Before I could think of starting my own blog, “The Guitar That Was Never Played” brought to mind those unfortunate souls who are unable to articulate their thoughts for one reason or another.
Modern life in a developed society has provided me with access to powerful tools of articulation that I often take for granted. While I debate whether or not blogging is a good use of my time, billions of people, many of them children, remain illiterate and struggle to understand our world.
When I visited India last summer, I tried to discover the causes of illiteracy, especially in rural areas. I was fortunate to be able to visit a village in the state of Karnataka. From my conversations with some of the locals, I gathered that one major obstacle to literacy is a lack of basic materials such as notebooks and pencils. Further inquiry revealed that the situation is by no means unique to that village; it is a nationwide pandemic.
The government offers free schooling to children throughout India, but abject poverty still makes it difficult for many of them to attend school. They cannot afford school supplies and must often rely on the kindness of donors to provide their schools with paper, pencils, erasers, and notebooks.
Investing in a notebook and a few pencils for every child in the developing world could potentially yield huge returns for future generations. The current situation is particularly disappointing in light of how much money is spent on frivolous doodads in our developed society. For example, sales of ring tones in the United States alone exceeded half a billion dollars in 2007. The average cost of a ring tone (roughly $1-3 or Rs.40-120 in Indian rupees) could provide a child with basic school supplies for a full semester.
My next goal in this area is to get back in touch with people from that village to try to find a scalable albeit low-tech solution to this grotesque shortfall. While the current state of affairs may be deplorable, it can certainly be changed through co-operative effort.
Imagine the stories and poems that will be written, essays articulated, pictures drawn, inventions invented, discoveries made, and friendships forged when millions of children are provided with simple tools to help them learn and grow everyday.