Poverty is the primary cause for lack of education: Madhu Pandit Dasa
Nelson Mandela, once said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Education not only gives people the means to a better life but also something more profound: the ability to grow and learn through one’s own experiences. The strength of a nation can often be determined by the education of its people.
India, with nearly one sixth of the world’s population, is a booming economy poised to take over as one of the world’s superpowers. Yet this glittering fact goes hand in hand with the harsh truth of abject poverty facing nearly half of the nation’s people. With 42% of the country’s population living below the international poverty line, the nation is struggling to keep up with many of the rapidly growing countries in the world.
So what can be done? Just how far can India go before it is forced to deal with these facts? Madhu Pandit Dasa, the Chairman of The Akshaya Patra Foundation, one of India’s leading non-profits believes that educating the nations’ children is the only answer.
“We need to make sure that every child is well nourished, educated and enabled to become productive. India has the youngest population in the world and it is Her children who will shape the future of the country.”
But the solution may not be as simple as that. With over 700 million people in the country living a hand-to-mouth existence education is a luxury that few have access to.
“Poverty is the primary cause for lack of education,” says Madhu Pandit Dasa. “When children do not even have access to food, there is no possibility for education. Poverty and hunger go hand in hand in this complex problem. If we are to change the face of India, we must get to the root of the problem: hunger.”
In fact, Madhu Pandit Dasa says, Akshaya Patra’s vision: ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger’ reflects this two-pronged strategy to solving the problem. Himself a graduate of one of India’s leading universities, IIT, Madhu Pandit Dasa has been involved in Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal program since its beginning. He firmly believes this scheme will bring about the lasting change that India needs.
By providing children with freshly cooked mid-day meals on school days, the organization not only hopes to combat this problem of hunger, but also encourage them to continue their education. For nearly a decade this children’s charity has been dedicated to this cause. As Madhu Pandit Dasa puts it, “At The Akshaya Patra Foundation we strive to build an educated India. We believe that reducing hunger will change the future of our country’s children.”
But does it really work? Is it as simple as providing food? After all, it’s better to teach a man to fish than give him a fish.
According to an independent study conducted by A.C Nielson ORG MARG Pvt. Ltd. India’s leading survey firm, the program has worked wonders. In some areas, such as Baran where the program is being conducted, school enrolment in Class I has increased by 41.3%. There have also been marked improvements in attendance, retention rates, classroom performance and most importantly, the health of the children.
When asked if he believes the problem is too complex for any lasting solution, Madhu Pandit Dasa had this to say
“One thing is certain from this experience: there is boundless compassion in this world. We must involve more and more willing human hearts. It is possible, but only when we work together.”
Annual Report, The Akshaya Patra Foundation