It’s almost the end of the academic year at Brindavan Tent School. It feels like it was just yesterday when we first walked to the little school and got to know the kids individually while conducting their baseline assessment. That was followed by a full school inspection to understand what we were dealing with. Flash forward to a year later – last week we went in for an endline assessment, and couldn’t help feeling nostalgic!
So much has changed in this school since we first began working with them. Today, the kids wear uniforms, are hygiene conscious, sit on tiled floors, have well-painted surroundings, and their teachers are trained to deliver basic English content. The exteriors of the school have improved vastly and that’s nothing compared to the internal changes! None of this was the case at first, and thanks to some beautiful collaborations and hard work put in by multiple volunteers, our dream has begun to be translated into reality.
Finding The Right Words
Post the assessment, we thought that we would ask Sarala Ma’am, the lady who has been taking care of the school and the kids for more than 10 years, what has changed over the course of the last academic year. We wanted to understand her perspective – especially since she works with the kids on a daily basis.
When we asked her about the change she has seen after we introduced the Tarkeybein Basic English Curriculum, she had this to say, “The way the kids read has completely changed. Before you came, they could only say words that we would make them repeat again and again. If we made them repeat ‘mat’ 10 times, they would know M- A-T is mat. But if I wrote ‘pat’ and asked them to read it out, they wouldn’t know what to say. But after you trained us to teach them using sounds of each letter, they have been very receptive.”
She adds, “They now try to read different words on their own. They are not necessarily correct, but at least they try. We have been using more difficult words for the 3rd and 4th class. Though they don’t wait for me to introduce the words to them anymore. They pick it up from the book themselves!”
Encouraging Colour & Creativity
What about art? Sarala ma’am says, “Since you started Volunesia in our school, their drawing and colouring skills have drastically improved. Previously, they would just scribble on their slate mindlessly, and just cause chaos in the classroom during art class. But after the volunteers spent so much time sitting with them and teaching them how to draw, colour within the lines, how to choose colors, and make crafts, now the kids are quiet during art class because everyone is engrossed in creating their own art.”
She continues, “Now they don’t draw the same thing. Everyone wants to do something different. No one copies from the other kid anymore. Everyone wants their artwork to be better than everyone else’s! Now they also sketch with context. Whatever festival is coming up, they will start creating something related to that, without us telling them, because you all used to do that when you came in for Volunesia. They have picked it up on their own. Even when other volunteers from CSR groups of different companies came in, and gave them drawings to colour in, they were surprised by how neat and clean their work was. They immediately noticed the change. The same papers that the kids would colour messily and finish within 5 minutes, now they take more than half an hour!”
A Sense Of Community
She says, “Every day we write a proverb on a blackboard and keep it outside the school, near the door. Initially, I used to just write it daily. But now, the kids want to write it. I tell them what to write, they write it, and then I teach them the meaning of each word, and then the whole proverb. The older students try to find out the meaning on their own before I tell them.”
Sarala ma’am continues, “A couple of days ago, I was on leave so we couldn’t place the board outside. When I came back, I was standing outside, and at least 3-4 passersby in cars stopped to ask me why there was no proverb outside for the last few days! I was so happy that we’re finally being noticed and acknowledged. For so many years, nobody even knew that there was a school here. But after the volunteering began and the painting was completed, they all have realised that there’s a school here!”
She adds, “Previously parents were least bothered if the kids attended school or not. They would mostly come for the food. But now, they make sure the kids attend every class without fail. The parents send the kids neat and clean, after we told them all about hygiene, etc. Now everyone wears a clean uniform, takes bath, combs their hair, and wears clean shoes and socks. Previously, we had to go to every kid’s house every morning to ask them to send their kid to school. But now, even if the child is sick, the parents make it a point to come and tell us about it. They don’t want their kids to miss any learnings in the class.”
She concludes, “Rakshitha from our class has working parents who leave home early morning, and the mother returns around 10 am. She has a younger sibling to take care of in her parents’ absence. So they stopped sending her to school. We went and told them to send her to school even if it’s late. She sometimes comes without her hair combed, etc. We don’t complain because we understand their situation. We clean them up here. So now the parents understand that our intentions are true and good, and they respect that.”
We can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hear her kind words! We are incredibly grateful for her generosity and willingness to collaborate with us. Looking back, we can recognize the immense trust she placed in us – a small group of slightly clueless d0-gooders who just wanted to make a difference. Together, we’ve begun something beautiful, the ripples of which we are seeing multiply in unexpected and wonderful ways.
We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for us all!
Enjoyed reading about this? Then you might like to read KYS 2017 – Let’s Take A Look At The Year In The Rearview Mirror.