[Produced below is an inspirational talk by Prof. Amber Haque, member of Hyderabad Youth Mirror’s Advisory Panel. He delivered this talk at an awards ceremony: ‘Indian Schools Awards, UAE 2015’. – Editor]
His Excellency, Dignitaries, Organizers, Award Recipients, Parents, Principals, Teachers, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is indeed a pleasure and an honor for me to address this distinguished audience and present awards at the Indian Schools Academic Awards Ceremony! This occasion is not only auspicious for students who have excelled in their Board Exams; but it is also a happy moment for School Principals, teachers, and above all, the parents whose children have made it to this point. This reflects a collective effort on everybody’s part. We commend you all for this great achievement!
As I was thinking about what to say in my address to the young people, a few names came to my mind. One name stands out from when I was a school kid in St. Xavier’s, Patna. I remember being told a lot about a man named Dr. Rajendra Prasad. He came from a very humble family in my State. He knew, however, how important education could be and understood that hard work could open new doors, new opportunities. He was at a disadvantage; he had no electricity at home. So, he did what he could: he studied under streetlights! Impressed by his knowledge and intellect, on one of his exams, the examiner wrote… “The examinee is better than the examiner!” This man went on to pursue a degree in Law, and later became the first President of India. This story inspired children from my generation to excel in their studies and to achieve their dreams. I am sure you also have big dreams that you are well on your way to achieve in the future.
The other name that came to my mind was Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers. Steve Jobs gave us a technology that is parallel to none. Perhaps a majority of the people in this auditorium has i-Phone that was the brainchild of Steve Jobs. So what was common in these two great personalities?
Well, both had humble beginnings but they achieved what they wanted to achieve and worked to serve the humanity in different ways. Steve Jobs once said that all of us have been sent to this world to make a dent, meaning that, we should leave a mark that people will remember us for, and something that would make the lives of others better.
As I was preparing this message for you, I thought of yet another name: Alfred Nobel, the man who established the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s the most prestigious award in the world and it is a dream of all of the world’s best scientists, statesmen, economists, educators, philanthropists, etc. to get this award. The last year’s award was given jointly to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai, people who are struggling for children’s rights and education in their respective countries. But do you know why Alfred Nobel established this award?
He established this Peace Award after he read his obituary written by the local newspaper! He was alive but the local newspaper mistakenly wrote the obituary for Alfred when in fact his brother had passed away. The newspaper called Alfred Nobel, the “Merchant of Death” and the “King of Dynamite” because Alfred Nobel had invented explosives that could kill many people very quickly. Having read his obituary in his lifetime shocked Alfred and he realized that this is not how he wants to be remembered so in order to change his image he gave away all his amassed wealth for those who work for peace. There are many names of people who have lots of money and power but will not be remembered unless they do something good for others.
Bill Gates established Microsoft and is one of the richest men in the world but he will not be remembered for his wealth and status. He will however, be remembered for the fact that he gave away 95% of his wealth to his foundation that is working in poor countries to eradicate polio and other diseases.
Thinking of achievements and works of excellence, we have a living legend right here in this country, Shaikh Mohammad who has accomplished unparalleled wonders for the people of this country and abroad. We are lucky to be living in a country that has seen unthinkable progress in a short span of time and all this is due to the visionary leadership of the leaders of UAE. Continued safety, security and peace here is their gift for the people of UAE and the world. This country offers the best environment to learn and grow and all people living here have a duty to protect the interests of this country but at the same time not to forget their homeland.
Our youth need to follow the steps of those who excel not only for themselves but who make a difference for others. You don’t have to be a leader to do that—you can be a student, a teacher or a parent and still do your best to make a difference. As students, just think how you want to be remembered and strive along that path from an early age. While you excel in your studies and build a successful career, unconditional respect for your parents and teachers cannot be compromised.
A message to the parents: the days are gone when we used to think that doctors and engineers are the only two respectable professions in the world. There are hundreds of different choices for our young people. Please try to know and understand your children’s likes and dislikes and acknowledge their strengths and limitations. Amir Khan’s movie “Tare Zamin Per” is an excellent example of how Indian parents can be mistaken about their children’s abilities and how teachers can identify the hidden potential in each child.
A message to school principals and teachers: we already know that each child is unique and special in his or her own way but we need to ask if we are striving to bring out the best in each child? Indian students are respected for their intelligence and hard work but the question is whether we are preparing them for the 21st century? The skills needed today are different than before. Are you keeping up with the pace of change on the global scene? Are you following the right pedagogy in classrooms and best practices in school administration? What can you learn from other institutions and school systems? Why Finland schools are considered the best in the world and how can you make your school environment a healthy and happy learning environment for all students? If we don’t keep improving, we will fall behind on our duties to the children and to the society. Our success lies in the success of our students and our children.
My message about being remembered in a positive way is not only for the students, parents, and teachers but also for myself. I have taught close to ten thousand University students in the last 25 years and certainly hope that my students and colleagues will also remember me in a positive way!
To all of you, do not think of today’s award as a final achievement. Think of it as a milestone and a beginning. To the students, you have a lifetime ahead of you to change the world in a way none of us could have ever imagined. To the parents and teachers, know how important you are in helping these students achieve their dreams. And know that what they are tomorrow will be because of what you are today.
Thank you and God bless!
[The author is a professor of Clinical Psychology at UAE University, and a member of Advisory Panel of Hyderabad Youth Mirror]