A recollection of a childhood incident reminds Dilip Kumar that it is important to see the good in children and encourage them to fulfil their potential.
A recent conversation with my former school mates triggered a memory when I was nine years old and in primary school. My Tamil teacher was asking everyone in class about their ambitions. I was sitting next to my classmate Jabhrudin in a corner where the teacher “banished” weak students to. I had been put there because I refused to do my homework. Jabhrudin, on the other hand, was there because he couldn’t cope with his schoolwork.
Our classmates said they wanted to become policemen or scientists or doctors. When the teacher got to us, she said, “We don’t even have to ask these two. Maybe they’ll end up sweeping the roads or something....”
I still remember how Jabhrudin’s face fell when she said that. This wasn’t the first time Jabhrudin had been receiving such comments. He was talented and could draw very well. He was trying hard but the teacher couldn’t see it. Because he wasn’t doing well, his parents decided to pull him out of school several months later to help them at a prata (Indian flatbread) stall they were operating.
That incident made me ponder and ask deep questions. Should a nine-year-old be labelled as a failure just because he wasn’t ngood in his studies? Surely there were other areas he could have excelled in if given the chance?
It made me look for the good in others and not judge them based on standards imposed on them. I was determined to help kids like Jabhrudin. I don’t want what happened to him to happen to other kids.
At Bedok (a Singapore suburban estate) library, when I conduct reading programmes with kids, flashbacks of the Jabhrudin incident would return. That’s why I decided to volunteer with SIF’s Words on Wheels programme in Sri Lanka, to make learning available to all, regardless of their circumstances or background.
I believe that giving everyone a fair chance and those maligned a headstart to boost their confidence could spark something in them — guiding kids to realising and achieving their full potential has become my calling.”