There are some days in your life that re-ignite belief in what you do. Yesterday was one such day. It will stay etched in my memory to revisit whenever I feel low. And in my kind of work such days are not rare.
After 15 years of successfully running 4 schools and college for marginalized children, Parikrma began training teachers from 330 government schools. Seeing the impact of such training in the government schools we have now started adopting government schools where we not only train the teachers but take the responsibility of influencing the processes and systems in the school as well.
This June, we will have four government schools that will have the Parikrma blue and green colours and will follow the “Parikrma Way”. In these schools we will conduct Parents Teachers meetings, probably for the first time. We will execute what we call the Class Readiness Test to know for sure what concepts each child in a class knows. Our School Improvement Plan will be based on the learning level of each child in each class. We will also conduct Sports Day and Annual Day, events that all children love but unfortunately most government schools pay scant attention to such things.
There are many other things we need to do to bring in change and most have to begin with the teachers. Now talking about teachers or talking to teachers of government schools conjures up images of resistance, apathy, belligerence and bureaucracy.
So, when my colleague Sandhya took me to visit the Government Higher Primary School in Shivajinagar, I accompanied her expecting all this in action. This school was in the heart of busy Shivajinagar, the only Telugu and Kannada medium school surrounded by clusters of Urdu medium schools. This was also a 110-year school with an abandoned building declared as a heritage site. I walked into this school and could only see great promise and potential. There is a lovely playground, large classes, toilets that need repair and blackboards that need a fresh coat of paint.
We have got used to talking about infrastructure any time we refer to a government school. The Education Department has made us aware that in such schools, toilets need to be built. There is a government school in Yelahanka where there is not a single toilet and the children are sent home during break and most children never return. But today I don’t want to talk about infrastructure because I have always maintained that brick and motor does not make a good school. It is the human element in the school that determines the personality of the school.
I was then introduced to Ravindra Reddy and Chiranjivi, both teachers in the school. Ravindra teaches Social Sciences for all the classes and is a senior member of the Teacher Association. Chiranjivi is a Math teacher. Their enthusiasm to learn, to improve and raise the quality of their school was palpable. I have not seen that kind of willingness and energy even in some of the best schools. They expressed their sadness because there were many slums far away where there were Telugu speaking children who had no school to go to. They pleaded with me to organize a bus to transport those kids to their school. In fact, these two teachers visit the slums during the weekends to encourage them to go to school. They guaranteed that they would increase the enrollment by 100% and ensure that there would be no drop out. They knew how important these two factors were for Parikrma. No one ever before in either government offices or schools have ever given us such sincere guarantees. No one ever before has managed to convince me so quickly to visit the slums just two days later and actually start thinking of organizing transport so that no child is left out of school.
So, from the looks of it, it seems that this small school will soon become a Parikrma Way school. And it is not because of the quaint building or any promised grant but because of the determination of these two young teachers who want to improve their school.
When we criticize teachers of government schools, we must pause and look for gems under the rot. Thank goodness, there are still a few.