One day, excited me, a drawing class teacher in Sujata Academy in Gaya, India, started our class by asking my kids aged 10-12 "What do you want to be in 10 years? What do you dream of?".
Silence. The whole class was in silence... I kept explaining to deliver my message and today's topic which was about 'future' and 'dream'. Generous children kept answering me loudly and confidently 'Ji, sister! - yes, sister' as if they knew what I meant, but I could read their blank eyes that proved they didn't get the concept of 'future'. Eventually, I drew ugly human features from the stage of baby, teenage, and adult on the chalkboard and asked a senior student for help to explain today's topic in very fluent their dialect after assuming my hindi might be too poor to get to certain points.
After an hour only in spending the introduction of our class, the senior assistant student told me 'I don't think they understand what future means or dream means...'
I was depressed in failing this awesome plan - totally focused on my side - and unfortunately changed the topic to 'whatever you want, your favorites'. Once I let children draw anything they like or want to have, their lost eyes disappeared and joyful drawing class finally started. Children were laughing and enjoying coloring and chatting while my mentality was somewhere else to think and ask myself what was wrong.. gazing outside through the window. What a nice day. My intention was just simple, having a chance to think of future or occupations or any imagination of being adults, of growing up which is very typical education system I was supplied by my home country, media, surroundings, and it was obvious typical educational curriculum with no doubt most of people I knew and grew up in similar cultural economic background with similar period might experience.
The bell was ringing, difficult class was over. I was left alone in the empty classroom and I couldn't help being shocked and very surprised after collecting all the pictures students drew in the class. BAM! What my students drew as their wishes or favorites was mango, mango trees, water pump, house, trees, mango, again mango, mango...
That moment, I realized how stupid I was, how terrible teacher I was. I had no idea what situation my students were in, what they really thought of every moment, what made them happy truly. Yes, they were in a hard situation where fought for the shortage of food, water, any supplement. They were in a life where was maintaining everyday only with 1 or 2 times of basic meals. And the teacher asked them to think about 'tomorrow'. Maybe tomorrow never exists for them because they were barely surviving every 'today'. The conception of 'future' and perception of 'growing up' or 'being an adult' make sense only when the material and physical condition support bases of enjoyable human life, only when 'tomorrow' is feasible and thinkable. No human would try naturally picturing of 'what one wants to be in the future' in harsh environmental setup like warfare or starvation, not even a second... No human's brain would be able to be developed to perceive the concept of 'future' in those external conditions.