Once upon a time, long long ago, in a small school, in the big city of London, a little boy called Oliver raised his hand. He asked his teacher, “What is it like to go to school in India?” His teacher promised him that if she ever got a chance to find out, she would think of him and tell him.
His teacher decided to find the answer to little Oliver’s question. She came to big beautiful India. She travelled all around the country – up the hills, down the valleys, across the plains, crossing rivers and jungles and big cities and little towns, visiting every school that came her way and speaking with every child she met.
And then, she wrote a little book. The book told Oliver a lot about going to school in India. However, this teacher felt that there was a lot more to find out about going to school in India and a lot more that she could do for the children going to school in India. She met a little group of people who could write beautiful stories and paint pretty pictures, just like her, and they embarked on a journey to find out more and give more to these schools and their students.
The teacher saw that a lot of girls had trouble going to school. They also faced a lot of hurdles to start businesses on their own. So she and her team decided to write stories about those girls who fought all odds to go to school and those who thought of brilliant business ideas to solve local problems. They called them “Girl Stars” and wrote 15 books about them!
The teacher realised that if all the little boys and girls in other schools were told about her Girl Stars, maybe they would also want to start businesses one day that would solve problems around them. That way, if all children started small businesses solving problems, then all problems would soon start going away. She began Be! An Entrepreneur to encourage all children to become entrepreneurs when they grow up.
The teacher and her team of painters and story writers and managers and photographers wrote 31 colourful story books about little boys and girls all over India. These stories taught their readers very important skills that all entrepreneurs and problem solvers needed.
Most of these books were made into movies and these movies were shown on National Television. The movies were also taken to villages where there no TVs and shown to the children and teachers there.
All these books were taken to Government run schools in Bihar. The teachers in these schools were taught how to read these books with the children and play the activities at the end of each book with them, for they were not like other text books. Very soon, nearly 84,101 children in 841 schools in Bihar were reading these books. There were some who were coming to school only to read these books!
Soon enough, we were receiving fabulous projects from the children all over Bihar. Each project activity showed what they learnt from that book: important skills needed to solve problems, identifying these skills within their families, identifying local problems and finding solutions to them, building a social network, identifying entrepreneurs and interviewing them and many many more.
While the children in Bihar were reading and learning from these books, the teacher and her team were encouraging the youth in Karnataka and Maharashta to start problem-solving enterprises in their villages and towns. They identified 25 entrepreneurs first and 20 later who had brilliant solutions to local problems and invested in them to go forth and solve these problems. There was Archana who decided to make Areca leaf plates and bowls, Radhakrishna who got a truck to take farmers to the market, Mageshwari who started a solar light manufacturing company and many others like them.
It has been 10 years since the teacher started on her journey to answer Oliver’s question. She is still on that journey with her team around her, and will one day answer questions to how children go to school all over the world!