Skills for life after school
Imagine yourself sitting in a school classroom. The maths teacher is teaching algebra, and you have no clue how they got to find the value of ‘x.’ You know what you want to ask, the question is clear in your head, but something is stopping you from putting up your query in front of the whole class.
That’s what I observed in a public, all-girls school during my last Jhansi trip.
During the trip, my purpose was to understand students’ ambitions. In the all-girls school in Jhansi, we had just pitched our life skills program and would soon form a batch. Naturally, I looked forward to meeting students who didn’t know of ‘Medha’ yet.
Sometime before the student interaction, the school’s coordinator met us and briefed us about students’ backgrounds, challenges, and parents’ mindsets. Later, a teacher accompanied us to a quiet classroom of girls from 9th to 12th standard.
We decided to start our interaction with introductions. And to break the ice, we asked students to tell us about their hobbies with the intros. It was a fun activity, and the interaction started energetically.
However, after a few minutes of asking questions to understand their ambitions, the class went quiet. I could see they had something on their mind that they wanted to share but couldn’t. Of 23 girls, only 2 actively answered all the questions. To top it off, one of the teachers asked them sternly to answer the questions, making them more nervous.
However, after a few minutes of asking questions to understand their ambitions, the class went quiet. I could see they had something on their mind that they wanted to share but couldn’t.
The second school I visited in Jhansi was a private, all-boys school where I interacted with a mixed batch of boys from standard 9th to 12th. They were all in the middle of their life skills building program (Svapoorna).
Our interaction dramatically differed from the previous one: students couldn’t stop talking about their ambitions, how they learned about them, how they planned to achieve them, and their plan B. They were comfortable speaking in front of new faces. While talking to them, you could sense that they believed the class was a safe space for them. They were confident enough to cross-question us and understand what led us to our jobs.
I cannot be sure why such a big difference persisted in our interactions – it could be due to the different behaviors we learn coming from different genders and disparate income levels. Still, I could see the value of building life skills early.
While reflecting on the trip to write this note, I realized that most of us lack a wholesome understanding of life skills. Even when we accept them as somewhat necessary, we understand them under simplistic titles like ‘extra-curricular activities’ or ‘personality development.’
But my experience in Jhansi’s schools stands out strongly, showing how life skills are a big deal. They are adaptive and positive behaviors that help us deal with life’s challenges effectively. And with them, you can find the courage to make friends with a visiting stranger – or even solve for life’s big, unknown ‘x.’
This story is a part of Field Notes, a series where Medha team members share their opinions and experiences from working on the field. Click here to read more stories like this.