Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Getting Started

Monday morning saw a flurry of focused activity - and that was just us getting ready in the flat. Outside the world is a disorganized and very functional chaos. That's the traffic. We were fetched and taken to the main Asha Poly Clinic, where the students set off for their respective slums. The plans for me were slightly different. I have been allocated to one of the newer slums Jeevan Nager, some half an hour from the Asha centre, where I will be working with 3 different groups. The gap year students are teaching mornings and afternoons, as the children seem to do "hot schooling". (Something like us when we "hot" desk at work, when sharing desks. Here some kids go to school in the mornings and others go in the afternoons. So they can have extra tuition in the either mornings or afternoons.
I'll be teaching in the afternoons only, so will be working with those schooled in the mornings. Added to this, the kids are in the midst of exams, some of which are written in the mornings and some in the afternoons. So I have been given 3 groups, each with about 12 - 15 children and split up as follows: One ranging in age from about 8 to 12, and school level 2, 3 and 4, and two others with ages ranging from 10 - 15 and with school levels of 5 - 8. I'll spend 2 hours teaching each afternoon and will work with whichever group arrives, depending on exams and availability. Aah, the other thing I should mention is that they have not started a teaching program in this slum yet, so this is new to us all!

This is how it all started: On Monday afternoon I was accompanied by 2 of the Asha workers, one, Sweeta, is one of the senior administrators and has been with Asha for 18 years. She oversees many of the slums and it is her role to ensure things are running smoothly, and she moves from slum to slum doing just that. Sweeta will pop in form time-to-time, but after Monday's introductions, she'll be leaving me to it. She looked after me yesterday and introduced me to the Women's and the Children's Groups. (If you want to know more about those, take a look at a write-up I did when I was here last year, on Health Care and Empowerment). Once we'd had lunch and tea (very sweet, milky and all boiled together and always unexpectedly good) I went to meet the children. The whole group was there, from youngest to oldest, all shouting to get their knowledge heard. Overall impression: The older children read well, but have no understanding of the words. The younger ones read words, can say the 'abc' and have a limited vocabulary, but can't string words together to make sentences. Oh boy. I'm really not sure what made me think I'd be able to help in a month!

Just in case you think I'll be sleeping in mornings, that's not the case. I spent a little while with Dr Kirin Martin, who has a list of ideas and plans she wants to see implemented and has her office staff on a few of them already, but was hoping I'd be an able set of hands to help. So my time is scheduled for office work in the morning and teaching in the afternoon.

After a great day, I persuaded one of the students to join me at roadside restaurant for dinner. For all the curry junkies back in England, this is where it is best. Very hot (as in just off the fire) and delicious.

I wanted to tell you about today, but think that's all I can manage for now. Suffice to say - it was a great day. The children are phenomenal. If I can get them to speak, not shout, I might manage the month. They are so keen and so involved I have the group practically all in my lap, yelling responses. But I heard from Anita, who works in the resource centre at Jeevan Nager, that she'd already heard them wandering around the slum saying sentences, which is great. They are very keen on single word responses.

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