She was only 18 years old when she put together her first venture. But that’s not the only reason Shaheen Mistri needs to be celebrated. That first venture was the non-profit Akanksha Foundation which educates street and slum children.
Today, between Akanksha and the Teach for India Foundation which she also founded and heads as CEO, Mistri is responsible for bringing the light of knowledge to more Indian children than any other individual in the country.
This was much-needed, and for more reasons than simply ABCs. When she first walked into a slum, Mistri told SheThePeople.TV, “I witnessed things that no child should have to go through – academic gaps that were glaringly big, kids who had no belief in themselves, kids who were mistreated and were witness to appalling tragedy – mothers burning, fathers incarcerated, abuse at home and other deep-rooted issues that poverty brings.”
There’s a long way to go yet before Mistri’s dream of education for every under-privileged child in India is achieved. But today, on World Literacy Day, know that at least 6,500 street and slum children are enjoying what more privileged kids take for granted: an education. At the Teach For India Foundation, where professionals take time off work to focus on teaching at low-income schools, that education is of excellent quality.
Here are three things to know about Shaheen Mistri.
- Mistri grew up abroad, visiting Mumbai only on holidays to be with her grandparents. Starting the Akanksha Foundation when she was 18, she told YourStory.com, was an almost instinctive decision. “I was visiting my grandparents in Mumbai and during that visit, the inequality in the standard of education between the private and public schools struck me. It was clearly one of those heart over head things.”
- Her parents weren’t pleased when she dropped out of her undergraduate course at Tufts University in Boston to study at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and work with street children, but Mistri was adamant about her future in Indian education, according to an interview in ‘India Today’.
- Over the years, Mistri realised that educating children is one thing, but the quality of that education needs to be good. That’s when she set up the Teach For India Foundation, that asks professionals in various fields to stop working for two years, and teach in low income schools instead. Mistri told YourStory.com: “With TFI, we’re trying to set up excellent schools for the poorest kids.”
You can read the full story of Shaheen Mistri’s adventures in education in her book Redrawing India: The Teach for India Story, co-authored by Kovid Gupta.
Feature image credit: alchetron.com