Archive for August 13th, 2008

Teaching, yet Learning

 Teaching is way harder than I thought it would be. Not knowing a lot of Hindi really hinders my ability. I know a lot of words and a couple sentences, but not nearly enough required to teach something effectively. The kids really don’t know very much English which doesn’t help either. I think that it is really hard for the kids to pick up English, as the teachers speak mostly Hindi to them. In fact, only one Shikha knows English fluently. She is the third, fourth and fifth grade teacher. There is so little space in the building that the school is currently renting, so it is really hard to fit a lot of students in. This is why three grades get grouped together in such a way. That also makes it really hard for the children to learn. This is one reason why it is imperative to raise enough money for the school. One there is enough funds, we can buy a big enough building to fit all the students, get separate classrooms and more teachers. Every dollar helps. 


With the older class, it is much easier to communicate. They know the most English and can kind of get what I’m saying if I use drawings and hand movements. Math is really fun with them, because they’re really enthusiastic when I come up with fun games. They get really pushy sometimes, and everyone wants to come with me and answer, and it is really overwhelming. I’ve also been teaching them how to type and use the computer. Today we did self-portraits on the Paint application to get used to using the mouse. They were pretty good for first timers! See the photos below. The problem with the computer is that they are overly pushy than they normally are! Every student wants to do it, and if they’ve already done it they want to watch and it just gets really crazy. Another thing is that it takes absolutely forever to get through one student, because I have to explain what I want them to do the best that I can. Its quite the challenge. 

The middle class, we work a lot on pronunciation. They have a really hard time with W’s (they pronounce them as V’s) and f’s, h’s and x’s. Om Prakash told me that this was due to the way that Rajasthani Hindi is pronounced. They also have a hard time sounding out small words by just seeing the letters. I think they memorize a lot of things rather than learning Phonetics. A lot of them depend on the hindi spelling of english words to sound it out. I think it is hard for these middle kids and older kids because they started school later than most kids normally do. They just learned how to read Hindi, and now they’re learning English at an age past the point where it is easy. A lot of them are behind. 

The youngest class is very cute. They are the pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners. They started school at the right time, so hopefully they’ll be able to pick up English a lot quicker than the other kids. The problem is that the teacher, Punam, doesn’t speak English to the kids. The thing about the little ones is that if they’re forced to hear it in school everyday, they’ll pick it up in a couple weeks. But, there’s always room to grow and change. The school is such a young organization. I’ve been teaching the little ones Baa Baa Black Sheep and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. They have no idea what the heck they’re saying, and a lot of them say the wrong word. But its okay. I always get excited by the one or two students who can actually recite the whole song with the right words. In my eyes, three students out of 15 is quite the accomplishment. And the ones who can’t say it perfectly still know it, with a couple bumps here and there, but still pretty good! 

I have two more days at school. I’m going to have such a hard time saying goodbye!


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Medical Camp

Yesterday, we went to the medical camp at Sanjeevani Hospital. Dr. Gupta is a doctor that lives in Boston that comes every year to India, both to work at this hospital and with the students of Pratham Shiksha. Because it is the rainy season, Sumeeti decided to hold the medical camp now, even though Dr. Gupta isn’t here. Diseases, including Malaria, Dengue, and common colds and influenza, are more easily spread with the water and the influx of mosquitoes during the months of the rainy season.

As the hospital is small and so are the buses, we could only take 15 to 20 kids at a time, making our medical camp three days long to accommodate the 60 students. I must say, I was expecting a relatively large sized bus. But no, it was, as every car in India, a very small “Ambulance” which would have maybe fit 6 people respectively. I have never seen so many kids packed to a van before. It was quite amazing. And I and another teacher had to fit in too! (See the picture below). 

We saw three doctors in total: one optometrist, one dentist and one pediatrician. One thing I would have never even thought about was the trouble of testing your eyes when you can’t read. Even when I was little, I never remember having any problem reading the letters on the Eye Chart. The kids here had an extremely hard time reading the letters, especially when they were tiny. So, we changed it to the chart where you point which way the letter is going. It was hard to explain, but the kids eventually got it. Three out of the fifteen children had problems, all requiring glasses. 

Almost all the kids had teeth problems. Ranging from 7 to 14 years old, it was either eruption with too little calcium, so the child’s teeth were having trouble coming in, or cavaties. Some were serious and had to be removed because the tooth was so bad, and others just required fillings. 

In the general checkup, every single child had early vitamin A deficiency. Many had Anemia and a couple had advanced, stage two Anemia. All the children were underweight and under height. One girl had advancing Hepatitis, soon to become Jaundice. That was pretty scary. And the thing was, she is one of the kids that is always happy and excited. It was very surprising to me that she was seriously ill. These kids have to cope with things, by themselves, at such a young age. I was so fortunate to be a healthy child, with parents that care so much about me, with regular doctor’s and dentist’s appointments. What a news flash! And that was only 15 of the kids!

The pediatrician was telling me that there is a law in India that says that every child under 6 has to take pills twice annually against stomach worms. And these are the kids that can’t afford it. I just can’t imagine having to go to school, hungry, tired and sick every day. These kids are troopers.   I think my going away present to them all is going to be toothbrushes and vitamin A pills!

We’re going to the hospital again tomorrow. Today there was a strike because of conflicts in Kashmir. The police weren’t allowing vehicles on the roads from 9:00 to 11:00, so we couldn’t access the bus. And by the time the strike was over, the driver and all of the doctors either had gone home or were unavailable. Hopefully we can get through all the kids, because we don’t have Friday as an option. It is the 15th, India’s Independence Day, and most work places get the day off. Schools have a one hour celebration where the students sing songs and hoist the Flag, which we will be doing for my last day at the school. I can’t believe I only have two more days. My trip went by so fast!

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