School Chale Hum

School Chale Hum

School Chale Hum. Three-year old Naresh ran away from the classroom every single day, soon after his parents had left him at the school. His teachers...

Three-year old Naresh ran away from the classroom every single day, soon after his parents had left him at the school. His teachers gave him chocolates and what not to woo him back to the class. This continued for an entire week. Now he is after his parents to leave him at school every morning. Even if it’s a Sunday!

For three-year old underprivileged children like Naresh, the ECE (Early Childhood Education) class at the Jamai Osmania Government School is a “transitional classroom”, as Rubina ma’am calls it. “They leave their homes and parents for the first time. And they gradually get used to another phase of their childhood – schooling.” Most government schools, teachers say, start from Class I, skipping the crucial kindergarten years.

ECE might not be new or novel, but here at this school, they have realized its importance early and implemented it successfully, with a few hiccups, of course.

The government first introduced the concept of early childhood education four years ago at this school – a program it ran for two years with bare minimum infrastructure (read one caretaker) before it ran out of funds. But, the Principal Mrs. Aruna Devi was certain they must continue with the program nonetheless. That was when Rayeesa, a tutor on behalf of Vidya Sahyog, stepped in and offered to help.

When Rayeesa took over, there were just four young ones. As for parents, it was enough to have a place to leave their children behind until the evening. Education was not their priority.

Rayeesa, however, was determined to make this a productive platform. “When they just joined the class, they did not know how to sit in a row. They had never held a pencil before. They had no social skills. They would quarrel, refuse to sit together or listen to the teacher. But now, they are much ‘disciplined’, and talk politely to each other and us too. They write beautifully. They can even sing rhymes in at least two languages,” she says proudly. Today, she has a forty strong class. ECE has proven successful in improving the children’s social skills and classroom etiquette. They are also “better behaved”.

This ECE class has been a real patchwork of efforts and resources. One ‘kind soul’ donated slates, while another donated shoes. Rayeesa herself brought notebooks and stationery to the class. More importantly, the school even managed to accommodate the ECE children in the midday meal scheme. “This class no longer figures on the government’s roll call. So they do not apportion them midday meals. But with absentees in other classes on a more or less daily basis, we are able to accommodate our ECE children.” All for a cause. A good cause.

Malleshwari ma’am, who teaches higher grades in the school, has seen the attendance in her own classes improve. “Earlier, the parents left young ones at home with their older siblings to look after them. Now, with ECE in progress, all the children, older and younger, are at school. No one needs to stay at home”

And what more, they will also do well when they are formally enrolled in Class I.

Ever so patient, Rayeesa adds, “baccho ko khelte khelte padhana!” And, her students play “teacher teacher” with their parents and siblings when they go back home.

Well, we are all here and reading this because of teachers like Rayeesa who poured themselves into their profession. We may not have memories of the classes or the lessons, but those early years in the classroom certainly laid the strongest foundation.

For the children in the government school, it is a life changing experience. Rayeesa’s lessons are not simply meant for the classroom. They are lessons for life.

By Indu Chinta

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