Month: December 2003

Lessons from children

Lessons from children

Today’s children are much smarter and discerning than ever before. They also have a thing or two to teach adults. On Monday, December 22, close to 1000 people received some well-intentioned advice at the hands of little children aged between three and a half and five years. The occasion was the 49th Annual Day of the Saraswati Mandir Trust’s Pre-primary School, which is a part of the Saraswati Secondary School at Naupada.

Like every year, the school’s annual day celebrations this year revolved around a theme: environment consciousness. Students of the school were divided into eight groups and these groups performed dance shows on songs that had clear relevance to the theme.

There was one group that danced to a song, the lyrics of which urged people to give up using plastic bags. The little children demonstrated this by carrying plastic bags and disposing of them. In another performance, the group of kids had a short, two-minute prelude enacted in Hindi wherein they disseminated information about the harmful effects of plastic bag abuse and how they could use alternatives. Yet another group’s performance pleaded people to plant more trees for better living.

While the little children fostered environmental consciousness among the audience, they were in turn inspired by an ex-student of the school. Aditya Sangwekar from class VIII of the Saraswati Secondary School was the chief guest of the evening. The school has a unique tradition – the Chief Guest at the annual day is a student who has achieved extraordinary success. This is an interesting practice not only because it is different but also because it serves to motivate the youngsters who listen to the successes of young students and are inspired to follow suit.

Aditya’s claim to fame is that he is a swimming champion who has represented Maharashtra State and won many medals at the national level games. He recently represented India at a certain Asia Pacific International Competition held at Macau in China and won the gold medal there.

When Principal Rohini Rasal asked Aditya to share his experience of how he was motivated towards swimming, he revealed that he too had attended an annual day function as a toddler and the chief guest then was Ankit Modi, who was a swimming champ. He divulged that his next goal is to defeat Australian swimming sensation Ian Thorpe, who, at age 14, became the youngest male to qualify for an Australian swimming team.
 
Aditya also shared a rather interesting experience about one close swimming contest in which he lost out apparently only because the judges could not clearly identify the winner. After this episode he promised to himself that he will strive not just to be first, but first by a good distance so that there is no scope for ambiguity.

Loving Special Children

Loving Special Children

Last Friday, 200 special children from four special schools in Thane and their parents gathered at the open-air premises of the Jidd School at Siddhachal. The event was organised to mark two important days – the World Disabled Day and the World Mental Handicap Day, both of which fell in the first week of December. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Thane North End, the programme was the source of tremendous joy to the special children who laughed and clapped and some even jumped with ecstasy, never mind that some of them lacked even the basic limbs needed for the purpose.

It does not require too much to cheer them up, these children. The primary ingredient in the recipe for creating happy moments for special children is love. Mix a little love with anything, and offer it to them and then see the magic. Film Star Tanuja, who was the chief guest of the evening, tried this happiness recipe and was overwhelmed with the experience. Special guest Mayor Sharada Raut has been there, done that before and was there to experience the familiar feelings of awe that one feels when among these special kids.

The event was a part of "We Care" agenda of the Rotary Club of Thane North End, which plans to address important aspects of the lives of special children. Eight wheelchairs were donated by the club, which were presented by Tanuja and Raut. The participating schools were Holy Cross, St John the Baptist, Jidd School and Sri Ma Sneha Deep. The principals and teachers of these schools were thankful to the Rotary Club of Thane North End and especially to Shibaji Choudhary, who played an important role in organising the event.  

Commenting on the programme, Shyamshree Bhonsle, Principal of Jidd School said "Besides providing an opportunity to the special children to enjoy, such programmes go a long way in creating awareness among people about the challenges that such children and their parents feel. And awareness is really the need of the hour"

Manju Tejwani, Principal of Sri Ma Snehadeep, added, "It is rather unfortunate that few people understand the difficulties of special children. For instance, these children cannot access most public places like parks and other recreational areas because they are not designed to be disabled friendly. How do we help them socialise, which is important to their growth?"

Ishu Gulrajani, secretary of Jagruti Palak Santha, a Thane-based association of parents of special children gave an example of her own child Pratik who is also special. She said that when she confronted the children from the neighbourhood who would not interact with Pratik they said they were scared of him. Then she gently explained to them that he is harmless and is only looking to play with them – now they play with him. Once again, it was the issue of awareness among the rest of us about the "specialness" of these children. All they need is love from the rest of us.

Sailing sessions

Sailing sessions

Young children are active learners; but they learn best when motivated and enthusiastic. They understand through investigating, experimenting, observing and exploring. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is America’s largest and most influential organisation of early childhood educators dedicated to improving the quality of programs for children from birth through third grade, believes that young children learn best through direct sensory encounters and not through a formal academic process. Learning should be the outcome of hands-on experience, especially play. Studies have shown that children under the age of eight years acquire knowledge in ways that are significantly different from the ways older children learn. Therefore, young children should be taught differently. One way of doing so is by providing them with experiences that offer opportunities to learn naturally. Like outings in the local community which help kids develop a better grasp of the immediate and wider environment.

In this respect, children from Thane city are quite fortunate – after all how many cities have such a wonderful mix of traditional culture, modern amenities and natural habitat? Take for instance the Junior KG toddlers from Garden School, who experienced what it is like to be out and about in Thane.

Early morning on Tuesday and Wednesday, and escorted by two teachers, 70 little children went boating at the Masunda Lake. The pleasant weather was rather helpful and made the job of the teachers easier. According to Bernadette Pimenta, principal of Garden School, outings like these are meant to be a practical class. "We want to teach children to appreciate nature, learn about the environment and also develop a love for it," she reveals.

Once inside the boat, their exciting lessons began. The tots learnt about the different kinds of boats – motor, pedal and rowing variety. They were shown the blue sky and its reflection in water. Then the children discovered the significance of prominent places around the lake such as the St. John’s church and the Gadkari Rangayatan Auditorium. Children learn much more in an hour they spend observing nature than they would learn from reading books or blackboards in days. Situated as it is in the centre of the pulsating city, the Masunda Lake gave teachers an opportunity to impart many mini-lessons lessons ranging from value of cleanliness and sanitation to the purpose of street lights and their arrangements to why they should be proud of their city.
 
What is surprising is that the kids neither cried nor made any fuss whatsoever during the entire excursion. Instead the children were thrilled with their sailing encounter. So thrilled that they wanted to go back to navigate more. Maybe there’s truth in the TATA Indica’s ad campaign which goes, "It’s only human to want more!"

Admission apprehension

Admission apprehension

Parents always want nothing but the best for their children, especially when it comes to education. Unfortunately, in spite of all their efforts, many of them fail to secure admission for their children to a school of their choice. It is a known fact that when it comes to quality educations, demand far outweighs supply. Even our Prime Minister acknowledges this imbalance. This portion of speech by Atal Bihari Vajpayee pretty much sums up the state of affairs: "Today, understanding, concern and demand for quality education is growing in all sections of our society. Even poor parents want their child to get admission in a good school. But there just do not seem to be adequate number of good schools. The gap between demand and supply creates a lot of tension in families at the start of every school admission season. I can tell you that even ministers and MPs receive hundreds of requests for securing admission into Kendriya Vidayalayas and other good schools."

If a recent episode is any indication, parents from Thane seem to be very well aware of the demand-supply gap referred by the Prime Minister. Thane’s Sulochana Devi Singhania School (popularly known as the J K School in Thane) enjoys a formidable reputation among parents and is considered one of the best privately managed schools in the twin cities of Mumbai and Thane. Recently, the school administration announced that the distribution of admission forms for Junior KG would start from December 1st at 9 am and would continue up to December 8th. Somehow, many parents heard rumours that there are limited forms to be distributed and therefore the first-come, first-served rule would apply. Not wanting to take any chance, several hyper-anxious parents from Thane began lining up right from the previous day. In fact the first parent in the queue was a gentleman who arrived at the counter at 6 am in the morning of November 30. About 60 parents spent the night in the school premises. Most of them were equipped with provisions such as food, drinks and soaps and toothbrushes. By the next morning, another 60 parents appended the queue. Driven by their apprehensions and the rumours they had heard, most parents had brought along all original documents and photocopies, so that they may submit the duly filled forms at the same time – although there was ample of time for parents to submit the forms.

The Kothari Commission’s report on the development of education in India says, "the destiny of a nation is decided in her classrooms." If that is true, then we certainly need more classrooms!