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Visiting a Classroom in Seelampur



It was an exceptionally hot day in Delhi and I was sweating profusely. I had to go to a MCD school in Seelampur to meet Arif, a volunteer at Pratham Delhi, and observe his lessons. He was volunteering as a teacher in Pratham’s summer camp project and I was his trainer cum supervisor. I got down at Seelampur metro station and struggled to find the way to the school. I asked an auto-driver to take me to my destination and he asked for a staggering 80 bucks. I settled for a rickshaw-ride instead. While I was told by Nisha ji, the school incharge, to get down at the madarasa, I asked the rickshaw-puller if he could take me to the nallah-wala school, as the school was situated near a nallah or gully. He obliged and took me to a school which was also near the nallah and escaped from the scene before I could ask him to take me back. I asked the people on the road for directions to the school but no one seemed to know about one of the only two MCD schools situated in that low-income colony for migrant labourers. The area was very filthy and the air reeked of smoke and foul odour. I saw scantily-clothed, malnourished kids running bare-feet on the streets. I felt I was transported to a town in Uttar Pradesh. 

I phoned Nisha ji and she agreed to meet me at the madarasa. I went back to the madarasa after crossing two very difficult roads. No one seemed to care about traffic rules there. I called Nisha ji again and she told me that she could see me and I needed to cross the road as the school was on the other side. I felt annoyed but crossed the road. Finally, after narrowly escaping a freak-accident on that road, I met her and we went to the school. There were a lot of kids playing cricket in the open ground of the school and some who were just loitering around. I went inside Arif’s classroom and saw that there was no electricity and no desks for the kids. I was wished morning by the kids and I went at the back of the classroom, contemplating if I were to stand for the next two hours. Arif saw I needed his chair and he pulled it out for me, and I reluctantly accepted it. I silently sat down and observed the interactions taking place in the class. I noticed that the kids, who were in fifth standard, hardly spoke or understood English, weren’t very confident, and didn’t write properly in Hindi also.

Photo credit - Priya Chowdhary
Arif was teaching that only the opposite poles of two different magnets attract each other, and like poles repel. I intervened when I felt he struggled with the explanation. We then passed on magnets and straws to the kids and asked them to try out the experiment themselves. This was followed by the instruction to write down, in their own words, what they saw and learned. The science class was followed by a craft activity where the kids learned how to make a joker using paper-folding techniques. So far, I was quite happy with Arif and his lessons. The kids were very invested in learning and they all were well-mannered and obedient. 

After the craft activity got over, there were twenty more minutes before the class would have gotten over and I asked Arif to get the kids practice some math sums. He began writing down a couple of questions on the blackboard and the kids did those sums in their note books. He then began to call individual kids to do questions on the blackboard itself and positively reinforced them upon answering correctly. He covered a lot of math objectives in that lesson. He further upped the learning-factor by asking kids to write down their own questions before solving them. I feared kids not understanding this; but to my utter surprise, things went really smoothly. Not only that, he also pushed kids to explain the rationale behind their solutions, giving them opportunities to express themselves as well as clarify the doubts of other kids, if any. He worked magic with the kids and the darkness of the classroom starkly contrasted with the shine in the kids’ eyes. 

I have been reflecting on that observation and on meeting with Arif and his kids, and I am feeling great about witnessing all that I did. I am inspired by the confidence shown by those kids, their creativity and, most importantly, zest to learn. I am inspired by the persistence and hard work reflected by Arif in teaching those kids, pushing their thinking and facilitating their learning. I am inspired by Pratham for carrying out their activities in such sensitive areas, where the need for such programmes is the highest. In that dull, dark and hot classroom, I saw a ray of light; a hope that one day every kid will receive an excellent education. 



Pranav Sukhija
Teacher of primary school children, counselor for many, perpetual thinker, voracious writer, avid (not greedy) reader, crazy dancer, joyful singer, wannabe guitarist, wannabe actor, wannabe chef, comfort food lover, nature lover, self-proclaimed photographer, ingenious explorer, Delhi boy who doesn't fulfill most of the assumed 'typical' Delhi boy qualities.


 

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