I spent a day at Prakruti Badi, the Telugu-medium school Timbaktu runs in CK Palli. I got to the school with Kalyani, one of the teachers there and her son Prithvi, who studies there. The day started with an assembly. The children sang some songs and then moved to their classrooms. I sat with the young ones first. Kalyani was taking the class and we all sat in a circle and the children were asked to introduce themselves. Most of them were in this school the previous year and happily chattered away. A couple of new students simply refused to talk initially and they warmed up in a few minutes.
The next class I sat in was an English class for 7-9 year olds. There were 6 children and they were learning some new words. After that class, I just sat on there and the next teacher saw me with the kids and assuming I could handle them, went to run an errand (school had just started and he had to get some admin task done). The kids were initially very excited about singing and dancing. They did all that and soon lost interest. I tried to teach them “If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands”. Two minutes and they said this is boring, something in Telugu please. A window of opportunity of about a minute for me to come up with something fun and then they went on with their stuff. One of them was swinging from the roof, two were busy in a fight and two more were singing I think. The last one was quizzing me about my short haircut despite being a girl! I was quit lost, didn’t know what to do with the kids and was hoping none of the teachers would pop in now. It was quite an experience and I think I am more appreciative about what a teacher has to deal with! I decided that in the future, I would go with something interesting for the kids. It was time for the next class – Telugu. I sat for sometime. They wrote down some words, then read a story from their book. Some of the kids seemed to have read it already and were very keen to do that again. The teacher made sure everyone got their chance.
It was soon time for lunch. We all sat down and some of the kids were serving us. The food was wholesome – rice, sambar, buttermilk and rasam. That day there was also payasam since one of the teachers had just become a parent.
Afternoon time was arts time. One group had been taught cartooning by a student who interned at Timbaktu for about a month. They spent the afternoon finishing up their cartoon stories. The group I was with was creating 1 cm square grids on paper that would later be used to make maps. That afternoon, children took some time to draw the grids, ie, mark the paper with a ruler etc. They then started created patterns of the squares, coloring them.
They spent about 2 hours doing these activities and then it was play time. All kinds of games were being played. I then spent some time in the teachers’ room in the afternoon. A couple of new students were to be admitted and their parents / guardians had come. The children were given some questions in Telugu and Math (I don’t remember if other subjects were also part of the questions). While they were working on the questions, Kalyani, who has been teaching at Timbaktu for over 10 years now was interviewing the parents / guardians. The details of both parents were taken: name, occupation, whether they were members of Timbaktu (for the women specifically since Timbaktu has a women’s collective). Kalyani enquired about the childrens’ interests and what, if any, kind of work they (the children) did at home. The parents/guardians were informed that they were expected to participate in the progress of their child/ward (I think they are expected to meet the teachers once a month). They were informed that Prakruti Badi is not a government recognized school, so they will not be able to provide a TC if the child wants to transfer. The children however take the state board exams for Classes VII and X, so those are results they can use to gain entrance to schools/colleges. Kalyani looked at how the children had tackled the questions to gauge their understanding. She explained to their parents/guardians what areas needed more work etc. They were charged a nominal fee (I think Rs.20 a month or in that range) that is put aside for the children. They get the entire sum back once they write their Class X exams.
The interviews took about 30-40 minutes and then I headed to Timbaktu with some others.