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'The most limiting education lies within the walls of a classroom'

The learning one gains outside the classroom is realistic and impactful, covering subjects such as life skills, compassion, citizen-literacy, humanism, and collective consciousness, says Farzana Cama Balpande, head of BookASmile
BY Uma Asher |   14-12-2017

Farzana Cama Balpande

Farzana Cama Balpande is the Head of BookASmile, a charity initiative by BookMyShow, the digital platform that offers ticketing for cinemas, plays, concerts and live events. She has 20 years of experience in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education, and was the Corporate Head for the Early Childhood Department at Kwakids Learning. Since joining BookASmile in 2011, she has spearheaded multiple internal campaigns in which employees have raised money for various causes, and has worked to enrich the lives of the underprivileged in India through art, cinema, sports and culture, by providing them with opportunities, activities and experiences. She took time out for an email interview with BrainGain Magazine to talk about why a child’s education is incomplete without diverse experiences that go beyond the classroom.

  1. Please tell us a bit about your career journey, and the lessons it contains for young people who are planning their future, and for their parents.

    It’s important to remember that you don’t always end up doing what you set out to do, what you had planned or what your parents had planned for you. More importantly, it is absolutely okay to try taking the road less travelled and doing something completely different! Growing up, my career path was something like a ‘kaali-peeli’ Mumbai taxi, often going into no entries and accelerating at breakneck speed. Then, one day I took one turn around the right corner and landed up helping out in a pre-school. I loved it! From then on, I was connected to pre-school education. For 22 years, I worked in this space- right from working in pre-schools to running my own pre-school, daycare and also working with an American franchised Child Learning Centre. 22 years later I wanted a change and decided to explore something different in the charity space and that is how BookASmile happened!
  2. Please explain why experiences of sports, music, and art are important even in a country with many pressing problems such as poverty and unemployment.

    Education in our country is a pressing problem. By education, I do not mean just classrooms and textbooks. The most limiting education lies within the walls of a classroom. The experience and tutelage one gains outside a classroom is realistic and impactful in terms of holistic education. Subjects like life skills, social skills, compassion, citizen-literacy, humanism, collective consciousness cannot be taught from text books in a conventional classroom setting. However, the medium of Art, Music and Sports, support and facilitate such lessons through their very essence.

    Eight of the 10 young aspiring footballers from Jharkhand who recently visited Spain for training from players of Real Sociedad
    Eight of the 10 young aspiring footballers from Jharkhand who recently visited Spain for training from players of Real Sociedad, one of the most popular football clubs that plays in La Liga, the top league of Spanish football (photo courtesy BookASmile)

  3. Please tell us about BookASmile’s involvement in taking girls from Jharkhand to Spain to train under the Real Sociedad team.

    BookASmile, gave 10 YUWA football coaches from Ranchi, Jharkhand, an opportunity to undergo the best–in-class training; a 2 week UEFA 2017- Level 1 directly from players of Real Sociedad, one of the most popular football clubs that plays in the La Liga, the top league of Spanish football. These coaches also got a chance to escort the Real Sociedad players onto the field at the start of their match v/s Real Madrid.

    During the trip, the group got the chance both to meet and train with Real Sociedad’s 1st men’s and women’s teams, attend a blockbuster match in Bilbao against European champions Real Madrid, as well as a private reception with San Sebastian’s mayor, Eneko Gola. This was the first time football coaches from India travelled abroad to Europe, for formal coach training. The course was designed to further the groups’ tactical and management skills and impart new training tricks & techniques which they can bring back to their teams in India. This is the first group of YUWA Indian coaches to train with a La Liga team. The eight young women and two young men were chosen from YUWA’s 35 coaches who lead practices for 270 girls and 30 boys in Jharkhand every morning. There are currently about 300 players in Yuwa’s football program, 90% of whom are girls. Ages range from 5 - 20 years old, with the average age about 10. All practices take place on makeshift fields in villages of Ormanjhi, Jharkhand.

    Yuwa’s recruitment process is driven by the youth coaches. Currently, Yuwa has 30 young coaches who have come up through our programs. 25 of those coaches are girls between the ages of 14 and 22. These coaches lead daily practices and life-skills workshops for over 300 girls who participate in Yuwa’s football programs. They act as positive role models and mentors, inspiring hundreds of girls to dream of a different future.
  4. Why is it important to foster a culture of giving, and how can this be done?

    Generosity is a choice that should feel right and joyful. Generosity comes from believing you have enough to share.It’s human nature to believe, “When I have more, I’ll give more.” If you come from this mentality, you never have enough of anything to give.

    The Art of Giving is a linear concept that can be incorporated at all levels. At home with your family and domestic help, at work with your colleagues, the people you meet on the street, in the train, your cab driver and so on.

    Giving does not mean just giving money…. Give your time, talent, knowledge, advice, laughter, support, a kind word, a smile.

    Give anyone…anything…anywhere…. Just give because the culture of giving is infectious. Those who receive, learn to give and pay it forward.
  5. What is your advice to young Indians who want to go abroad to study?

    Millennials have multiple choices today, and one of the most important choices is that in this day and age you can turn your passion into your profession. The youth has the option to choose to do what they “always dreamed of doing” rather than what they ought to do, weighed down by parental or societal expectations.

    Curricula in universities abroad have been developed and updated from time to time, keeping in mind the trends in the industry and tribulations of the youth today. Universities in India are moving towards this thought process rapidly, and there are many great institutions that explore other vocational courses apart from Engineering and Business.

For more on learning outside the classroom, check out the links below!
My semester abroad at Duke Kunshan, China, taught me how to make the most of life
How a Wharton summer school alum is helping save the planet
The linkages between sports, education and life skills
#SmartStudent: How to be funny when you're studying abroad
Odissi at Oxford, Bhangra in New York : Indian student life at international universities
Comedian Radhika Vaz on making the most of being abroad
How 2 Indian students in Canada are helping disabled children walk like 'Iron Man'
How a summer program made me fall in love with a university
What traveling around the world in 2016 taught me
Libraries infuse magic into studying abroad
Word Nerd: Paneer, cottage cheese, and the vocabulary of diversity



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