bangalore…

I have many mixed feelings about this project in Bangalore. I nearly cried leaving the kids today – there were a few that I really would love to bring home with me to give a good life but I’m also happy to be away from the worst ‘teaching’ (more like dictatorship) I’ve ever seen…

This organization – Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled – really does have an amazing story. It was started in 1997 by two blind men and is now quite a large organization, and is connected to many international organizations. It’s mission is ‘To empower visually impaired, disabled and underprivledged people through developmental initiatives focusing on educational, social, economic, cultural and technological aspects.’ I unfortunately didn’t see this mission taking place..

Filed under horrendous teaching:

– The teachers hit the kids. They have sticks and use them – a lot. Students might get hit for talking, not sitting properly, making a mistake reading, writing something incorrectly, no reason at all or not looking the right way. Honestly it was for anything, everything and nothing. I often couldn’t figure out why a kid was getting hit – and I think I’m generally pretty on the ball. I was constantly cringing and the kids were constantly in tears.

– The teachers have no respect for the students. Not paying attention when a student is reading. Leaving the classroom when a student is reading. Having a conversation with another teacher while a student is reading. Having a conversation with another student is reading. Trying to talk to me while another student is reading. Letting the students talk, play with each other’s hair, draw and/or work on other work while a student is reading. Keep in mind this student is about grade three age – learning to read and is standing in front of the class.

– A teacher is absent – no one goes in the room all day to check on the kids, never mind give them something to do.

– Teachers would ask me to come and take their class so they could have some more socializing time – they were instructed by my coordinator to not leave the class with the volunteers alone as it’s not our job to be taking their classes. They were supposed to stay in the class to learn from us – teaching skills and English – clearly they didn’t get either.

– I would be teaching a lesson, talking to the students or marking what a student has done and the teacher would try to start talking to me about my clothes, hair, makeup etc. – interrupting my time with the kids.

– The blind, deaf, disabled and students with mental issues were left to wander aimlessly or sat in class doing nothing. There was NO effort to teach these students… Isn’t this a school for these kids? I often found myself thinking…

Now I could go on, but I won’t as I’m quite sure you are getting my point and are disgusted it, as am I. My frustration level would go up day by day, as more and more of this came to light for me.

Overall the kids at the school were happy, having fun and orderly in their routine. Their days would start at five – they would roll up their mat (they sleep on the floor that is later their classroom), shower, help the younger kids get sorted, finish up homework and play a bit. Breakfast would be at eight-thirty, after prayer that lasts fifteen minutes. The kids all get their plates, wash them and sit on the floor in four long lines (two of girls, two of boys) extending from ones end of the school to the other. Some of the ladies that cook, some of the teachers and some of the older boys start to serve the food. The kids are well fed, but there is no choice – you eat what goes on your plate – all of it and you get however much the person serving you feels like scooping. A little four year old would often have as much at a ten year old and would have no where to stuff all the rise on their plate.

School would start at nine-thirty and at twelve-thirty there would be lunch, with the same routine as breakfast – long lines stretched out. School would start again at one-fifteen and at three-thirty the kids would be done. Two hours of free time was alotted after school, though ‘free’ wouldn’t really be the way I’d describe it.

First thing most kids would do is change out of their uniform! The school would suddenly turn into a colourful array of traditional Indian clothes (generally tattered and not fitting properly) mixed with cheap western clothes and many kids in what you could tell were hand-me-downs-downs-downs-downs. Laundry would be next on many children’s list.

Most of these kids have one trunk (the size of a large carry-on suitcase) that holds all their possessions – a large wardrobe does not fit in that trunk. They handwash all their clothes – buckets, scrub brushes and a flurry of clothes being whipped against the ground is all you can see out back of the school, where the taps are at this time of day. Can you imagine your six year old scrubbing his own clothes and hanging them out every afternoon?

At five-thirty ‘reading’ starts. This means the kids have to be in the main area, with their backpack and schoolbooks. They sit in the same lines that they have breakfast in and do their homework. They aren’t allowed to move for two hours. Some of the younger kids often fall asleep on their bags, but they get smacked awake when someone checking on things walks by.

At eight-fifteen prayer happens again followed by dinner at eight-thirty. The kids eat and scurry off to lay their mats out for bed. They sleep in whatever they are wearing, many cuddle together and the older ones tuck in the younger ones.

As much as these kids get to be kids way longer than the kids at home – in terms of maturity and things, they are little adults – all of them, in the way they take care of themselves and each other. They were always trying to take care of me too, making sure I had eaten and had tea.

Most of them couldn’t speak English at all. English is part of their curriculum, but there were no teachers that could speak better than extremely broken English – so clearly it’s not happening. These kids are learning the local language of ‘Kannada’ – a language only spoken in and around Bangalore. A language that cannot take them anywhere. Most people in India that I’ve interacted with (so have reasonable jobs) speak decent to quite good English. These kids don’t have much of a chance.

Between all my disappointments with the system I had many wonderful time with the kids. I had my hair fixed – my messy bun is not acceptable. I was fought over when I brought my hot pink dollar store nail polish to share. I was dressed up in a saree for Independence Day. I was laughed at for wearing jeans with rips – ‘fashion’ they’d say and point, giggles erupting from all the girls and boys. I was praised when I came in Indian dress and instructed only one anklet is no good. They tried to teach me Kannada and make me dance with them and they made ma laugh a lot.

My little ones from Bangalore will not soon be forgotten.

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