Helpless for our kids; and the beginning of the end

            Our kids are crying out for an education. It is assessment time for our kids. One part of the assessment involves a conversation around a given topic. For one level that topic had a question about the difference between private and public schools. Our kids all go to public schools – public schools here could leave you in want of an education. A bunch of our kids go to a public school that is a topper – from what I understand everything is still free but it’s not exactly a public school. While speaking with Pooja today I asked, as I had been asking everyone, what the difference is between public and private schools, and what is the difference between public schools and our centers. She spoke about many things that most of the kids say; they explain things nicely at the center, the didis don’t hit us; if we ask things over and over again the didis still explain things, at the schools they don’t speak nicely when we ask questions; the dids at the centers care very much about the students and they can speak openly and freely with the didis, at the schools they don’t care as much; private schools have everything and they have to pay for it; public schools everything is free. Her facial expressions hurt my heart a bit – they know they don’t get a quality education. Up until 7th standard they have one teacher who teaches all subjects. They know their teachers aren’t qualified, don’t make enough money, and a lot of them just don’t care. To be so young and to realize how short the end of your stick is in some part remarkable but also very sad.

            The problem with our kids, the majority of them, isn’t that they don’t go to school, it’s that they do, and they don’t get anything out of it. School teaches them to memorize, that should have respect for their elders, but not because they can learn from them, but because they’re scared they’ll be hit. They’re hit if they ask questions. How is that considered an education? I love my job and that I have the opportunity to not right the wrongs, but to at least show them that the way they’re treated, the way the world perceives them isn’t the way it has to be. I don’t know if this sounds too cheesy but it’s just the mood I’m in. It’s the first of disheartening stories for today.

            Earlier this week there was a parent meeting at one of the other centers. The parents told the social worker about one boy whose father had beaten up his mother; his father suspects her of cheating and makes up excuses like she didn’t bring me my tea on time so obviously she’s cheating. He was furious with her, or just felt to do so, so he beat her up. The boy tried to intervene and ended up getting beat up as well. We can’t do anything. We can call the police, but unless the mother reports it, nothing will happen. The kid knows right and wrong. He knows this is wrong and again we are helpless. We’re looking to pressurize her into doing something, but there’s only so much we can do. I saw the kid for assessments. He seems like he’s doing well. He did well on the assessments and was smiling.           

 

            I cannot seem to end this on a sad note so I will write about Saturday. The first Saturday of the month we have a teachers’ meeting where we train the teachers on one thing or another; or during assessment times we have a grading party. I planned out the meeting and wanted to insert a fun game in between the review and the grading. I was in shock when the teachers and Bhakti had planned something for me. It was so special. They did a charades (here it’s called dumb charades) game around my characteristics. It was hysterical! I was waiting for something embarrassing to happen, but they were all great. Some include: loves South Indian khana; enthusiastic about blog (I made the teachers start a blog as well); loves creative writing; good with energizers; rides a motorbike; sports a lot of trendy jewelry; enjoys globe trotting; and flair for multiple languages. They showed a video of me dancing with one of the kids at Chowky Dani and I got a book where all of the kids from one of the centers wrote letters to me. I don’t know how to express how it made me feel. If it weren’t so funny I would have cried. The end of being here is beginning. 

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