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How a poem by Rabindranath Tagore helped me as a Global Schools Ambassador

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

By Varsha Bhambhani, former Global Schools Ambassador, Current Project Officer for the Global Schools Program, India

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in life, it’s that failure is the first event that follows the beginning of something new. Yet, when I began my work as a Global Schools Ambassador, I had what I can now identify as hubris. I had done a lot of outreach work with schools before. Many of them I knew professionally, and many I didn’t. I thought this would be a cakewalk and I set a target of onboarding at least 20 institutions as Global Schools through my outreach.

First and foremost, I collated an email database to reach out to nearly 110 schools in Hyderabad and Mumbai about the new project that I had undertaken. In the email, I requested them to sign the pledge for the Global Schools Program to support educating the youth on SDGs.

Needless to said, I fell flat on my face. For how many of these responded? None. At first. But I tried some more (of the same) by sending follow up emails hoping they’d respond. Nearly two months passed thus. I was utterly dejected by now, and to make matters worse the Indian schools holiday season was just around the corner.

I needed urgent action and some fresh push to get unstuck and reach closer to my goals. The motivation came to me through a lyrical poem written by the Nobel Laureate - Rabindranath Tagore, titled Ekla Chalo Re, “Then Walk Alone”.

The protest song was written to rebel against the British during the Indian freedom movement. Granted the problems inspiring this song were entirely different from mine, but the lyrics and the melody inspired me, specifically the second stanza which translates to “If everyone turns away, if everyone fears (to speak), then with an open heart without hesitation speak your mind alone”.

That’s when I thought, I must try another way to speak my mind and inspire school leaders. (Even if no one turns up to listen to me!) I decided a meet up would be the best way to do so, designed a poster for one named, “Why SDGs?”. Prepped to fail again, I sent the poster out to the same database. I requested their presence at a time and place to discuss together the importance of including the SDGs in the school curriculum.

Maybe it was because I requested for a different action out of the same leaders, that this time, I did receive responses, even though the meet up was held in the middle of the holiday season!

Eight educators turned up that day, and even though that number itself is small, the success, for me, was huge.

Since then, I’ve onboarded two school groups with four branches each and one primary school. I didn’t reach my target, but I completed my term as an Ambassador feeling successful. And having gained new perspectives on failure: We keep failing until we learn what we’re supposed from those failures, and then, we succeed.

If you are a school or an educators' interested in joining the Global Schools' Program Educators Forum and signing the pledge, click here.

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