Thanks to a friend, who introduced me to this person who’s coordinating the India Literacy Project in Hyderabad, from tomorrow I will be teaching a couple of hours of English at a local school every week.
Frankly, eternal pessimist that I am, when I went to check out one of the schools under the ILP a few days back, I was very sceptical. Then I sat in this class. There were about 40 students dressed in neat but faded school uniforms with their school bags in front of them, seated cross-legged on the floor. The teacher has been working with the kids for 3 years. 3 years – I thought, thats a long time, a lot of commitment. The students were so eager to learn from her, it was quite amazing. And she both firm and kind at the same time. I was such a pleasure to watch her – she was teaching in the phonetic style, and the students were picking up the stuff like sponge.
She later went to teach the 5th standard students. She’d given them comprehension and composition to do – stuff like writing a para about a picture, answering questions from a para – and they had done quite well. Much better than the primary school in Guwahati near my house, where my Aunt teaches. Believe me, it does make a difference, quite a huge one. But as with any other effort, it needs long term commitment.
So this lady pretty much inspired me without knowing it. And I am looking forward to tomorrow, when I will start my first class. Hopefully, I will be able to stay as committed as she is.
There are of course debates galore about this, as with every other issue. So the debate here is – what about the school teachers? Aren’t they supposed to be doing this job? I don’t know about that ( though the ILP guy tells me that most schools do not have good teachers, or even any teacher for English, an essential life-skill today), but I do know that most students pass out without a working knowledge of English.
So there is some work to be done there. And two hours a week is not a lot.