Jayashree Vasudevan- A Californian invigorating the little village of Jamalpur!
As inspiring stories go, Jayashree Vasudevan’s is one that begs to be told. She is one among the small but rather admirable group of people, who work successful careers abroad and are making a difference in India along the way. As one of the most committed partners at Agastya, Rangaswamy and Jayashree Vasudevan, founders of the Vasudevan Foundation, have been instrumental in successfully setting up and running the Agastya Science Center in Jamalpur, Haryana.
Jayashree-a South Indian brought up in the north-observed a stark divide in the focus of education between the North and the South. “This is why we decided to focus our community work in North India, as we find NGOs already doing good work in other parts of the country”.
Jayashree travels all the way from California to the village of Jamalpur. During her time there, she lives as one among the village community. She is actively involved in the functioning and working of the Agastya Science Center.
When asked on her inspiration to get involved in this line of work, Jayashree had this to say. “I used to visit my brother in India, and we would primarily converse in English as we moved around. One day, as I was sitting in the back of the car and ruffling through some things, I found an ‘English to Hindi’ Dictionary. We found out that the driver was trying to learn English by picking up on what we would say and translate it to Hindi. He was from a small town in the heart of Haryana. His inherent curiosity and enthusiasm in learning this new language made me see how his vast potential was going untapped. But this also made me realise how his poor background had denied him a good quality education and in turn disallowed him a better life. This inspired me to work in the education sector.”
Challenges and Success
The biggest challenge for Jayashree was finding good quality teachers. “Even when one finds good teachers, it is very difficult to instill a feeling of unity and oneness among them.” she says. “The children are the biggest source of my satisfaction. When I see them running in to Agastya with big smiles plastered on their faces, it gives me immense joy. Every time I spend time with the children, I make it a point to engage them in conversation. I see that they have retained everything that has been taught through Agastya’s unique method of teaching. That, to me, is success. It is a very satisfying and gratifying experience. ”
Impact of the Program
Jayashree believes that every child’s future in India can be shaped by good education. ”The disillusionment with the system however has led to low enrollment rates. Families do want to send their children to school, but the government school system is not meeting their needs and private schools are too expensive. I see that enrollments in Jamalpur have increased since we started the Agastya Science Center at the government school. The quality of teaching has also gotten better. There are many surprise checks on the government school by outsiders, maybe this is one of the reasons why things are changing. I am sure things will improve considerably with time.”
Relationship with Agastya
“I came to know about Agastya in 2011, through some common friends. Up until then, my husband Vasu and I were exploring different NGO’s in India for about 10 years. When we found Agastya, we realized our vision aligned perfectly with theirs. We wanted to focus on that vision and drive that vision further.”, she says. She likes the fact that Agastya is goal and action oriented.
Our curiosity finally got the better of us, and we couldn’t resist asking her why she chose Jamalpur to focus their efforts. “Remember the driver from my story?” she asked. “He was from Jamalpur!”