Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teach for India/Akanksha - My work.

Yash assigns me eight kids, the ones who are struggling with class room work and need special attention. That is where I come in.

I start writing exercises with the little runts, and it is a struggle. Rehan seems to comprehend nothing, when I ask him to write ten sentences on ‘My School’. Little Pratik begins to write but is unable to string even simple words, Sajida narrates 5 beautiful sentences verbally and fails to write a single sentence, Sabina sits thinking for days together, Imtiaz (a cute one I found myself being slightly partial to) speaks random gibberish and struggles to write, Ayaan seems disgruntled and angry so I humor him initially, Sahil is just a bit slow.

Three days a week, I would spend 30 minutes with each child as they struggled with Basic English sentences. By week 2, I realized who were plain distracted, who were disinterested, who only needed special one on one interaction to get them on track and who all had a genuine problem.

After a month of relenting and unrelenting sessions, one day little Imtiaz sat on my lap reading from an A4 size sheet, a story he wrote on his own. I treated a friend to coffee that day. But every class is a different story. Ayaan the moody one would some days write long dreamy sentences and on other days just grunt and give me attitude which I finally learnt to handle. Pratik , I realized after few weeks was one of the lucky kid who had someone educated in his family, only more so, unfortunately that someone was doing all his homework. Sajida has dyslexia, Rehan is plain disinterested and always distracted.Sahil just needs personal attention, eager to please, eager to learn and eager to rush through lesson just to attract my attention .Then there is Sabina. Sabina lost her father last year; her young mother is a care taker in the school itself. Sabina is struggling more than the other kids in her school work-- she is struggling with her sentences, her words and sometimes even letters. She is unable to grasp even the basics and always seems distracted. Initially I found her exasperating and extremely difficult. Also I realized she did not like me much.

My learning and understanding curve gradually rose, as I began to get more involved with the kids.Each assignment held an interesting lesson for me. For the assignment -Write ten sentences on –My house, I found most of the children struggling. They were unable to write more than 3 sentences. I failed to comprehend the reason even though it was staring at me in the face. And one day on my walk from the station to the school past the slums, I realized why. Most homes had nothing in it; a single room housed a kitchen, a bed, a small chair, a table fan and five people. This is where my children came from.

For the seemingly innocuous assignment – ‘My Family’, I learnt even more lessons.Most children come from difficult households. Abuse, domestic violence, dead parents, lack of basic amenities, money and space and many more problems is a part of the society they come from. The kids are earnest; they smile, grunt, sometimes whine through the lesson, but never seem to lose heart and spirit.

A lot remains to be done.

School is closed for summer vacations. I make my way through the tiny by lane towards the school. I continue going to the school, an hour before work, to teach little Sabina. I am still struggling with her. But I think she is beginning to warm up to me. I feel guilty on the days I am not able to make it. Summer school is going on, and I get to meet some of the other kids I taught and young college volunteers. I feel happy, a bit proud and very satisfied.

The walk from station to school which I found always ever so unpleasant and worth bragging about to add a sense of glory to my volunteership has now made me humble and so much more aware. It prepares me for the class ahead; I smile at the little kids running around, wondering whether they are from my school, or whether they go to school at all.

I realize now how small a part I am playing in my society. So much can be done, and so easily , if each one of us can take some time out.

Most importantly, this experience has made me hopeful in ME, in society and in the power of Community Service.


Priya Sharma said...

You're absolutely right in the last few lines... So much can be done with community service... Glad you've got into this.. It is extremely rewarding to be involved in this kind of work... Do let me know if I can help in some way. :-)

Yash said...

Great that you are enjoying the work so much... nothing is compared to that...

Sanjiv said...

You should write something about how do you motivate the students. in India, child labor is prevalent. So, I assume that these kids have parents who take an interest in their education, and pack nutritious lunch for them. Do you guys do any field trips? Take them to planetarium one day. I can introduce you to the Bombay Planetarium Director if you want to do that. His name is Piyush Pandey and he is a friend of mine from Allahabad.

Tanushree said...

That will be great. Let me ask the tfi fellow I am assisting, I am sure he will be thrilled with the idea.
Right now it is summer vacations, so most kids are away. I bet it will be a wonderful start to the new session.

Saurabh said...

Great work really!!!

Saurabh said...

Is there a way to figure out the exact reasons for the kids lagging behind/being distracted or uninterested???

Tanushree said...

Not really, each child is so unique. Of course in underprivileged schools like this reasons can range from strong emotional/social problems to simple basic problem of small attention span.