Monday, January 16, 2017

Brick by Brick

Apna Skool for kids of kiln workers.
A brick-kiln at Tatayaganj, Kanpur

Make a picture in your mind of a school in which every door and window opens to green and blue of the earth and sky. Where students willingly stay back during their four month long break. Teachers keep them occupied with Maths, Evs, Science and English labs.The co-curricular activities include music, story telling, performing plays, making paper toys, games and other outdoor activities. This sounds like any other elite school. I had the opportunity to visit such a school and even if you are not a teacher like me, you would love to meet the confident students who have an urge to learn. These students, children of brick-kiln labours, have made to come to school by pampering, coaxing, requesting and luring by the volunteers of Apna Skool run by Vijiya Ramachandran near the brick kilns at  the outskirts of Kanpur city. They run 11 schools covering around 28 kilns.


Sangita, a devoted volunteer took me around the school. Class 1, the youngest in the school was the chirpiest. The classroom had two batches of kids as some of them joined late. Opposite walls had black boards and two teachers taught them. Each child stood and gave his/her introduction in English. All 54 of them wanted to speak. The teacher in me saluted the volunteers for such a show. They recited poems and talked about the little pleasures 'Apna Skol' offered them. They learn to read and write in an academic year which doesn't even have 12 months. Thanks to the books specially designed for them by Eklavya. Students are evaluated on the basis of exams conducted by National Institute for open schooling.


Class 2 and 3 shared one classroom which was big enough for around 20 of them. I asked them the  question which we adults are never tired of asking. Most of them wanted to be teachers when they grow up. Did they know any other profession? I wondered. Then someone told me that he wanted to be a 'police' and would catch thieves. Before I proceeded to the next class, they said they too had some questions for me, which ranged from my qualification to my favourite season.

Class four side of the room had the model of 'Rafael' fighter plane hanging from the ceiling. I was told by a student  everything about the model in Wikipedia manner. In class 5  a child told me how to create table of 19 by a math-magic and many interesting games with numbers. (write odd numbers from 1 to19 vertically, then write 9 to 1 backwards.) After that they challenged me with crossword puzzles.
Table of  19 made easy

It was time for lunch, but there were still things they wanted to share. Ashok,who is from Bihar played the guitar and Rohit played the violin. The child who knew to play the flute was absent. They had all the praise for their music sir who gives special classes on Mondays.

Brick-kiln labours live  at the worksite itself  from the month of June to October when the production is on. for rest of the months, with no work in hand they go back to their hometowns. Apna Skol volunteers arrange jobs for them so that kids could study without interruption.This year for the first time, 20 boys and girls were lived in the hostel for 4 months.
After class 5, kids are sent to other private and government schools. Neetu, a class 7 student showed me how Excel works. She goes to Adarsh Inter college.When her school is closed she comes to Apna Skol with other ex-students to clarify the doubts in Maths and science.Today is one such day when DM has declared a holiday due to some reason.

What would she do here for the whole day, I wondered. "She loves to teach class 1 and 2 students and she does it so well", beamed a proud teacher.

It was a pleasure watching the little ones going towards the light of education from the darkness of illiteracy. A day well spent indeed, but not without guilt that what am I doing for the adorable underprivileged kids of my country?

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