I was with a group of 6 to 9 year olds discussing fundamental needs of human beings. We had a variety of labels with different basic needs written on them – food, clothing, shelter, love, education, transportation, protection and so on. The group was deciding which of these were survival needs, those that we could not live without, and which were not.

One little boy, who was a child from a rural, single parent home, said that education was a survival need. Another, a child from a wealthy, upper-middle class family, said that it was not essential to survival to go to school. That if we have a skill at hand, like a gardener or mechanic, we could survive. But the first one insisted that unless he got an education, he would not get a job and would not be able to take care of his family; having a skill would not be enough to get a ‘good’ job.

It was a privilege to be able to listen to this discussion that went on for about 6 to 7 minutes, each voicing their opinion while the other listened and responded with his differing view. Finally, they decided to place the label saying ‘Education’ in between the two since they agreed to disagree with each other.

Often we do not realise that our belief systems are so closely rooted to our unique circumstances. What is a need for one may be a luxury for another.

– by Prabha Karthik, AMI Elementary Trainer-in-training