About a couple of months ago, I started a new journey. From Gujarat, I had come to Bihar. There wasn’t much on my mind except knowing a bit about my new host organization, i-Saksham. It primarily works on Education in Munger and Jamui areas of Bihar. When I first visited their website, the caption “Seekhen Sikhayen” caught my attention. It gave me a strong sense of learning. I was motivated to join.
On the first day, I reached tired after a 24-hour journey and thought of taking rest but life doesn’t always go as per your plan. As I entered, there was a training session going on, the room was filled with excited youth and I immediately started interacting with a few of them, exchanged smiles with others and in curiosity, asked team members about what’s happening. I forgot about the fatigue and decided to participate rather than sleeping.
i-Saksham envisions to provide quality education in remote areas of Bihar where there is a lack of opportunity to learn for underprivileged children. To achieve this, the organization has come up with the i-Saksham fellowship model, the duration of which is two years. Motivated youth from rural areas of Bihar are selected to undergo teacher training, become better educators and make learning fun. Different teaching learning materials are used for the fellows to be able to develop children’s interest in learning.
The idea is to identify and train educators from the local community itself. It also addresses other existing challenges in our education system, like dropouts, corporal punishment and teachers not being efficient or present in schools.
I visited a primary school, where Sonal*, one of our fellows teaches students from nearby villages. There was a bright face with sparkling eyes in her class. I went to talk.
आपका नाम क्या है?
दीदी मेरा नाम राम है|
आपको यहाँ कैसा लगता हैं राम? दीदी कैसा पढ़ाती हैं?
हमको यहाँ बहुत अच्छा लगता हैं, दीदी अच्छा पढ़ाती हैं| हमारा घर में मन नहीं लगता|यहाँ खेल-खेल में कैसे पढ़ाई होती है पता नहीं चलता|
Sonal was engaged in teaching and I was patiently waiting to talk to her. Right after the class got over, I went and asked: नमस्ते सोनल, कैसे हैं आप? There was a pause. We looked at each other, she smiled followed by an awkward silence. She had begun to look around by now. I continued: आपको बच्चों को पढ़ाने में कैसा लगता है?
दीदी हमारे यहाँ बच्चे प्राइवेट स्कूल के बच्चों की तरह साफ़-सुथरे नहीं रहते| अच्छे से तैयार नहीं होते, कपड़े ठीक से नहीं पहनते, मुझे अच्छा नही लगता| हमारा मन है कि यहाँ भी सभी बच्चे अच्छे से, सफाई से रहें|
I had nothing to respond. The unequal opportunities and the world of difference between privileged and under privileged children has always bothered me and it still does. This life may be too short to really get to know the right reasons behind the inequality and understand the existing complexities. We talked for a while before I headed back. While going to the school, I was enjoying the natural beauty but while returning, my mind was full of questions. There were only two teachers in the school and poor infrastructure. Listening to Sonal’s experiences, as much as this visit felt disheartening, it was also inspiring to see her teaching and children enjoying. This visit helped me develop a sense of why we are doing what we are doing.
I now wanted to meet more fellows and learn about their experiences as it would help me understand their challenges. I was always on a lookout for a chance to go do it. The next was Varun’s* learning center that he runs from his home. At 3 pm in the afternoon, under scorching sun of summer, I reached there with a team member. There was a small room where he lives and also teaches children. It was full of drawings and other creative stuff. There was no electricity when we reached.
Children started coming one after the other and sat before the class began. Meanwhile, I was wondering what drives Varun to teach and what motivates students to learn in this extremely hot weather. It was that day when I observed a complete session and got a glimpse of what we as an organization are doing. The children are enthusiastic and Varun is using a different kind of pedagogy to make the classroom fun and engaging. He’s passionate and motivated. It was inspiring to see the students full of energy. I spent nearly two hours but the time just flew. Along with these visits, I also participated in the fellowship training as a facilitator. It gave me chance to interact with young people who are i-Saksham fellows, currently teaching in their respective communities. After a series of conversations with them, I realized that we have a lot in common, such as:
- When Komal* said, “दीदी, हमारा एक जगह मन नहीं लगता, दिमाग स्थिर नहीं रहता| पता नहीं आगे क्या करना है, बस कुछ अच्छा करना हैं|”, I could resonate as I have been in a similar state of mind, to think of multiple things and hence, to focus on one becomes difficult.
- When a fellow talked about his hesitation, it reminded me of how I have also been there many times in my life, be it public speaking or asking a question or simply initiating a conversation.
- When I saw someone struggling to learn English speaking and writing, I recalled my difficulties in learning Gujarati and people mocking for wrong pronunciation and sentence formation.
How beautiful it would be if we simply support each other. The urge to be perfect, the constant fear of judgment and defining what’s right and wrong act as barriers to our learning. I strongly believe that if there is anything we can do, it is to listen to each other, understand each other’s needs and support accordingly.
As Anupama, our India Fellow program coordinator says, “Humility is in knowing that you don’t know”, I have taken this statement to see a teacher in every person and hence, this journey is making me a better learner.
*Names changed to protect identity
Good read! since you asked for feedback, here are some pointers :-). Contrasting it with experiences from personal life always helps. Bringing in some insight from your schooling helps. Data helps! So does more description. Like you are mentioning iSaksham for the first time. A little more background about them makes the piece more set in context. Yes, there is the hyperlink, but an inclusion here also will be useful for readers who are new. A more in depth interaction with one of them is what i will look forward to!
Great !! Thank you Anupama , I will keep these in mind while writing my next blog