Known for his unwavering faith in our children’s ability to transform India, our first Prime Minister “Chacha Nehru”, was the true architect of modern India. His ever-abiding love and affection towards children is what marks the essence of this day.
For the thousands of brilliant engineers, doctors and scientists that India churns out every year, we have Nehru’s massive investments in education to thank for. As an ardent advocate of child welfare, he strongly believed in scientific knowledge and the propagation of rational thought as the basis of all learning. During his tenure, the government outlined commitments in his five-year plans to guarantee free and compulsory primary education to all of India's children. To achieve high enrolment in schools, mass village enrolment programs were launched along with the construction of thousands of educational institutions across the country. To ensure better attendance and to fight malnutrition, he also launched programs to provide free milk and meals for children. Nehru’s focus on education also resulted in the establishment of prestigious institutions across the country like the IITs, IIMs and AIIMS.
Nehru knew that education for the next generation was the only means to achieve lasting social change. He had come to the conclusion that social and political reforms could only take the country so far, but it needed a well educated youth to carry the torch forward. His objective through education was to instil in each child the desire to help and apply their knowledge not just for themselves, but also for public welfare. He wanted to culturally improve our future leaders and also enable them to generate wealth in society. His hope was that an educated youth would be job-ready and willing to tackle the perils of entrepreneurship. This would help solve the massive unemployment crisis that India was staring at post-independence. He created a system of growth based on the actual environment and experiences of the child, not one based on theoretical lectures in class, so that the future leaders of India were not just brilliant scholars and academics, but also pioneers of art, theatre and business.
He wanted children to open their minds and see both sides of every debate before making decisions. This was especially true when it came to teaching history. Instead of appropriating past heroes for political gains, he wanted the people to be seen for who they were, regardless of their beliefs.
Two delicate and brilliant entities that mirror each other - a rose and children, both always found space in Nehru’s thoughts; this is why the National Children’s Day is celebrated on November 14th. From a fierce freedom fighter to a shrewd diplomat to the loving ‘Chacha’; Pandit Nehru’s legacy forever has been imprinted in both the pages of history and the lessons of today.