An assortment of about fifteen kids are seated in front of me. All supposedly fifth and sixth graders. The syllabus mandates me to read out to them a story and ask them questions based on it. Something akin to the reading comprehension questions that we solve. I set off in my task in reading out a para and asking the one in the third row a very simple question. His poker faced response immediately states he’s not got a word of what I’ve been talking. Same applies almost every other kid out here. I break up the sentences now to see if that helps them. Still the same response. I finally check to see if they at least know the individual words in the sentence. Turns out that NONE of them are even able to appreciate the presence of a ‘the’ in the sentence! Besides, when asked to translate a statement like – ‘This is my uncle Kishan’ to telugu, I get the weirdest responses imaginable! They do not know the difference between ‘Buying’ and ‘Going’! Teaching them to decipher paragraphs is way too optimistic.
The next hour or so goes in asking them to echo back just four sentences, asking them to focus on my lip movement and giving them a suitable transliteration. With small role plays I try to engage them to capture the essence of what was being talked about in the book. They soon seem to be liking the whole concept and cheerfully engage each other sheepishly shouting broken English sentences. The misplaced it’s, the’s and she’s don’t matter a dime but as they chorously repeat what I read out from the book, I find it hard to digest the fact that these kids do not have access to even basic primary education. These kids from the Arundati Upper primary school have just three people to teach them-Two ladies [ One who is just recuperating from an operation and the other being the Head mistress] and a septuagenarian gentleman who’s been voluntuarily teaching them for the past two years. The community that runs this school wants to raze this down and build a complex here instead. That would equate to about 100 of these kids losing one last oppurtunity to get a hold on their lifes. Imagine one of your kids/nephew/niece to be in their shoes. Wait, they don’t even have shoes to walk in!
Estb. by the community about fifty years back they have kids from class 1 to 7. There’s a fan or two in the building with no Power to run them. The dripping roof of the two or three rooms that constitutes this school would satiate the thirst of the kids directly in monsoon. A couple of ayah’s[Read girls probably in their 9th or 10th grade] take classes for the kids in the lower grades!The kids come here to the school for the sole motivation of the mid-day meal that the government provides them or should i say – ‘supposedly’. The kids who’re in the fifth and sixth grade in no way can match any regular third grade kid from the other regular schools. Those who move out from the school, I understand discontinue their education and take up a mechanics job or other petty things.
As I head back home with a ‘Telugu’ medium math text book to understand what I’ll have to teach them next week, the vicious reality still remains blaring out there on the immense hurdle ahead of them and more so the onus on us to give them their basic right to education.
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