I'm standing in front of you today
in all humility,
wanting to share with you
my journey of the last six years
in the field of service,
And I'm not a trained academic.
Neither am I a veteran social worker.
I was 26 years in the corporate world,
trying to make organizations profitable.
And then in 2003
I started Parikrma Humanity Foundation
from my kitchen table.
The first thing that we did was walk through the slums.
You know, by the way, there are two million people
in Bangalore, who live in 800 slums.
We couldn't go to all of the slums,
but we tried to cover as much as we could.
We walked through these slums,
identified houses where children would never go to school.
We talked to the parents,
tried to convince them about sending their children to school.
We played with the children,
and came back home really tired,
exhausted, but with images
of bright faces, twinkling eyes,
and went to sleep.
We were all excited to start.
But the numbers hit us then.
200 million children
between four to 14 that
should be going to school, but do not.
100 million children
who go to school but can not read,
125 million who can not do basic maths.
We also heard that 250 billion Indian rupees
was dedicated for government schooling.
90 percent of it was spent on teachers' salary
and administrators' salary.
And yet, India has nearly
the highest teacher absenteeism
in the world,
with one out of four teachers
not going to school at all the entire academic year.
Those numbers were absolutely mind boggling,
overwhelming, and we were constantly asked
"When will you start? How many schools will you start?
How many children will you get?
How are you going to scale?
How are you going to replicate?"
It was very difficult not to get scared, not to get daunted.
But we dug our heels,
and said, "We're not in the number game."
We want to take one child at a time
and take the child right through school,
send to college,
and get them prepared for better living,
a high value job.
So, we started Parikrma,
the first Parikrma school
started in a slum
where there were 70,000 people
living below the poverty line.
We started, our first school was
on a rooftop of a building inside the slums,
a second story building, only second story building
inside the slums.
And that rooftop did not have
any ceiling, only half a tin sheet.
That was our first school. 165 children.
Indian academic year begins in June.
So, June it rains, so many a times
all of us would be huddled under the tin roof,
waiting for the rain to stop.
My god, what a bonding exercise that was.
And all of us
that were under that roof, are still here together today.
Then came the second school,
the third school, the fourth school,
and a junior college.
In six years now
we have four schools, one junior college,
coming from 28 slums
and four orphanages.
Our dream is very simple,
to send each of these kids, get them prepared
to live, to be educated,
but also to live peacefully,
contented in this conflict-ridden
chaotic globalized world.
Now, when you talk global
you have to talk English.
And so all our schools
are English medium schools.
But they know there is this myth
that children from the slums
can not speak English well.
No one in their family has spoken English.
No one in their generation has spoken English.
But how wrong it is.
Video: Girl: I like adventurous books, and one of my favorites
I like Alfred Hitchcock and [unclear]
and Hardy Boys.
All those three are like, although they are like
in different context,
one is like magical, the other two are like investigation,
I like those books because
they have something special in them,
the vocabulary used in those books,
and the way, the style of writing.
I mean like once I pick up one book
I can not put it down until I finish the whole book.
Even if it takes me like four and a half hours,
or three and half hours to finish my book, I do it.
Boy: I did a good research and I got the information
world's fastest cars.
I like Ducati ZZ143,
because it is the fastest,
the world's fastest bike.
And I like Pulsar 220 DTSI
because it is India's fastest bike.
Well, that girl that you saw,
her father sells flowers on the roadside.
And this little boy has been coming to school for five years.
But isn't it strange that little boys all over the world
love fast bikes?
He hasn't seen one. He hasn't ridden one, of course,
but he has done a lot of research through Google search.
You know, when we started with our English medium schools
we also decided to adopt
the best curriculum possible,
the ICSE curriculum.
And again, there were people who laughed at me
and said, "Are you crazy
choosing such a tough curriculum for these students?
They'll never be able to cope."
Not only do our children cope very well,
but they excel in it.
You should just come across to see
how well our children do.
There is also this myth that
parents from the slums
are not interested in their children going to school,
they'd much rather put them to work.
That's absolute hogwash.
All parents all over the world
want their children to lead a better life than themselves.
But they need to believe that change is possible.
Shukla Bose: We have 80 percent attendance
for all our parents-teachers meeting.
Sometimes it's even 100 percent,
much more than many privileged schools.
Fathers have started to attend.
It's very interesting. When we started our school
the parents would give thumbprints in the attendance register.
Now they have started writing their signature.
The children have taught them.
It's amazing how much children can teach.
We have, a few months ago,
actually late last year,
we had a few mothers who came to us and said,
"You know, we want to learn how to read and write.
can you teach us?" So, we started an afterschool
for our parents, for our mothers.
We had 25 mothers who came regularly
after school to study.
We want to continue with this program
and extend it to all our other schools.
98 percent of our fathers are alcoholics.
So, you can imagine how traumatized
and how dysfunctional the houses are where our children come from.
We have to send the fathers to de-addiction labs
and when they come back
most times sober, we have to find a job for them
so that they don't regress.
We have about three fathers who have been trained to cook.
We have taught them nutrition, hygiene.
We have helped them set up the kitchen
and now they are supplying food to all our children.
They do a very good job because
their children are eating their food,
but most importantly this is the first time
they have got respect,
and they feel that they are doing something worthwhile.
More than 90 percent of our non-teaching staff
are all parents and extended families.
We've started many programs
just to make sure that the child comes to school.
Vocational skill program for the older siblings
so the younger ones are not stopped from coming to school.
There is also this myth that children from the slums
can not integrate with mainstream.
Take a look at this little girl
who was one of the 28 children
from all privilege schools,
best schools in the country
that was selected for the Duke University
talent identification program
and was sent to IIM-Amedabad.
Video: Girl: [unclear] Whenever we see that [unclear]
it was such a pride for us to go and do that camp.
And we went there. Everybody were very friendly,
especially I got a lot of friends.
And I felt that my English has improved a lot
going there and chatting with friends and all those.
There they met a children who are
with a different standard and all those,
a different mindset, a totally different society.
I mingle almost with everyone.
They were very friendly.
I had very good friends there,
who are from Delhi, who are from Mumbai.
Even now we are in touch through Facebook.
After this Amedabad trip
I've been like a totally different
mingling with people and all of those.
Before that I feel like I wasn't like this.
I don't even mingle, or start speaking with someone so quickly.
My accent with English improved a lot.
and I learned football, volleyball,
frisbee, lots of games.
And I wouldn't want to go to Bangalore. Let me stay here.
Such a beautiful food.
I enjoyed it. It was so beautiful.
I enjoyed eating food like
[unclear] would come and ask me,
"Yes ma'am, what you want?" It was so good to hear!
This girl was working as a maid
before she came to school.
And today she wants to be a neurologist.
Our children are doing brilliantly in sports.
They are really excelling.
There is an inter-school athletic competition
that is held every year
in Bangalore, where 5,000 children participate
from 140 best schools in the city.
We've got the best school award for three years successively.
And our children are coming back home
with bag full of medals, with lots of admirers and friends.
Last year there were a couple of kids
from elite schools that came
to ask for admissions in our school.
We also have our very own dream team.
Why is this happening? Why is this confidence?
Is it the exposure? We have professors
from MIT, Berkeley, Stanford,
Indian Institute of Science
who come and teach our children lots of scientific formulas,
experiments, much beyond the classroom.
Art, music are considered
therapy and mediums of expression.
We also believe that
it's the content that is more important.
It is not the infrastructure,
not the toilets, not the libraries,
but it is what actually happens in this school
that is more important.
Creating an environment of learning,
of inquiry, of exploration
is what is true education.
When we started Parikrma
we had no idea which direction we were taking.
We didn't hire McKinsey to do a business plan.
But we know for sure that
what we want to do today is
take one child at a time,
not get bogged with numbers,
and actually see the child complete
the circle of life,
and unleash his total potential.
We do not believe in scale
because we believe in quality,
and scale and numbers will automatically happen.
We have corporates that have stood behind us,
and we are able to, now, open more schools.
But we began with the idea
of one child at a time.
This is five-year-old Parusharam.
He was begging
by a bus stop a few years ago,
got picked up and is now in an orphanage,
has been coming to school for the last four and a half months.
He's in kindergarten
He has learned how to speak English
We have a model by which kids can speak English
and understand English
in three month's time.
He can tell you stories, in English,
of the thirsty crow, of the crocodile,
and of the giraffe.
And if you ask him what he likes to do
he will say, "I like sleeping.
I like eating. I like playing."
And if you ask him what he wants to do
he will say, "I want to horsing."
Now, "horsing" is going for a horse ride.
So, Parusharam comes to my office every day.
He comes for a tummy rub,
because he believes that will give me luck.
When I started Parikrma
I began with a great deal of arrogance,
of transforming the world.
But today I have been transformed.
I have been changed with my children.
I've learned so much from them,
love, compassion, imagination,
and such creativity.
Parusharam is Parikrma
with a simple beginning but a long way to go.
I promise you, Parusharam
will speak in the TED conference a few years from now.