10 May her tribe increase - Noel D'Silva

posted Aug 29, 2018, 9:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 29, 2018, 9:54 AM ]
The first time I met her was when she entered my simple office and shyly asked if there existed a vacancy for a teacher in the non-formal education programme for the very poor called (by many) 'The School under the Trees'. I asked her what made her choose this particular attempt at education for children who had difficulty, for many a reason, in entering a formal school. She replied in good English: "Sir, first and foremost I love children, and it pains me tremendously to see many of our beautiful children deprived of an education, just because they are poor. Secondly, I have learnt of your rather unconventional methods. I am a bit adventurous myself and would love to be a part of what you are attempting to do. Thirdly, I am proficient in Marathi, Gujarati and English. I have done my Dip. Ed. as well as a Course in Early Childhood Care and Education." As she spoke, her shyness seemed to disappear. She produced the requisite certificates, and after a few probing questions, I felt she would be an inspiring addition to our growing company of teachers.

She took her place as teacher-in-charge of a class called 'Prathmik I' with twelve students aged 7-9 years of age, girls and boys. She collected her class under the shade of a mango tree, and made the children sit on mats in a circle. She, herself, was part of the circle. The children, a bit fidgety at first, soon felt captivated by the teacher's smooth voice, as she taught them to sing in unison the Morning Prayer Song: sukhithevsarvana; devachiprathana.

Indu was given Marathi and Maths as the subjects for her Class. She did not go into these subjects right away. Instead, she won the attention and affection of her pupils by spending about two weeks recounting in simple Marathi the stories that mothers would tell their children, and by singing easily learnt action songs with plenty of clapping. In between such sessions, she would allow each child to speak about themselves, their home, their friends, and what they liked most. In this way, she also got to know her pupils in a very special way. As a matter of fact, she joined her colleagues in visiting the homes of her pupils during the first two months of the academic year. These visits proved enormously useful in understanding the difficulties of learning in a poverty-immersed situation.

What was praiseworthy about Indu was her spirit of innovation. This was evident in the time she spent in a basic Project Room preparing simple items to make her lessons interesting. Among them was the collection of bottle caps and painting them in different colours. These she made use of in a Maths lesson to act as coins for addition and subtraction.