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Voices of Impact: The role of Education in fostering emotional well-being

Ashcharya Prabhu

Voices of Impact: Education's role in fostering emotional well-being

Confucius said, ‘Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.’

As a facilitator working closely with students, I am constantly amazed by their ability to understand, respond to and take a stand for what they believe in. Especially in today’s world, I see young people making choices that are environmentally friendly, and respectful of people who have different lived experiences. I see them be agents of change for their communities and beyond. 

When I spend time with young people, I am filled with hope. They are taking on the responsibility of reimagining a better world for all of us – one that is safe, inclusive, resilient, and celebrates diversity. 

I believe education plays the role of a catalyst in shaping an individual’s sense of self and how they relate to themselves, their peers and the world at large. Education isn’t just about gaining knowledge through books or taking exams; it’s also about learning real-life, social and emotional development skills. When these skills are imparted to children from an early age, they may grow up to be adults capable of holding space for complexity and navigating difficult situations with understanding, compassion and openness. 

‘Education for Lasting Peace’ is the theme for this year’s International Day of Education. I was curious to understand how ‘peace’ manifests in different ways for different young people – be it peace with oneself and one’s circumstances, no matter how challenging, or embracing peace to drive sustainable change – and how it relates to education. 

I reached out to Labhya and Dream a Dream  – two social change organisations that view education as a transformative tool in promoting diversity, self-discovery, and building inclusive societies – to know more stories from the ground

Labhya 

“They say mountain life is not easy. But since this is all I know, it is just life to me.  I wake up with my parents at dawn every morning. They prepare to go to work, my father at a construction site, and my mother in the fields. Meanwhile, I prepare my lunch for school. My everyday routine is always the same. Wake up before sunrise, pack my tiffin, and trek 7 km uphill to school. It might seem like a long journey, but it has never stopped us from going to school. Despite the long walks, we love school because we get to start our day with our Anandam Class (Anandam Pathyacharya is an ‘Experiential Learning Curriculum’ – a  SEL program that has been running in over 18,000+ government-run schools of Uttarakhand)! We tell each other about our big and small achievements. We talk about how much we love the sky full of stars on winter nights and how some of us want to trek to the moon someday!

Because of Anandam, our school life is very different. My friends and I have been coming to school together for a long time, but it was only after we started Anandam, that we truly got to know each other. This is why I love going to school every day despite waking up at 4 am and the long treks! Mountain life is not easy, but it makes you appreciate the little things.” 

A student part of Labhya’s programs shared this narrative with me.

Dream a Dream 

Voices of Impact: Education's role in fostering emotional well-being

“A session was being conducted one day and a  young person walked in with his friends and disrupted the session. Such behaviour is often met with an aggressive reaction, however, when the facilitator apologised to him for having asked him to leave initially, it surprised the young person. He was not sure how to react. The facilitator knew that this young person had struggled as a teenager, embroiled in gang wars and substance abuse. 

The facilitator started appreciating him whenever he saw any signs of positive behaviour, listened to him with non-judgemental acceptance and was authentic and transparent about his struggles with the young person, which allowed them to connect and trust each other. The young person observed how to reflect, behave empathetically, speak respectfully, make responsible decisions and remain calm under stress. When the facilitator identified the young person’s need to be seen and respected, it changed the trajectory of his life. 

Today, he is thriving as a working professional with a dream to build a house for his family. His is just one example of the many stories which bring forth the values of equity and dignity in building a peaceful, inclusive society.” 

A team member of Dream a Dream shared this story with me. Hearing this student’s journey really moved me. 

Reflections from the conversations

Reflecting on the stories of change from Dream a Dream and Labhya, I am reminded that the pursuit of lasting peace begins in the corridors of education. The stories I heard are a testament to the enduring impact of education in steering us towards a future where everyone enjoys agency, dignity and choice. 

This is the first part of a two-part series that explores the role of education in driving transformative change. 

Would you like to share your ‘Education for Lasting Peace’ story with us? Write to us at at ashcharya@societalthinking.org.

 

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More about the Organisations

*Labhya is working to empower vulnerable children with the social and emotional skills necessary to cope with poverty and become lifelong, effective learners. Currently, Labhya partners with the Governments of Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Tripura to co-create and ensure the implementation of programs that impact 2.4 Million children across 22,000+ government schools across India daily. Their programs – Happiness Curriculum, Anandam Pathyacharya and Saharsh, are the world’s largest and India’s first at-scale well-being programs.

**Dream a Dream is a non-profit organisation working to enable children from vulnerable backgrounds to overcome adversity and thrive with education. Dream a Dream’s ‘Thriving Centre Programme’ creates a safe space for 15-22 year olds to make a healthy transition from adolescence to adulthood through life skills development. Since 1999, Dream a Dream has mainstreamed life skills as a critical approach to help children overcome adversity and learn to thrive.