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The lessons learned from our women’s hockey team can show a new direction to our education system, a letter to the women’s hockey team of India!

Dr Rukmini Banerji’s column in Dainik Bhaskar: The lessons learned from our women’s hockey team can show a new direction to our education system, a letter to the women’s hockey team of India…

(A Hindi version of this letter was published in Dainik Bhaskar on August 11, 2021)

A letter to the Indian women’s hockey team:

In the last two weeks, the whole country has been watched you closely and with deep interest.

Some viewers were or still are hockey players; many are hockey lovers. But crores of people were simply travelling with you on your amazing journey. I was one of them. I work in education. As I followed you, I felt it was not enough to just be a fan. You have compelled people like me to travel much further along on the path that you have opened. For us, in education, we saw so many lessons in what you were doing. Learnings that are relevant and important for the situation we are in today. There is much that we learned from you but today I am going to talk about only five of these lessons.

First: Very often difficulties at home and problems in the family, stop us. Today’s constraints prevent us from seeing the opportunities of tomorrow. We feel that we must think of everyone. We think it is selfish to think just of ourselves. The burden of others’ expectations can make your own dreams evaporate. But you did not let this happen. You lent a hand at home and worked alongside your family. But at the same time, you persuaded, cajoled, explained, sulked and argued but eventually changed the minds of those around you. In the coming days, when schools re-open, in all corners of our country, hundreds of girls will have to struggle as you did. And when they struggle, they will see you in front of them, giving inspiration and courage.

Second: In the early days of the Olympic tournament in Tokyo, you could not win several matches. But you did not give up. Similarly, around the country, there are so many children who are behind.

Well below the level of their class. They sit silently at the back of the room. No one expects that they will learn. Slowly their attachment to school loosens and after a while the connection snaps. In some ways, you were like them but you were different. You showed the way with your persistence and with the faith you had in yourselves. You did not feel hopeless just because you were behind, to begin with. You believed in your own capability to fight back. Even before the pandemic, close to 50% of children in rural India in class five could not read. Perhaps they have fallen further behind in the last year and a half. But like our hockey team, our children too can come from behind and go far ahead.

Third: Behind every player, there are many hands, heads and hearts. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, others in the family, friends give them the support and care that is critical. Then, of course, there are the teachers and coaches. Today the training that you, our hockey girls, have received is truly world-class. But to get to this stage, the credit goes to many other unseen heroes.
Someone somewhere in the village or district, saw you playing and recognized in you the grit to grow and the potential to go far. Every disciple carries a piece of the guru in themselves. Each teacher moulds the child in a way that enables the student to progress. We must remember that every teacher from class one to high school has the responsibility to recognize the talent in each child and to pave their path accordingly.

Fourth: Teamwork. A hockey champion cannot simply be an individual. A match cannot be won without the whole team contributing to the success. You have proved this point convincingly.

Confidence in each other, building a strategy based on your strengths, translating the plan into success on the field – over and over again you showed us how this is done. We have to do this too, in our schools and classrooms. Our education system gives high priority to individual excellence, but not to teamwork. However, the secret of winning in life and in livelihoods is in teams working smoothly together.

Fifth: Without tiring, without fading, you showed us how to play. You played your heart out all the way to the end. Never say die. Never give up. Whether a medal was won or not, you proved to the country and to the world what champions are made of.

A thousand salaams to your courage. Immense thanks for being our inspiration. Your coach tweeted after the last game “as long as you work hard and believe dreams can come true”. We must have dreams. Without an aim, there can be no direction. With a clear goal in front, hard work, dedication, self-confidence and discipline will help us move forward. We thank you deeply for being who you are and doing what you do. In this difficult year, you have set the entire education system on the right course.

One fan from among your millions of fans!