Most of us earn our knowledge about many different things through the media – be it the newspaper, the TV or any of their kind. It’s good – we can’t be going around finding things after-all, right? But it’s really bad too and we all actually know that – we don’t get to know what the reality is and blindly accept and talk freely about what we read and believe.
One such much written about thing is the education provided in government schools here. Every other film shows children not coming to school, teachers not being present themselves, beating the kids and so on. I bought them too, to some extent, till I started going to teach in these schools myself. We are now a group of about 300-350 people engaged in teaching, or rather supplementing the teachers in government schools and destitute homes. With 2 years of this exposure, and having seen more than 50 government schools in almost every nook and corner of Andhra Pradesh, one thing I can say with conviction is that the best thing about them are the teachers – Yes, totally living upto what is expected of them.
In one of the schools that we teach, the Maths teacher started taking classes at 5am in the morning from January for the 10th standard students, to cover up the syllabus and help them score well in the exams. And most of the students made it to the classes too. One student from this school Shilpa speaks English so fluently and said that she attributes it all to Rama madam, who taught them the language so well.
Now, why then do we have to interfere you ask? There are many rules the schools have to abide by. The student-teacher ratio is 30:1, the head master/ mistress has to take classes for the lowest and the highest classes in the school and so on. So, if a school has only 15 students in some class, only a single teacher is allotted for 2 classes put together. And combining the two rules above, I have actually seen a school where the Head Mistress had to teach the 1st and 5th classes together! Inspite of all these challenges, she goes to every home in the surrounding slums asking them to send their kids to school and also enrolls them in a higher school once they pass out of 5th from her school.
Also, the students lack facilities to make their learning more fun – Science experiments, computers, libraries are not things most of them are exposed to and those are the gaps we try to fill. Also, though there are ‘n’ schemes devised including providing of uniforms, text books and so on, we all know how many of them actually make it to fruition. Text books sometimes reach these kids as late as January, almost the end of the term. Sometimes, a Maths teacher puts in a lot of effort to prepare herself, make notes and teach Geography or History, because they lack a teacher altogether.
I recently visited another school in a far-off village. An amazing lady, who started off the ‘Kasturbha Balika Patashaala’ here under some government scheme, not only has worked hard to bring every possible facility for the destitute girls staying and studying here, but even stays in the campus itself to take good care of them. I got to meet a few teachers too and was amazed at their commitment. Imagine educating 200 girls in a residential facility in some remote corner, giving them the best education possible! The teachers take turns in staying back in the school with the girls to help them with their ‘home-work’ etc..
They even have various clubs like we did …. memories came flooding by 🙂
In another school in the near the same village, we also met teachers who actually stock up sanitary pads in school so that the girls don’t run away home as soon as they get their periods. Their headmistress is an M.Sc double degree holder. There are about 400 girls in this school, coming from 27 villages around. Some of them are even married off at an young age, but thankfully these teachers have atleast ensured that they don’t drop out of school.
Btw, I had been on yet another rural trip yesterday and saw these little kiddos carrying amazingly well-made bags that their Moms recycled out of used rice bags. The children were really happy to tell us that their Mom made it specially for them and posed well too 🙂
‘How can we be left behind?’, ask his friends 🙂
The little one just had to pose!
Lookit! The bag is cutely designed for him to wear it on his back too, just like we all did and still wear our backpacks 🙂
So, there are children who want to come to school, there are parents who do their best to send them to one, there are teachers who are really living upto their responsibility. We do have a long way to go, but we are definitely on the way there. I wish, I wish media could throw light on the real scenario, but I guess it’s always gonna remain the same – just a simple wish that is !:)