One story at a time to teach skills

What is it like to go to school in India? As important it is for a child to go to school, learning has to be fun for kids and nothing engages a child as a good story. If children read stories in school, it will impart values, skills and will increase their reading habits. When children read stories, they are given the liberty to imagine, create and envision the story as anything they want to. Stories impact their young minds and these stories help them solve problems they confront in their lives.

We believe in the power of stories to change the school systems. The stories we write for children comes in beautiful colours, with detailed illustrations and graphics. With every story come a skill they learn and a skills challenge they complete.
As India innovates, we are taking stories to the next level to be accessible to kids around the globe. We are going digital! Storytelling has been an effective tool to teach kids from years. Children relate to the protagonist and care for matters that affect their community. Deepanshu Prakash Soni, a grade 9 student reads skills stories every Saturday and is learning a new skill every week.

She says, “There are too many road accidents taking place nowadays. I think the local municipality who is at fault because they cut down so many trees to build the roads, and they didn’t put any speed breakers. They have not put any signboards and the roads have very sharp turns”.

It’s time for kids globally to read these stories and identify the problems existing in their communities and be the problem solver who comes with a plan. Find a range of stories on our online library and learn a new skill every skill! Are you ready to get aboard on the digital journey and bring a change with one story at a time? All aboard! It’s time to visit the library.

Garbage, garbage everywhere, but who can see it?

“I don’t like being dependent but without people with you it’s very difficult to go far.” Rupal, age 13 years

Vaishali, 3 pm
Rupal is sitting on the wall in front of her house. She’s staring at the broken road. On the way home from school shefell off her bicycle at the same spot where her sister had tripped and broken her shoe. Rupal dislikes where she lives, she can’t stand her neighbors-truth be told, shehatesherslum. Five years ago she moved here and for five years she’s seen broken roads, garbage dumps and overflowing sewers. Nobody cares enough to do anything. Her neighbours are not friendly, nobody says ‘hello’when they pass on the street, not even a nod. Everyone is too self involved to do anything else but step over the trash, step over the pot hole.
Rupal had to fix the road. She would start now. She jumpedoff of the wall and picked up the first empty bottle. Then she walked two steps and picked up two empty packets of chips, a plastic bag. Her hands were full, she dropped her collected garbage and came back with a green dustbin. It wasn’t long before the little dust bin was full. She walked back home to empty the dust bin in the waste bin in her house. With a clean dust bin she walked out again. Two hours. Finally the dust bin in her house was full. She would start again tomorrow. As she walked home she saw new trash in the street. Her eyes fill with tears. She climbs the stairs to her house and her sister is sittingthere, watching.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m not going to stop till the roads are clean, then I will figure out a way to fix the roads, so that I don’t fall off my bicycle and you don’t break your shoe.”
“Right. And you plan to do this alone?
Tomorrow is Sunday. Rupal repeats her steps. She feels that she’s cleaning the same street she had cleaned yesterday – the garbage is the same. By noon, she was tired. Her little brother comes running up to her.
“Do you need some help?”
Rupal rolled her eyes, “Isn’t that obvious.”
“Not really. You should have asked.”
Rupals’ brother races home, and hollersto his other sisters. “Rupal needs our help!”
And so it was that five girls and one little boy cleaned up the dirty streets of Bank Men’s colony. They were at work when the sun set dusk. By evening they had cleaned a lot, but there was still so much to do.
Rupal did a quick assessment. Honestly, there was no way she could fix the broken road, she did not have the equipment or the strength. She had to go to Municipality Administrator’s office to understand what could be done. The security guard outside did not let her in. She looked too young. So she returned the next day with her two older sisters. The guard respectfully let them in. The girl had returned with adults.
“You want me to send my engineers to fix your road because you think there is something wrong with it. Why should I believe you? And even if there is such a problem, if other people in your colony don’t think it’s problem then why do you?”
The Municipal Officer was not very helpful.
On their way home, Sarita, the eldest sister asked Rupal, “Maybe we should tell our neighbours about your plan. Maybe if everyone agrees, the administrator will agree.”
Rupal was stubborn. “I am not asking anyone for help. Lakshmi Aunty walks past me picking up garbage every day, and she’s never asked me if I need help. So why should I go ask?”
“Sometimes people do care but like to keep away and not interfere. Others feel that you may not want to include them – that is why you haven’t asked them yet. Still there are others who need a push or a nudge or sometimes even a drag in the right direction,” explained Sarita encouragingly.
Rupal frowned. “But they all saw me work, they saw us work, why didn’t they say anything. This is their road as much as mine, they also fall, they also get hurt, but why don’t they care?”
“Remember last Sunday, when you were cleaning alone, and then our brother saw you cleaning. And he asked us to come help you?”
Rupal nodded.
“It’s not that none of us saw you. We all saw you clean the day before and clean on Sunday morning, but we did not feel the necessity to help you. We thought you must be doing something for a school project. We were busy with our own work, thoughts. None of us took the initiative you took or felt responsible for all this mess. But then once you explained what you were trying to achieve we came to help you. Remember how quickly we worked as a team, and how much faster we got the street cleaned together?Maybe our neighbours are so used to seeing this neighbourhood this way that they have begun to think this is normal. They don’t have the privilege of seeing new problem solving techniques and reading stories about that they way you do in school. Even your three little detective friends needed each other to solve their mysteries. They spent so much time with other villagers, asking the so many questions. You can never take on a mission by yourself, you will always have to involve others. And here you must remember that no one will come to you first. You need to take that step. To ask for help. Asking for help, will never make you a smaller person or a less determined person. Everyone needs a team, and many people will always work faster and better than a single person. Don’t you think so?”
Rupal nodded. Sarita was a teacher, she knew what she was talking about.
Next day after on her way back from school, Rupal passed by Lakshmi Aunty again.
“Lakshmi Aunty, Hi! I am Rupal and I live in that pink and yellow house down the road. I have started a LET’S CLEAN BANK MEN’S COLONY PROJECT – to clean our neighborhood and get the Municipality Administrator to bring some engineers to fix our roads. I was wondering if you could sign my petition?”
Lakshmi aunty frowned and then smiled. “Is that what you have been up to? I assumed you must be picking up things to stick on your scrap book. My son used to do that. Why didn’t you tell me before? Of course I’ll sign your petition. In fact, I’ll ask my husband to speak to his boss about this. He is the Municipal Administrator’s best friend.”
Rupal was awestruck. Slowly she walked back to her house. Tomorrow she would draft a a petition and knock on every door to tell them her plan. She had given up on her neighbors so easily. They were just different people, minding their own business. They did not have her drive and determination, but that did not mean that they did not want to help her. They were just waiting for someone else to take the first step. All she had to do was begin.

Let the games begin

“People must understand that girls should be allowed to play just like boys. Games have to be part of school, I’m going to make sure games become part of our timetable again.” Neeru, age 15
Bettiah, West Champaran, 3.22 pm

Neeru and her friends can’t wait for the last bell to ring. Their legs are stiff from sitting in the same position for over two hours. Neeru has been looking at the last postcard her brother sent her. It’s a photograph of him playing football with his friends at his boarding school. She looks at field outside her classroom. Their school had a beautiful field within its compound but grass and weeds had grown making it impossible to play. The shed in which all the games equipment was stored was home to cobwebs and creepy-crawlies. The footballs were punctured and the cricket bats chipped and broken.
The field had once held two football nets and a cricket pitch but ever since the games teacher left there was no one to teach games. Since they were in a girls’ school, they could only have a female games teacher. There were no applicationsfrom women games teachers.
Neeru thought that no one realized how important games was. Playing was as important as studying, it made you strong. Neeru felt free when she used to run, like she was flying.
The last bell of the day rang cutting into Neeru’s thoughts. She passed the boys playing their usual game of cricket on the streets. For as long as she could remember they’d always played cricket just there. But today, she stopped and watched. None of them wore shoes. They had no equipment. Their cricket bat was a broad stick, their ball was a chewed tennis ball and their wicket was a three legged chair. If the ball hit a tree stump you were awarded four runs, if it broke a window, you got six runs. They did not have an umpire or a coach. They created, broke and judged their own rules. They were very happy.
Neeru realized she had spent six months being sad about a problem instead of solving it.
First, she would speak to the gardener and ask him to mow the school lawns. She did not know who the gardener was, she had to find him. Then she would speak to her friends and together they would take an appointment with the principal and request her to allow them to play after school hours. Once they start playing after school hours, she was hoping that the principal would begin to notice how good they were and then the next step would be to speak to her about including games in their curriculum next year. Yes, she would make something out of nothing, just like the boys playing cricket.
Neeru turned back to see the ball sailing through the air and crashing into someone’s window shortly followed by jubilant cries from the winning team. Maybe she would become games teacher one day. There were doctors in the town, but no games teacher and that was who her school needed most right now, and who girls would need later to be able to play.

When asked what would you like to learn at school that you don’t yet, 59% of girls said overwhelmingly: NCC games. Games win. The World Economic Forum cites a healthy diet + exercise as one of the 10 skills you should leave high school with be work-ready, knowing how to be healthy, exercise and eat properly is imperative to have enough energy to work.

When we asked girls how they spent their time after school, 78% said studying [though we know realistically with transport and family demands they don’t have this much time], 15% said household work [while only 9% of boys said they help at home] and playing, sports, only received 5% for girls, and 9% for boys.
Giving girls space and time to play at school is imperative – when you exercise your body you open your mind, and in organized sports you learn other skills – team work, leadership, communication and negotiation – imperative life skills. Longer term, if there is NCC games in your school and you complete the tasks to receive a certificate, you get extra marks when you are applying to be a police officer, in the railways, army or police force.
Neeru is inquisitive, a problem-solver and is taking initiative to bring games to her school for girls. Neeru identified that her social connections can help her achieve her goal. 97% of girls in our program are curious about new things that can happen in and around them and once they are curious, the next step is finding out how to make that ‘new idea’ a reality in your school.

The art of money

“It’s difficult to make a budget for 10,000 rupees. It’s easier to keep track of the amount of money you earn, spend and save when you have very little to deal with.” Ajmer 
Siwan, 6: 15 pm

“Ajmer, keep this 10 rupees.”
Ajmer shook his head. He wasn’t going to accept money from someone who was poorer than him. Khala’s wall had begun to develop cracks and a large section of the bricks had fallen away. Neither Khala, nor her aged husband, who was a daily labourer like Ajmer’s father, could afford to fix it. Ajmer had painted a beautiful peacock with its feathers spread wide open over the broken wall.
Ajmer collected his paints and brushes and walked home. His bare legs shivered a little in the cold. As is in the winter months the sun was beginning to disappear and the evening sky was bursting in colours – purple pink blue and orange were flowing into each other, as though Ajmer’s paint brush had designed the sky.
It was a long day. He had woken up at 5 a.m. and painted a new section of his house. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find a spot that his paintbrush had not touched. Peacocks, elephants, flowers and detailed paintings of gods and goddesses occupied all walls of his house leaving little space for new occupants. After a new addition of birds flying out of a tree, Ajmer left for coaching class and from there cycled to school. After a tiring day at school where he read about emperors who had fought bloody battles, particles that had broken up into smaller atoms, and numbers that had added up to bigger numbers, Ajmer reached home to pick up his brushes again.
After a quick lunch, he completed his homework and left for Khala’s house. It had been many weeks since he had promised Khala that he would paint her house. But class     tests, household work, painting classes that he took and painting classes he gave, were keeping him very busy.                                         .                                                                                              

Ajmer feels painting is in his soul – his mother is from the distant village of Madhubani, the home of artists. Though she was never a painter, her son was, and he’s teaching other children who love to dip their fingers in bottles of paint and streak them across walls, trees and each other’s faces. Ajmer had invested a lot of time and energy convincing each mother in his village to send her child to him on Saturday afternoons to paint. No one had agreed. Why waste time with colours when you could do so many more important and useful things like cleaning feeding the cows.
First there was none, then there were two, the twins from next door. Then out of curiosity more children came to investigate the source of shrills and shrieks and colour. For six months Ajmer had given classes for free. Children came and used up all of his colours. But soon he began to run out of resources. To continue teaching he needed paints, and to buy paints he needed money. Ajmer had always known the value of money, his father had broken his back as a daily wage labourer to feed his entire family. But today he understood the importance of earning money, being able use his skill to earn money that would in turn buy him resources to be able to continue and survive. Ajmer knew, and the books on Saturday affirmed this, he had begun to understand how enterprises were run.

Although some of his students left when he brought up the subject of money, many stayed. Their parents did not mind paying 20 rupees a month to Ajmer so that their children could go crazy with colours. When 20 children began paying him 20 rupees each, Ajmer invited those who could not afford to pay him to return and began teaching them for free. He had more than enough money to buy new supplies. He promised himself he would never money from those who could not afford to pay – but just because you can’t pay, does not mean you don’t deserve to learn.
The moon had climbed really high by the time Ajmer reached home. His mother had laid out his food for him and was watchfully waiting his return. She smiled proudly at him as he handed over the 200 rupees that Sheikh Saab had given him yesterday. That would buy two months worth of groceries. Her husband had stopped working from the day Ajmer had started earning. Her 15 year old son was an entrepreneur.
Our data shows us that when it comes to saving money, 28% of boys and 36% of girls have a functional bank account, this is interesting because as minors their parents would have had to co-sign for them to have bank accounts [which means girls parents see value in girls having accounts in their own names]. Boys and girls tell us they their accounts to save money. Learning about money, budgets, cash flows and complex concepts such as compound interest are imperative. We love the fact that Ajmer knows how to value his artistic talent, and is saving what he earns to support his family. Ajmer is an artist and he’s converting his art into a financial literacy skill – he keeps track of what he earns, saves and can invest, but his values and morals are always in the right place, he’ll never charge someone who cannot pay.
Do young people like Ajmer, think work is honorable, do they see value in learning about work at school and do they understand money? Yes. 27% of girls told us that they go to school so one day they can get a job to become independent and 24% of girls want to get a job to support their family, 19% say if they work they know their family will be proud, 15% want to work for a company that everyone respects and 12% of girls say they want to get a job to have a stable income.

In search of heroes, the other sister

“Without my sister I would not be where I am today.” Sanjana, age 12
8:57 a.m Saran

Sanjana loves to read, go to school, read stories on Saturdays and paint. If you ask her who she thinks is great, first, she’ll say, her father who is the mukhiya of the village and has tried his best to develop all five villages under his watch. Sanjana’s father has built temples and bought solar panels ensuring that all homes use solar light. He’s built roads from the villages connecting them to the main road and he’s always liked to think he treats his sons and daughters equally. Well, nearly equally.
Sanjana lives in a joint family with her parents, her sister, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents. Her brother works in the Indian Navy and is away on his ship. Right now he is sailing along the coast of Australia. He has sent postcards from the places he has visited. Sanjana’s parents have kept them tucked safely inside their cupboards.
Not once has Sanjana been asked to stop going to school to help her mother and aunts at home. Not once has she been asked to stop studying to prepare for her wedding. She’s never been rebuked by her family when she told them that she wanted to join the police force. Everyone encouraged her. If she made it, that would be the second child in the government service, which meant a permanent job. Nobody had questioned her ability to pass a difficult exam or get a job which is mostly done by men and is considered dangerous and difficult.
It’s been 15 years since then. Sanjana has not only cleared her Indian Police Service exam, but has become a Sub-Commissioner and is posted in New Delhi, the capital of the country. She goes home twice a year and every time she arrives in her white ambassador with a security guard and the Indian flag, in her brown uniform with a cap and a feather, the entire village runs after her car and there is a gala evening with dinner for everyone at her house. Celebrations everywhere for the daughter of the village who has made everyone proud by her determination and bravery.
A beautiful story. But the true hero of our story is not Sanjana. It is her older sister Priyanka.
Priyanka was the first girl born in the family. From the day she was born, her father started saving for her wedding. But Priyanka was not to marry. At least not immediately. Priyanka fell in love with stories. She used to read in Hindi and couldn’t stop reading. She fought to be able to go to college after completing her education so that she could read more.Her parents wanted their daughter to be wed as soon as she finished school. She was the Mukhiya’s elder daughter after all, and expectations from society were high. Her parents finally gave in to her wishes, but said that they would not give her any help or money.
While she was in college she began tutoring children in her village so that she could continue her education. She went to Patna city on her own. It was six hours away by bus and she brought back a post graduation application form for Patna University, the most reputed University in the state. She completed the application form and spent an entire month speaking to her father and explaining her dream to him. Finally her father let her apply. He thought that, there was no way that a girl from the small village of Chappra could get through a Masters’ program in the grand Patna University.
Not only did Priyanka get through, but she got a scholarship as well. Her father had to let her go. She moved to Patna on her own, finding accommodation in a girl’s hostel and taking the bus home every weekend on her own. After completing her Master’s degree she got into a PhD program too. Then she passed her NET exam and started to teach in her village. There were so many girls who were not as lucky as she was, who would not have the opportunity to go out and study. She knew she would have to give them the best education while they were still in school. She proved to her father, the rest of the family and her entire village that girls could do whatever they wanted to do. Because of Priyanka, Sanjana’s father never tried to stop his younger daughter from achieving her dreams.

There is no gala or feast or celebrations for Priyanka, she lives in the village, and has not done anything extraordinary like her younger sister. She’s just aschool teacher. But her sister knows that’s not true. She’s not just a school teacher, she is the sister with the drive and determination to do something different whose actions paved the way and cleared all obstacles and challenges from Sanjana’s path. For Sanjana, Priyanka is the true hero, the one we should be interviewing, the one we should have been writing the story about all along.

The journey to school is longer than you think

Only when a problem presents itself, do we look for answers and when we do, we find a chance. Priyanka, age 12

Raxaul, East Champaran, 11:10 am.

It was a very wet day. Heavy dark clouds had stolen the blue from the sky and splashed it instead with a cold grey. Priyanka walked with the busy traffic avoiding the muddy puddles and constant splashes from the speeding rickshaws, horses and lorries. Her white pajama bottoms were gradually turning brown and her white uniform was streaked with rain drops and mud spots.

School was over for the day. Over before it had even begun. Their teacher had not come. Priyanka assumed she had gone away on election duty. She wished school would tell you when it was not really open so girls wouldn’t have to travel so far to be told that there is no school. What a waste of time.

Priyanka lived close by, so she could walk. But there were 416 girls in her class. Not everyone lived near by. Girlstravelled on buses, on auto-rickshaws, many took the local train everyday to come to school. All Priyanka had to do was walk over the crowded busy road. School was only 4 kilometres away. But she felt terrible for other girls.

She noticed that slowly, over the past year, a lot of girls had stopped coming to school. She did not blame them. When they were younger, teachers used to take classes outside, under the tree, and the only time classes were cancelled was when it rained. They all loved the sudden rainy outbursts. But ever since they built proper rooms, with desks and chairs and a blackboard, school was no longer the same. The classroom could only seat 200 girls at a time. Though no one had told them not to come, not everyone was expected to come to school everyday. Girls, on their own, had made a silent decision, 200 came one week, and the remaining 200 came the next week. The teachers, if they took classes, never repeated themselves.

Priyanka missed her old school. This wasn’t school anymore, they didn’t teach and she didn’t learn. But that didn’t stop her from going to school every day. She realized she was learning from her family. Without intending to ,she was learning more from them than from her teachers. Yesterday, her uncle had taught her how to make a budget. He’s an entrepreneur and he started his own wedding card printing business – making a budget everyday was crucial for him. After he taught her she was able to explain the process to her friends during their Saturday skill and story class where they had just started reading ‘Asha makes a budget’. But there were onlysix girls at school that day.

When she thought hard about it, if anyone had asked her about her problems, she’d tell them for sure: we don’t have working schools in my district, and if you want to do well in exams, that’s quite a problem. Priyanka was scared that she might not be able to do well in her exams. How many questions would she answer if there was teacher was teaching? Would there be no more classes next year? What about Grade 11 and 12?

She swung her bag across her left shoulder to relieve the weight. Some girls were not allowed to go to school, some girls had to come from so far and others just couldn’t afford it. She was lucky to have a family who encouraged her to study and a school close by. But she knew it was a problem. How can you have a school that’s so full there’s no place to sit. A school so full that girls stop coming and no other government school to go to because they did not have room either? Priyanka walked into her house and closed the door behind her. Without teachers there would be no classes, without classes no learning about atoms and molecules, or fractions and geometry or even the tributaries and distributaries of the river Ganga, and without learning how would they write exams and become doctors and engineers and judges that they all aspired to? First thing tomorrow she would speak to her friends and make them realize what she understood, girls were going to have to make their own school a place they want to be.

And that new school, well it opens tomorrow.

The Skills Revolution for Girls

In India, millions of young people are entering our economy without the skills they need to get a job or create a job. As often happens,when there’s not enough, girls and women are more prone to being disadvantaged, being financially dependent on others and left out on the mere available opportunities.

We are teaching adolescent girls entrepreneurial and employability skills at schools,before they drop out, without skills. This year, our Children’s Skills Report shows it’s girls, over boys,who are empowered to change their lives the most, if they learn skills at school. We told 9 amazing stories from 9 districts from across Bihar who read skills stories, completed skills challenges and came to school every Saturday to read a new story and learn more skills.

We are sharing with you excerpts from our skills revolution stories.

9 days, 9 amazing stories of 9 kids from 9 districts of Bihar.

Stay tuned for the first story in a few hours and make sure you come back for a new story each day!

Going to School at the Bihar Book Fair 2014

Books! Books! Books! In frosty January, Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) Bihar is running book fairs in 38 districts across Bihar in school grounds. Every school has a small fund to spend on books and the book fairs help teachers and children to choose the books they want to read.

Young entrepreneurs at work

The Going to School team in Bihar thought it would be right to show all of our books from the past 10 years, so Going to School in India, Girl Stars and Be! Books were shown to children in nine districts. We decided to not just show the books but to make it interactive, so children were given chart papers to complete their entrepreneurial skills projects. Some children sat on the mats reading books in the cold for three hours because they liked the stories so much. Every child that completed a project won a hero badge. Exceptional kids and projects took home skills backpacks.Bundled up to keep warm from the cold, Sachin, Asif, Paras, Abhishek, Manoj Kumar,Pandey,Jeetendar,Ranjeet and all our districts coordinators have been having fun ensuring children read stories in Bihar.

Once upon a time in Bihar

“When everything else fails, a story works.” – Anonymous

As a Teach for India fellow, I learned that nothing engages kids better than a good story. It makes their imagination grow richer and wilder. So, I decided to go story hunting. And that led me to the powerful stories created by Going to School. Hi, my name is Pracheta Sharma and this summer I’m working with GTS to explore and learn more about the power of great storytelling.

Stories can be a valuable source of inspiration and change. I saw that first hand, while I was in Bihar, interacting with the government teachers in training for the second year of the Be! Schools program. The Be! School books are beautifully designed stories that teach skills to secondary school children, which will help them realize their potential to be entrepreneurs. It’s a very unique concept, but the challenge is how do you get teachers invested in this? The answer to that lies in the stories they teach the kids.
We might perceive that government school teachers are generally not motivated enough to try anything new in their classrooms, mostly because they’re overworked, underpaid and rarely appreciated. But at the training sessions I attended in Nalanda district, I saw a spark in the teachers. They were excited to learn and deliver. The Be! School stories were inspiring them to be different and think positively about the future of their students. Some teachers shared their experiences with me. They said that despite the challenges of limited time and resources, the magic of storytelling kept them going. They also experienced something new through the stories they read to their students. They were able to forge a connection with the kids. For once, teaching didn’t seem like a task, they said.

We got some teachers who’ve gone that extra mile with the Be! School stories, to talk to us about their experiences on camera. Here’s a preview of two teachers from Nalanda, who share their insights from their first year as a Be! School teacher.

Mohmmad Saquib shares his experience from a rural school in Nalanda.

Prerna Kumari talks about what she likes in the Be! books.


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!