Spell-bound, awe-struck, enthralled, mesmerized, and a tad bit emotional, that is how I felt today when I stood in front of 27 little kids. My eyes were stuck on them as they wrote their tests. I felt my stomach churning. It was as if I was writing the test. Indeed, I was. They were writing what was taught to them by us. After the test we (volunteers and students) waited patiently to know the results while tiny butterflies kept fluttering in our stomachs. They looked at me anxiously and I smiled back signaling no matter what the results have to say, they were champions for us – for me.
Few months ago, rather 7 months ago when we began our journey with the students of Parangipalya Government School in HSR - Bangalore, it looked like a Herculean task to teach them basic English. Most of them couldn’t identify English alphabets; some of them who were a tad better than their classmates could at the maximum read few English words. But none of them could explain the meanings of these words. The kids struggled to communicate in English and to make matters worse came from families that had either never been to schools or had a bare minimum education. Thus, it was evident that the exposure that these little gems received was skimpy. However, there was one thing which was remarkable in each of these kids; they had the hunger to learn. They hadn’t given up, yet. All they needed was a hand to guide them.
Fortunately, my employer had partnered with Step Up for India, a nonprofit organization that enables volunteers to teach English, Math, Computers, & Drama to children in government schools in urban India. They have an excellent program which is well structured, and designed by qualified professionals who have yearning to contribute towards the society. The team at SUFI is enthusiastic and dedicated. They lose no opportunity to rub their enthusiasm on to the volunteers. Their dedication is highly infectious. If you want to know more about them, please visit their FB page here.
So, after my employer partnered with SUFI, volunteers were invited to join the program to teach English to class IV students of the government school at HSR. Of course! We (the volunteers) grabbed the opportunity with both hands and how. The classes began and step by step with every session we moved only forward. From the phonic sounds to actions words, chirpy poems to sound songs, clap games to dictations, we only inched closer to our goal of improving the levels of verbal and written English. We laughed together, clapped together, danced together, sang together, and learnt - together. In the process a relationship was built, a rather beautiful one. I was their Akka and they were my little naughty stars. And before we could even realize, we were standing at the end of the term, biting our nails, anxiously.
“A+, most of them have scored an A+”, Sangna announced as she finished conducting the ASER test.
“And the others?” I asked anxiously still biting my nails.
“Ah! They are an A and few of them B. They can now read well. They know the meaning of most of the words and have been able to construct sentences with it, easily. They are brilliant.” She smiled.
Really??? Manoj (my colleague and my partner in the SUFI program) and I looked at each other. We couldn’t believe our ears. A smile spread across our faces starting from left ear gradually till the right ear. I felt a little tear finding its way through my eyes to my cheeks (okay! I admit I am wee bit emotional. Okay! Okay! super emotional J).
I immediately composed myself. "Khushboo Akka shouldn’t cry in front of the students", I told myself. So, we proudly stood there while the students received their certificates. They were beaming with joy and so were we. The core team of SUFI spoke to the students and told them that they must continue with their English lessons even during vacations. Later we clicked pictures, made promises to meet again in June, wished each other good luck and then clapped. Soon the classroom was filled with happy sounds. Sounds that can go for long making you feel joyful.
Each of us from the volunteer group will agree that these kids have been great teachers to us. Personally, I have learnt so much from them. I have understood that if we really put our heart on something, and work hard towards it, then we are bound to achieve it. The ASER test results today just proved it. I have also been taught to dream without any inhibitions and that no dream is silly or small. The silliest of the dream could mean make a humongous difference in our lives. Just like Hanumanthi, who once told me that she wants to dance with me on an English song (she wants to sing the song on her own. Obviously, I will share the picture with you when Hanumanthi and I will dance like crazy) or like Ganesh who aims to score 100/100 in English in his class X exams. I am certain, one day these dreams will blossom in to a beautiful reality.
When I began as a volunteer for SUFI, someone asked me, “What will you get out of it?” I couldn’t answer it well, then. However, I think I have the answer now. I have got something which is priceless. I have received abundant love from these students. They have showered their affection on me wholeheartedly. I cannot express it in words. It can be only felt.
I am on cloud 9 today. Super Happy! Right now as I type this, I am already doing the happy dance. I am eagerly waiting for the school to re-open so that I get to see my kids again and they would once again wish me in their singy songy style, “Goood Moorrninggg Akkkkkka” J
I told you, PRICELESS!!!
Below is the picture of certificate we received today as the 1st session concluded. After which is a picture of the kids attentively listening to their teacher in the awesome company of their most favourite Manoj Anna ( the one in specs and gray shirt). They are adorable, aren't they?
P.S: if you want to know more about the Step Up for India Program, please write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I shall connect you to them and you/your organization could partner with them and make a difference.