Cellphoon Reapars (Cellphone Repair)

Written by Neeru Khosla on August 19, 2010
cellphoon_reapars_httpwww.flickr.comphotoswapster2457932446sizesoinphotostream

cellphoon_reapars_httpwww.flickr.comphotoswapster2457932446sizesoinphotostream

I cannot help but think about all the money that we are spending on education and educating our future generation. Often I wonder “How much?” “How much is enough?” I struggle with this question and have not come up with any answer yet. We spend billions of dollars and say repeatedly “we are the best country in the world” and yet we are falling behind many other countries in educating our children.

The truth is, people who have passion or curiosity or desire don’t stop. They want to do……. For example, I have seen students sitting in extremely hot temperatures with very little water or food and yet out of these conditions comes brilliance. I know many stories of people who came from places where they had nothing and yet they achieved much. We talk about being turned off by teachers yet there are many examples of teachers who are the “light” behind their students’ love for learning.

I would like to share this snippet from the blog of Shekar Kapur, a leading director of Indian movies. It illustrates the interesting issue of money spent not always correlating with results achieved. This blog excerpt, talks about his experience with a couple of young poor boys in Juhu Market in Mumbai:

“A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine.  A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure (foolishness) made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet. Grimy and uncleaned.

“Can you fix a blackberry ?”

“Of course , show me.”

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjama’s! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been meaning to do for a year now.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it.”

He grabs it from my hand and looks at it.

“You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working.”

Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days; I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back.

“You come back in one hour and I fix it.’”

You may wonder “how the heck do these kids with no access of any kind of information know how to work out the problem with a Blackberry?” Yet, fix it they did, he and his brother. In six minutes! Where does all this knowledge or experience come from?

Where would he even get a Blackberry to learn from in the first place?

What does it say about our students and their passion?  What does it say about our constant lamenting about lack of resources?

Is lack of resources just a mindset?  What level of resources is enough to teach and learn from?  Really, is the issue that our students just don’t care about learning the way we teach or what they want to learn?

“I went home having discovered the true entrepreneurship that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’ shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them.

I smiled at the future of our country.  If only we could learn to harness this potential.

“Please wash your hands before use” were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean.”

Food for thought!

(Photo by Podknox http://www.flickr.com/photos/wapster/2457932446/sizes/o/in/photostream/)