Tag: Schools and Teaching

Walking like Mahatma Gandhi

Walking like Mahatma Gandhi

In spite of what some people think, Mahatma Gandhi’s values and principles are more relevant now than ever before. Today, even as his ideologies are being criticised by people of far less stature, we would do well to remember that the world’s most respected thinkers openly declared their reverence of the father of our nation – Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, George Bernard Shaw, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Sardar Vallabhai Patel – the list is endless.

October 02, 2005 was Gandhiji’s 136th birth anniversary. It was also the seventh consecutive year of the Shanti Yatra or peace march in the city. The focus was on children this time, with more than 500 students from 12 prominent schools participating in the march. Like in the past, the march began at St John the Baptist High School and ended at the bust of Mahatma Gandhi at Shivaji Path. People from all religions participated in walk that covered prominent city areas like 3 petrol pump, Hari Nivas, Naupade Police Station, Ice Factory, and Dr Ambedkar Road.

85-year-old Cardinal Simon Pimenta came all the way from the Archbishop House Colaba to participate in the Peace March. Notwithstanding his old age, the Cardinal walked the entire stretch of five kilometres without a break. Such was the Cardinal’s regard for the Mahatma that when come concerned volunteers offered him to sit in the car that was travelling alongside as a precaution, he replied, "If you’re tired, why don’t you sit in the car?" Commissioner of Police, D Sivanandan, Dr Homi Dhalla, president of the World Zoroastrian Cultural Federation in Mumbai and Dr. Dawood A Dalvi, ex-Principal of DnyanSadhana College were among the other dignitaries who participated in the march.

Shanti Yatra started as an initiative of Garden School at Cherai in 1999 and then in the subsequent years, several city-based NGOs joined hands to participate in organising the march. The peace march receives the support of hundreds of peace loving residents of Thane. The purpose of Shanti Yatra is to spread the eternal wisdom of Mahatma’s values. Observing October 02 as a holiday and paying a tribute to the great man is not sufficient. What we need is to remember what Gandhji lived and died for. Throughout the march, nobody shouted slogans, but instead carried placards with Mahatma’s messages written on them.

After the March, Pranjali Deshpande, a class VIII student from Vasant Vihar School spoke spiritedly about the significance of ideals such as self-reliance and simplicity that Gandhiji strongly advocated and practised. The participants of the march also sang Gandhiji’s bhajans. Cardinal Pimenta spoke about Gandhiji’s philosophy of ahimsa (non-violence), while Commissioner Sivanandhan congratulated the organisers for the rally and stressed on the need for embracing Gandhiji’s values in the present times. "We must follow his teachings to make this country a better place," he said. The participants then took an oath read out by Anand Turakia from NGO Sevadham. Loosely translated from Hindi, it read thus: "We pledge that we will follow the path upon which the apostle of non-violence walked. We will assimilate the essence of all religions. We will give importance to humanity, non-violence and peace. We will strengthen the bond of love between people and we will strive to make our country a haven of peace."

Most of us tend to become discouraged when we think about the sorry state of affairs that surround us today and wonder whether it is possible to adhere to Gandhiji’s principles. At such times, it would be wise to remember what the Mahatma once said when describing how the British would react to his winning strategy of non-violent activism: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Let this philosophy of persistence guide us along our way so that we never give in to hopelessness; let us walk the path of peace like the Mahatma did.

A Mahabharata of Skills

A Mahabharata of Skills

A mini Mahabharata took place on Sunday, September 25. About 200 warriors from four special schools participated in the annual combat organised by the Chinmaya Mission, Thane. The battles were fought in the premises of Jidd School for special children and Vasant Vihar School. The difference in this Mahabharata was that whoever fought, won.

It was the fifth annual Gita Utsav 2005-2006, an inter-school competition that aims to promote the eternal wisdom of Bhagavad Gita among children. As many as 2,000 children from 16 normal schools participated in the competition. But this year was special because it was the first year when children from special schools were allowed to participate in the competition. Principal of Jidd School, Shyamashree Bhonsle, graciously offered her school’s premises for the event and students

From four special schools, namely St John’s, Holy Cross, Snehadeep and Jidd School, fought the battles with enthusiasm.

This year’s theme was Mahabharata and the 200-or-so mentally challenged children clashed in three main areas – recital of Gita slokas, drawing, and fancy dress. To ensure fairness, the special children were grouped as per the severity of their challenge. The judges for the drawing competition were Neelam Manchanda, an art and craft teacher and Smita Gawand, who runs a nursery school in Thane. Asha Sunil Kumar, director of Sanskruti Fine Art Academy and Sudha Skrikant, Principal of a nursery school, judged the fancy dress competition.

In the sloka recital contest, four mentally challenged children from Jidd School recited nine slokas from the fifth chapter of Bhagavad Gita, competing with students of class I and II from normal schools. In the drawing and colouring competition, while the hearing impaired children competed with students from normal schools, the mentally challenged children competed amongst themselves. The severely challenged were given a simple pot to colour, the moderately challenged were given a pot with Krishna, and the mildly challenged were given a pot with Krishna posing in nature. The participants were judged on neatness, colour combination, overall effect and presentation. In the fancy dress competition, the children had to not only dress up as a character from Mahabharata, but also utter a few lines. It was this competition that stunned and fascinated the judges. The mentally challenged children dressed up as Vasudeva, Poothana Krishna, Bhima, Vidur, Eklayav, Kunti, Gandhari, and Draupadi. The children mimed the characters with such finesse that the judges rated their performances comparable to, and in some cases better than, normal children.

Bhonsle was impressed by the well-planned manner in which the event was organised. “The contest was fair. Children were judged purely on the merit of their performances and nothing else,” revealed Bhonsle. She was also glad to see the enthusiasm of parents of the special children, without whose efforts, the children would not have been able to participate or perform.

The mini Mahabharata ended with all participating children winning not only cash prizes and certificates, but also the blessings of Lord Krishna in the form of wisdom of Bhagavad Gita.

WORKSHOP FOR PARENTS OF SPECIAL CHILDREN
Because parenting special children is so critical, a special workshop has been organised on October 15 at Sahyog Mandir, Thane. For more details contact Jidd School on 25427231.

Height of Teaching

Height of Teaching

Madame Montessori, whose name is synonymous with child education, was a tall woman. No, I am not referring to her height, but her social stature. Born on August 31, 1870, Montessori became Italy’s first woman doctor. Initially, she took care of children’s physical ailments and diseases. Eventually, her curiosity led her to explore the minds of children and how they learn. By the early twentieth century, Dr Maria Montessori’s mission was to propagate radically different methods of teaching young children. “Help me do it myself” was her idea of teaching. In other words, she encouraged experiential learning – where children learn by observing, interacting, and experiencing, instead of relying on memory.

She went on to write several books on the subject and set up many institutes based on her philosophy, which was catching on throughout the world, including India. Today, a hundred years later, her teaching philosophy is as relevant as it was in her times.

A lady named Tarabai Modak, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, who started a Balwadi in the Sabarmati Ashram based on Montessori’s teaching philosophy, was also a pioneer of sorts in the area of child education. On, 31 August 2005, the 135th birth anniversary of Dr Maria Montessori, city-based Saraswati Vidya Mandir Trust’s Pre-primary section celebrated a Memorial Day in honour of the two great women. The school invited parents/grandparents of their Kindergarten students to participate in a two-day programme. About 400 adults learnt about the Montessori Method of teaching. Whether it was Maths, Science, Arts, or Music, the young children learn not in classroom or from books, but by experiencing and experimenting hands on. Parents discovered how their children understood the five senses (biology), shapes of toys and objects (geometry), reflection from mirrors (physics), and many other phenomena by being involved in them rather than grasping them conceptually. Such learning is not only more fun but is also more enduring than the bookish variety. Wonder why only children are taught this way, because such a wonderful method of teaching ought to be introduced even at senior levels of education.

When Montessori met Mahatma
Montessori met Mahatma Gandhi in the beginning of October, 1931 in London. And on October 28, 1931 Gandhiji spoke at the Montessori Training College, London where Montessori was also in attendance. His speech, published in Young India dated 19 November 1931, concluded thus: “You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have the struggle, we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.”

Moving towards God

Since 1998, city-based NGO Jidnyasa has been campaigning for eco-friendly Ganpati celebrations. Last year, even the Thane Municipal Corporation joined in by initiating moves to protect the city’s lakes. But Jidnyasa’s Youth Group is not resting. Their mission is to minimise public immersions of idols as they cause pollution. Surendra Dighe, Managing Trustee of Jidnyasa, says, “There is scientific evidence that Ganpati idols, unless made of clay, are non-biodegradable. We, who are aware of the dangers of this trend, must spread the awareness before it’s too late. I think this is the proper use of science – out there in the social context and not inside laboratories.”

Moving closer to Lord Ganesha

Jidnyasa’s primary target is students, who not only influence their parents today, but are also decision-makers of tomorrow. On Sunday, about 300 students formed a human chain around the Masunda Lake with the objective of spreading the good word. And their campaign seems to be having a positive effect – already close to 1000 families from Thane have promised not to immerse idols. To encourage use of clay idols, Jidnyasa organises an annual competition for the “Most Eco-Friendly Decoration in Thane”.

It is said that Cleanliness is next to Godliness. If more and more residents vow to embrace the eco-friendly way, then Thane city is set to move several steps closer to Lord Ganesha. Because, there is no better way to please Him than to keep His creation, His environment free from toxic waste.

What’s Cooking?

What’s Cooking?

Don’t be surprised if your olfactory senses get stimulated by the sweet aroma of cakes and cookies the next time you pass by Siddhachal Complex. The source of the sweet smell might be the premises of the Jidd School for Special Children, where about 50 women are learning new cooking and baking recipes.

What's Cooking at Jidd School for Special Children

Since August last year, these women enthusiastically look forward to participating in the cooking workshop held every month. What’s unusual about this workshop is that it is that the participants comprise of parents of the school students and the school’s teachers. Jidd School is run by the Thane Municipal Corporation with the objective of providing education to disabled children from the underprivileged section of the society. Parents of these students are usually very poor and can hardly afford a square meal for the family. The workshop aims to hone their culinary skills and teach them skills such as baking, which they can then use to earn money. Besides, it also provides them with a respite from their monotonous, and often difficult, routines.

It was Sheila Sen Thomas, a social worker from Thane, who first put forth the idea of imparting baking skills to the parents. She even managed to get an Oven-Toaster-Griller (OTG) sponsored by a local NGO and thus the first baking class ensued. Soon not only parents and teachers, but even students began to take interest in the classes. “What started as a one-time session for parents soon became a regular workshop, thanks to the received a terrific response we received,” says Shyamashree Bhonsle, the principal of Jidd School. The parents enjoy the workshop and have been regularly attending throughout the year, reaching the school before time. Today they are taught not just baking, but also a variety of other food items such as dals and puddings. What’s more, everything they are taught can be cooked at home, using normal pressure cookers too. Cakes may take longer to cook at home, but it’s possible. Even so, parents have been told that they are free to use the school’s OTG whenever they wish.

Mark Twain once said, “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.” At Jidd School, learning co-exists with formal education, not only for special students who receive vocational training along with formal education, but even parents and teachers, who are learning new things.

Hello Brother!

Hello Brother!

Indians place a high premium on family and relationships. For us, love for family comes before wealth and material acquisitions. Much before the world began to celebrate days honouring specific relationships like friendship day, father’s day, and mother’s day, we Indians have been celebrating days that honour the purity of relationships. Take Raksha Bandhan – a festival that reinforces the bond of love between brothers and sisters. Not only does it foster ties within the family, it also strengthens the social fabric of our society as it extends beyond blood relations and promotes love and respect between individuals not related by birth.

Bond of Love

Year after year, Thane’s schools celebrate this event in wonderful ways, implanting Indian values in children, and ensuring that not only will the tradition be kept alive, but will continue to be celebrated with fervour in the future. Among the most touching celebrations of Raksha Bandhan is organised by the Sri Ma Snehadeep School for Special Children, situated at Patlipada. On Friday August 18, students from as many as 18 city-based regular schools, including Vasant Vihar School, Saraswati (Panchpakhadi), New English School, Hiranandani Foundation School, Bharat English High School, Carmel School, and St Xavier’s School, participated in the 8th inter-school Integration Programme.

It is difficult not be moved when you watch children interacting with their less privileged counterparts. It was a moment to savour when special girls from the host school tied rakhis to normal boys from visiting schools, just like normal girls from visiting schools established bonds with boys from the host school. The rakhis used were as special as the programme because they were all made by the student of Sri Ma Snehadeep.

The excitement of the special children was palpable and was adequately reflected in the welcome speech by a special student called Aniruddh Dongarkar. Addressing the visiting students, he said, "We’re happy that you all come when we invite you in spite of our school being located so far from the city. We’re thankful to you for accepting our invitation." The speech lasted for one full minute, an achievement considering that the Aniruddh is an MR child, and evoked a huge round of applause from the audience. The chief guest, R S Gurav, who is the Assistant Charity Commissioner of Thane District, too was visibly impressed by the programme and envisaged a bright future for all the participating children and also for the schools that encourage their children towards such noble acts.

The objective of the annual programme is to create awareness about special children among normal children. Students of regular schools observe special children, talk to them, see them moving around and singing before an audience and learn about their capabilities (such as making rakhis, selling them and so on). The interaction brings the special children closer to normal kids and also serves to dispel any wrong notions, if any, about special children in the minds of normal children. Special children need love and acceptance more than anything else and the Integration Programme was therefore a truly joyous occasion for them. The Principal of Sri Ma Snehadeep, Manju Tejwani, said, "Just a smile, an acknowledgement, or a simple hello by a normal child can brighten a special child’s day. If, as a result of this programme, a normal child sheds his inhibitions towards special children and reacts positively to them, I will feel the programme has achieved its objective." In fact, the Integration Programme may evoke more than a mere smile or acknowledgement from a normal child. For, the next time one of the participating girls sees a special boy, she will remember her rakhi brother!

A Story of Determination

A Story of Determination

Twenty years of selfless service to the society’s most neglected section requires courage, purpose and determination, like Thaneite Shyamshree Bhonsle has demonstrated.

It was exactly two decades ago, in August 1985, that Bhonsle took it upon herself to serve the one of the society’s severely marginalised sections. With the help of the Thane Municipal Corporation, she founded the Jidd School, an institution for children who were not only physically challenged but were from the lowest strata of the society.

The school has come a long way since its inception. For one it now admits even mentally disabled children. For another, the school is now housed in a high-quality structure built specially to serve its purpose. Meditation, music, dance, craft and physical exercises are some of the activties that students of Jidd School participate in. The school has an occupational-cum-physiotherapy trainer and a psychologist too. A special tool room was inuagurated last year to impart vocational training to the students in order to make them self-reliant.  

Jidd School has proved to be a boon to special children hailing from families who are so poor that they find managing a mere square meal on a regular basis a challenge. The students of the school enjoy free transportation, free food during classes and even free healthcare. In fact when the school started providing free breakfast and lunch, there was a marked increase in attendance, reveals Bhonsle, who has been serving the school ever since 1985.

Jidd, which is the Marathi word for determination, is an apt christening of the school because that is what it has stood for, over the last twenty years. The ride has been anything but smooth. Overcoming hurdles has become second nature to the Jidd School management and staff. But ironically, they are full of gratitude. They acknowledge the contribution of innumerable individuals, corporations, institutions and NGOs in helping them traverse the thorny path.

Bhonsle is indebted to the various NGOs, clubs, and individual volunteers who have time and again come forth to offer unconditional assistance to the school just so that it continues to serve its purpose. "When young children, college students, housewives and even senior citizens offer to help, we are encouraged beyond measure." She even mentions the positive role that media has played in creating awareness about the plight of special children.
 
Bhonsle makes a particular mention of the vital role of the Late Anand Dighe and the erstwhile TMC commissioner T Chandrasekhar who helped her set up the new premises of the school. The present TMC commissioner, Sanjay Sethi has pledged his support to Jidd from the beginning of this tenure. Then there are others such as TMC PRO Rajderkar, Narendra Kavade (who is now collector at Beed), MLA Eknath Shinde, Ex-Mayor Ramesh Vaity, Corporator Save and many more officials whose constant support has been instrumental in Jidd’s progress. Bhonsle also mentions the Thane Police Department and its various senior officers such as Additional CP Ashok Dhivre (now in Pune), DCP Suresh Ahire, ACP Nandkumar Chaugule among others.

Bhonsle is aware that her own persistence was supported by the selfless staff of Jidd School. It requires tremendous perseverance to teach and train special children but then the teachers of Jidd School are not known to be driven to such a noble occupation by the desire to make money. They derive happiness from serving the children, many of whom suffer from not one or two but multiple disabilities. A momentary glitter in the eyes of such disabled children is enough to make their day.

It is the collective role such countless individuals – staff, teachers, volunteers, NGOs, TMC officials, and many more – that has made it possible to run the Jidd School in spite of the many problems that it has faced and continues to face. The society is grateful to all of them. Indeed, it is these individuals who deserve to be congratulated for Jidd School’s 20th year anniversary.  

Fruits of Education

Fruits of Education

It is well-documented that students understand concepts and ideas better when hands-on involvement accompanies theory. Saraswati Mandir Trust’s Pre-primary section adopts this approach in their day-to-day teaching. Like last week, when they organised a "Vruksha Dindi", a procession of saplings.

The idea of the procession was to educate the pre-primary kids about how trees are planted, how they grow and also to make them appreciate the importance of trees in the ecology. The preparation began on July 18 when the students were asked to sow a seed, preferably mango seed, in their homes and water it daily. Then, on August 05, the students were asked to bring their seed-turned-sapling to school. The sapling-procession, which ensued, looked rather fascinating with students dressed in outfits with the theme of trees. So there were little girls and boys, aged around four or five,  turned up as trees, trunks, branches, fruits and even parrots, marching forward. There was a Vanadevi too (Goddess of the forest). Students were carrying placards with environment friendly messages such as "Trees are our friends" and "Plant more trees". The staff of the school sang songs praising trees. Later, the saplings were stored in a beautifully decorated space reserved for them. The saplings will be handed over to Thane-based environment-care NGO Hariyali, for further care.

The sapling-procession is akin to sowing a hundred seeds from which a whole forest of environment consciousness will grow, each tree bearing the sweetest fruits. Mother Nature will be pleased.

A Divine Course
Bhagavad Gita, literally translated as "the song of the Divine" is the most revered sacred scripture of the Hindu religion. Many believe that the wealth of spiritual wisdom contained in the Gita is the only antidote to the widespread human suffering, which is the result of a highly materialistic life focused only on accumulation. The "more" disease, as it is sometimes referred, causes us humans to fight with each other, with nature and with ourselves. Most of us seem to have forgotten that we are spiritual beings in human form. Perhaps only by becoming aware of our spiritual aspect, our true inner self, will each us be able to get hold of lasting contentment and peace of mind. Alas, the vicious circle of urban life does not allow us to explore the divine part of us, keeping us busy in accumulations and possessions.

Residents of Thane are now getting an opportunity of self-exploration via Gita lessons. Sri Ma Trust has organised a free certificate course in Bhagavad Gita for Thaneiets. The course was initiated on the auspicious occasion of Guru Pournima and is held every Sunday between 4.30 and 5.30 pm at Sri Ma Vanasthali located behind Municipal Commissioner’s Bungalow at near Hiranandani Estate. Already, about 25 parents of Sri Ma Bal Niketan students have registered for the course, which is open to all residents of Thane. Nirmal Jothi, principal of Sri Ma Bal Niketan conducts the sessions. A division for children’s development, christened Sri Ma Bal Seva Mandal (SMBSM) was also instituted on the same day. Among other activities, SMBSM too will conduct Essence of Gita courses for the benefit of inculcating the right spiritual values in children.

The wisdom of Gita distributed to a small group of people in Thane may not make the slightest difference to the sorry state of affairs of the world, but it does have a potential to alter the world of every individual in the group. The secret is to trust the wisdom of Lord Krishna much like Arjuna did.

Prudent Parenting

Prudent Parenting

Our attitudes, confidence levels and approach to deal with difficult situations are formed during childhood. Parenting children under age 10 is therefore one of the most difficult tasks and calls for a tremendous sense of responsibility. But young couples often find themselves unable to cope with raising healthy and happy children. To help such couples, Saraswati Mandir Trust’s Pre-Primary School at Naupada organised a series of lectures by experts. Titled Paalak Shaala, meaning School for Parents, the lectures were held in two batches – one for parents of students aged around four years on July 24 and the other for parents whose students are aged around five years on July 31. The lectures, held between 8.30 am and 12.30 pm, saw a massive turnout of 700 parents collectively.

The first speaker was Dr Ashok Paranjpe (MD, BAMS), a well-known authority in the field of diet and nutrition. In his lecture, he urged parents to move away from the popular tendency of relying on supplements only and highlighted the importance of a balanced diet for their children. According to Paranjpe, a high-protein diet is not sufficient. For proper physical and mental growth, the child requires complete nutrition which is available in seasonal produce, green vegetables and natural foods. These foods are rich in medicinal values and also build resistance (immunity) of the child. He also emphasised the role of physical exercise for children suggesting that they be encouraged to indulge in physical activity. Running, skipping and jogging are great for children. He insisted parents on teaching children the traditional Indian Suryanamaskar, which is a great all-body workout.
 
The next speaker was Arun Naik, a psychologist with a vibrant personality, who gave loads of sound advice to parents. Naik underlined the difference between growth, which is quantitative and development, which is qualitative. According to Naik, parents must give more importance to the latter. He said that for a proper development of the child, parents must learn how to deal with difficult situations in a calm and balanced manner. Talking about expectations, he revealed that parental pressure to perform often takes away the child’s joy of participating in competitions. Instead, the child should be allowed to enjoy without any expectations whatsoever. Naik ended his session by emphasising on showing children the immense possibilities of life rather than categorising their every act as "good" or "bad".

It was then the turn of clinical therapist and counsellor Sunila Dingankar, who used several examples to illustrate how parents can effectively mould the thought patterns of their children. She outlined four behavioural patterns of parents: firm, firm and indecisive, kind and indecisive, and kind yet firm. According to her, the last one, firm but kind, is best way to deal with children.

Parents who attended the lectures were so moved by the wisdom they received that they appealed for regular sessions covering wider issues of concern. Taking into account the enthusiastic response of parents, principal pf the school, Rohini Rasal, announced the setting up of "Paalak Charcha Vyaspeeth", a congregation of parents to discuss the various issues. She also made the school premises available for the meetings. The first meeting is scheduled for August 07 at 5pm and interested parents have been invited to participate.

Bestselling author Robert Fulghum says, "Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you". Parenting is, first and foremost, about setting a good example and then ensuring gently that your child grows up healthy, self-reliant, and fulfilled. Isn’t that every parent’s dream?

Building strong values

Building strong values

Bernadette Pimenta is a veteran teacher from Thane, who began teaching in 1971. Over the past 35 years, she has taught countless children. In 1996, when she completed 25 years of being in the noble profession of teaching, she decided to do something that will go beyond classrooms and help young children in developing an all-round personality. Early childhood, she recognised, is perhaps the most important phase of human life because that’s what determines personality a child would possess when he grows up. Thus, Garden School, of which she is the principal, started "Enrichment Class", an extra-curricular course for young children that aims at developing a high spiritual, emotional and intellectual quotient among children. It’s a values-oriented course that endeavours to arouse among children a concern for nature and the importance of giving back to the society in some meaningful ways. The course has different levels depending upon the age of the student, from pre-school to level five, and is slowly progressive to more advanced levels. This is the first year of level five and although activities at every level are interesting, the ones of class five deserve a special mention.

Held once every week, students are taken around a prominent part of the city. During the visit, the kids observe the environment around them, making mental notes of whatever strikes them. Once back, they write a report on their observations, detailing all the small and big nuances of the city. This improves their observation and writing skills while inculcating a sense of appreciation of the surroundings which they inhabit. As the festive season approaches, every week the children will be taken to one place of worship – Temple, Church, Gurudwara, Agiary, and Mosque – so that they learn to respect all religions and understand the importance of co-existing with others. A visit to Mani Bhavan helps them recognise the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and also learn his values of non-violence and love. They also learn the basics of a foreign language (French), which helps them to acquire a perspective of the world outside their own country.

The 45-week course also includes a kitchen module, wherein for a few weeks the kids learn to manage the kitchen. The kids learn simple tasks like peeling and cutting vegetables, spreading butter on bread and making sandwiches. They learn the right way to hold a knife, the importance of washing vegetables and maintaining hygiene, and also table manners such as not slouching, not over-eating and gargling after meals. Every Monday, these 10-year-olds learn to prepare a new dish like Poha, Upma, and Sabudana Kichdi, so that they are able to cook something in the event of their parents/maids not being available for some reason.

By stimulating their thinking and observation skills, and by teaching them daily chores, the course helps students to learn to trust themselves and their abilities. It provides the little students with a way of life, while assisting their overall growth and development. The role of the teachers here cannot be overemphasised as they work relentlessly to ensure that the objective of every activity undertaken is met.

Many experts believe that our personality characteristics are rooted in childhood and remain more or less fixed throughout our lives. Values such as love, compassion, non-violence, honesty, truth, and hard work cannot be acquired by adults – these have to be coded in childhood. This being the case, Garden School’s enrichment class deserves to be applauded for imparting sound values in little children – values that will serve them well when they grow up and thereby create a highly values-driven society.

Ye Dil Mange No More

Ye Dil Mange No More

Prevention is better than cure, it is said. But this adage does not apply to AIDS, where prevention is the only option, since there is no known cure. In spite of this seemingly common knowledge about AIDS, the incidence of this deadly disease is on the upswing. AIDS is spreading faster in India than anywhere else in the world, with an official figure of 51 lakh HIV+ cases. According to some foreign NGOs, this figure is over one crore. Cause for alarm is the fact that more than 50 per cent of all infected cases in India are in Maharashtra. And in Maharashtra, Mumbai (together with its twin city Thane), is the worst affected with one in every 40 people being HIV+.

A programme on AIDS awareness for the youth was organised in the city on March 24 at the TMA Hall in Wagle Estate. About 90 college-going students attended the programme and came out better informed. Well-known theatre personality Meena Naik, who has been doing AIDS awareness shows in various city colleges. Titled "Ye dil mange more", the show first used a 15-minute puppet show capsule that attempted to demonstrate how AIDS is transferred from one person to another. Later, a 45-minute play revolving around a mother and her two teenage daughters highlighted the modern day life in colleges, the party culture, and the accompanying risks.

Naik, who was awarded the Japanese Foundation Fellowship for study of puppetry in School (Educational Puppetry), presented a paper on "safe sex through puppetry" at the International Conference on Puppets in Health Education and Therapy held in London on June 1994. The interactive session after the play was alive with several questions being answered adeptly. Naik came across as a flexible person who was willing to incorporate suggestions for change in her approach from the audience.

Many of those who attended felt that the programme should be extended to seniors at the school level itself. College students were of the opinion that parents must be made to attend such programmes, in presence of their teenage children. "Nothing much has been done in Thane to spread AIDS awareness. Therefore, when we got an opportunity to do a programme with Meena Naik, we didn’t think twice", said ND Joseph, President of the Rotary Club of Thane Hills, the organisers of the programme.

According to Dr Rajan Bhosle, a renowned counsellor and an AIDS activist, "After 24 years of human effort in an age when technology and science are so advanced, and with all countries working together to find a cure, we have still been unable to deal with AIDS. As of now, prevention is the only cure for AIDS." Yes, we need more awareness programmes to stop the wildfire of AIDS from engulfing our youth. Listen to your hearts as they cry out Ye dil mange no more AIDS.

Colourful Values
Holi, the festival of colours, is fun. But oftentimes, Holi colours, if not smeared properly, are known to hurt and harm individuals. Realising that the best way to inculcate safety habits is to catch them young, the teachers of Garden School taught their little pre-school kiddos the right way to enjoy Holi. The idea behind this was that children tend to remember and stick to the values they acquire at a tender age.

On Wednesday, 90 children between 3 and 4 years, all Garden School students, learnt how to daub colour via demonstration. The children learnt how colours can make some people go blind and deaf and therefore it was important to throw colour carefully. Teachers trained them to apply colours only on cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, and taught them how to carefully vulnerable body parts, especially eyes and ears. Later, they were told to memorise this sentence: "Holi is a festival of colours, bright and nice – but we must not throw colour in anybody’s eyes". Why only children, even some adults need to memorise this one.