also could be one of them."
Drama Teen- A Cool Headed Guide for Parents
Lina Ashar's second book 'Drama Teen- A Cool Headed Guide for Parents' explores concepts from both sides of the fence. As teenage years are the most difficult and puzzling years for both the teenager and the parents, Ashar delves deep into it. Helicopter parenting, parent-teen conflicts and ways to resolve them, and habits that lead to a successful life are among the 'drama-teen' phase which can affect both the teens and their parents. Packed with practical advice, tips, what-not-to-dos and activities, Ashar expertly guides you to keep your cool through those complicated years.