Jerry Pinto roots back to the very beginnings of our organisation. He is on the board of directors of Meljol, an organisation which works in the sphere of child rights, and a member of the Aflatoun International Supervisory Board. MelJol piloted Aflatoun program in 2001 in Mumbai, India, which is the birthplace of our organisation.
Jerry Pinto is an award-winning novelist, writer and journalist. He also teaches journalism at the Sophia Institute of Social Communications Media in Mumbai. In 2016, Jerry was awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize and the Sahitya Akademi Award by Yale University.
Why Aflatoun International?
I don’t know if it is a matter of choice. You don’t choose your children.
What is your focus as a board member?
I work with programmes and quality control.
I am the history of the programme.
I am the gadfly of the programme.
Why is social and financial education important?
We cannot teach children to be successful without teaching them about the most commonly accepted indicator of success: money. I believe that we cannot help people escape the trap of poverty if they do not understand the mechanics of the trap, and the springing of the trap, which comes through an understanding of the making of assets. I believe that we do not train people to be responsible citizens if we do not train them to be economically aware citizens.
I believe that we should not envisage financial education unless it is based on sound citizenship values for otherwise it will be degenerated into ‘Greed is Good’. I believe that the social and financial education programme is important for all of us, and this includes members of the global board, the Aflatoun Secretariat, MelJol and its partners because we are often quite at sea about our own personal finances.
What do you like most about Aflatoun?
What I like about the programme in India is that it spells Child Joy. When I go to a rural school and the children are told, ‘He has come from MelJol’, they set up a spontaneous, loud, happy cheer. To me, any programme that makes children happy is a programme I am proud to be part of.
What is something education NGOs have to deal with that you want to fix?
I want to fix the budgetary allocations of governments and fix the attitudes of teachers who think child rights are some kind of left-wing radical programme of empowerment for those who should be suppressed. I want to fix the lack of libraries in village schools. And, I want to fix my own inadequacies by visiting more schools in more countries.
How do you see the future of Aflatoun International?
I think Aflatoun International will be needed for a very long time to come.
Who is a hero of yours?
Jeroo Billimoria, the founder of Aflatoun International.
I remember a time when we had no money in the bank, we had no employees, the two people who were working had not been paid for six months. She visited us from the Netherlands and I suggested we dissolve MelJol.
She looked at me and said, ‘No, we need to hire ten people.’
And we did.
And one year later, Aflatoun International came into existence.
So, here’s what I think: Money will come, there is a lot of it out there. But faith? There’s not a lot of that except what you can summon up with an alchemical combination of hope and optimism.