CHANGE leaders do great things, and often that is all we know about them. Here we want to get a different glimpse of the personalities that constitute the development space. Every month we get one leader to answer four questions, not necessarily about their work, but about themselves. This week we catch up with Maitreyee Kumar, executive director and founding member of Dream School Foundation.

Education is a basic right promised by our Constitution but for many underprivileged children it remains a dream. Founded by Maitreyee Kumar and Sabu Joseph, Dream School Foundation has been striving to make that a reality. Through an Integrated Education and Development (IED) approach they focus on quality education and holistic development of the children.

Maitreyee Kumar started her career as a software professional and worked with multinational firms in India and abroad for eight years before she made a shift towards social development. After working with Child Rights and You (CRY), she along with  Sabu started the foundation.

Small Change: What made you start DSF? What change did you hope to bring with it?

Maitreyee Kumar: DSF started with the mission of making the Right To Education (RTE)  real for our children. We started the organisation as a group of passionate individuals, volunteering our time and skills for the cause of equity and quality in education, for the most underserved communities in urban Bangalore. The idea was to channelize the interest, passion and capabilities of civil society to contribute to quality education in government school settings, community settings and higher education centres.

We believed that through our work more and more individuals, corporate organisations, communities in general, would get involved in the affairs of education. Through this involvement, the schools would become a better place to be, the teacher’s motivation levels would increase and the learning levels of the children would be enhanced over time through our interventions.  

Sabu Joseph co-founded Dream School Foundation along with Maitreyee Kumar. © DSF
Co-founder Sabu Joseph. © DSF

SC: What were the two biggest hurdles you faced in your journey as the co-founder of DSF?

MK: The complexity of the Indian education system and the lack of a level playing field between the government and private schools is a big hurdle in attracting interested stakeholders in the government school education system. The government not having a clear structure for public-private partnership for education, poses a big challenge for NGOs to focus their interventions and avoid replication of efforts.

As our students graduated, them finding careers of their choice was very challenging given the widening gap in the industry expectations and what the universities deliver. So we  have relooked at and redesigned our intervention.

SC: Even with the understanding that education is crucial for empowerment, do you feel we haven’t used that awareness to bring about a change?

MK: It is not a matter of awareness, it’s the Indian education policies that fail to create equity and quality in education for millions of children who are coming from underserved socio-economic backgrounds. We have failed to create government schools as the schools of our choice, and have instead promoted and participated in the creation of parallel school systems.

SC: What’s one book/film/ documentary you would recommend to someone so they can better understand your cause?

MK: Changing education paradigms – a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson and An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen.

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