This Saturday (14th May) we could pull off an activity for these rural students that assumes a very high significance for every SSC student & his parent...
Thanks to one of the LEAD posters put up in one of the societies' notice-boards in Sec-15 Airoli, a guy - Mr. Suresh Deshmukh called me up one evening expressing his intention to volunteer for LEAD. I met him and tried to connect him with our sec-14 kids but he expressed his inability to handle the younger kids. He told me that he is a teacher in one of the schools in Airoli teaching class-9 & 10 students & can teach the elder kids. Also, he is one of the trained personnel from the Institute of Vocational Guidance & Selection, an institution recognized & funded by Govt of Maharashtra that organizes an excellent, comprehensive & Free 4-day career counseling program for limited number of SSC and HSC students every year, based on the first cum first serve basis.
So I immidaietly shared the details of our Lavadi project with him - esp. the SSC students and then he guided me to approach the main office of IVGS near St.Xaviers college. He warned me that we were too late and hence I had to turn up in their office premises on the next day itself to speak to the Education officer with a written application requesting to organize this test and counseling program for some of the most needy students of this state.
The lady though initially refused to budge, as we were late & there were no question papers left but then agreed to support looking at our work and passion to guide these village students.
She called up Mr.Deshmukh to organize this program within the village itself. Considering that we were late and the trainer was going to come to the village itself that too just for 10-12 students, it was a SUPER NEWS for us !!
However, this guy Mr. Deshmukh wanted to finish off this 4-day stuff within a day itself and hence we went to meet his colleague in Ghansoli who is also involved in this work. It was a real task for me making him convince about our genuine intentions for these rural students. Why are you doing this work? What made you go there ? You are doing all these without any fees ? How do you get time ? And what not !! but finally, I could satisfy him to his fullest and now he is more excited about this project ;-)
We fixed up 8th May for this program, which was then postponed to 15th and then preponed to 14th May. This created some problems but we had no choice... Students too were excited about the same...
Finally the D-day !! These two guys - Mr.Patil and Mr.Deshmukh - came by bike from Ghansoli to Badlapur. While I left by train at 7am from Airoli to board the 8.45am bus from Badlapur for Lavadi.
The best part - we could also involve in this activity, 4 SSC appeared girls from Anugraha Children's Home, Ambernath - a shelter home, I have been associated with since long. Their madam met me with her girls at Badlapur Bus Depot. And finally we all reached the village at 9.30am to be received by our beautiful students.
Children were asked to assemble, with their pen and note-book, into one of the classrooms of the Ashramshaala in this village (The test being a 4-5 hour activity, we needed benches and desks - a rarest commodity in the rural primary schools.. so we had requested the Ashramshala trustee to provide us the classroom for one day) . All highly charged up... But I had to do some last minute field work & literally drag couple of girls for this program as their parents were compelling them for the household chores and farming related-work..
It was a real heart warming scene to see all these students finally nicely seated in the classroom & appearing for a test that they had not even heard of. Two SSC students from the nearby village had also joined in. So, in all there were 17 students.
It started at sharp 10am. Meanwhile our volunteer & their favorite Madam - Sunita too had joined in. We were requested to stay out during this tests. While the two ladies went ahead with their discussions, I tried to pass my time with the younger kids of the village - some of my favorites - BhanuRam, Gauri, Chaya, Mamta, Keshav, Dipak, and all... It was so mesmerizing when they came running towards me flashing their progress reports... I really enjoyed appreciating each one of them for their marks in diff. subjects and their other traits.... It was not surprising that these children did not even know how to read/know about their performance thru their pragati-patra... But once they understood this, they instantly started the comparisons... & I could then see some disappointments on couple of faces.....I wondered, did I do the right thing ?
It was 1.45pm Lunch time. We had informed our students the day before to share the load for our lunch among themselves but then one of them - Deepa- wanted all of us to have food at her home only. So we landed up there & were provided the water in the lottaas to wash our hands. We occupied ourselves on the floor neatly thatched with cow-dung.... Sunita helped Deepa in serving the lunch and then her mother took on... It was a simple lunch- Dal, Rice and Sabji - but a delicious one, as it had the most imp. ingredient - lots of love !! We could feel the happiness of Deepa and her family. Mr. Deshmukh was esp. very happy as it reminded him of his childhood days in his village.
We gathered back into the classroom at 2.30pm for the second round of tests. This went on till about 4pm. But this time, we - me, sunita and the madam from Anugraha - were given some paper checking work so as to speed up the post-test activities.
After the test, students were asked to get at least one of their parents for the counseling session. This was again something that they would have not thought of. Nor their parents. The instructors - Patil Sir and Deshmukh Sir- told us that it would be Ok even if LEAD is present during the counseling as ultimately it is we who are keener & going to work for them...
But then we WANTED their parents to be INVOLVED in this. Let them KNOW where does their child stand & what he/she is good in. After all it was not just the analysis of his/her aptitude but also his/her social/ psychological behavior. (the questions are nicely prepared by the expert psychologists so as to understand even these aspects of the child..)
Two tables & few chairs were then put up now outside the class-room. Sunita sat with one group while I sat with the other, so as to note down the details of each child. It was really good listening to the analysis of the response to these questionnaire by the students. Some parents were hinted about the family problems that were creating the adverse impact upon their child's mental state. Students were informed about their aptitude towards various subjects like Maths, medical related, Teaching related, and other fields. Various courses and options were suggested. Even some effective reading/studying practices were shared with them. Meanwhile, one of our most brave-spirited girls Vijaya went home and got the black-tea for all of us.
What was more interesting was somewhat strange expressions of their parents... as to what was all this about ? ;-) They were requested to sit inside the class-room waiting for their turn while the counseling session of other group was in progress. But then we could finally feel the sense of contentment and satisfaction in the eyes of their parents as well as their wards. It was the first time in their life that the parent and the child were seated and counseled together for the discussion of the child's education/ career/ future. Each parent left with a warm hand-shake or folded hands expressing their sincere gratitude while Each girl left with a wide smile when her parent was instructed by the counselor to Let Her Study & realize her dreams !!
The career guidance process has still not ended and we will be having 1-2 sessions more with them, having better understood their levels and situation now. But this exercise itself is a good achievement for us as we could connect these parents, who have never ever been to schools, with the educational journey of their children !! Definitely, we have raised the morale of these children to some extent !!
Here is the link to the snaps:
Thanks & Regards
Rupesh S Gesota
"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop"..... Mother Teresa