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Original : Nadella Anuradha
Translation: Banda Srinivasarao
“Amma, you seem to be still annoyed with me. Once you listen to my story, you will rush to my hamlet to meet me and my children.”
When I came here on transfer, I was surprised to see the children of this Government school. They all are from the margins of the society. They needed education more than anything.
Studies seemed to be of least interest to them. Or, is it indifference?
Till then, my experience was limited to teaching in a corporate school and its discipline. I saw how the educated parents cared about their wards.
Not even ten percent of the students are interested in studies here. I am surprised..
Their notebooks and text books clearly indicated their casual approach towards studies. Attentive students are rare among them. Repeated explanations and lesser home work helped very little to change their attitude.
I set myself free from the tangles of the tyranny of the management of the corporate schools and happily joined the government run school. But, I started getting disillusioned by the attitude of these children. I even started doubting my abilities and my sense of responsibility.
How to orient and drive them into studies? Moreover, they are in big numbers.
Many kids are weak in studies. But, their activeness levels are almost equal to their counterparts in corporate schools.
As usual, after explaining in the class, I gave the children some home work.
Neeraja stood up. “Ma’am, at home, we generally have very less time to study.. Moreover, Amma is sick and I have to do the entire household chores…” she paused. She came near me and whispered in my ear. “Ma’am, I have to work in the houses where Amma used to work as a maid. If I stay away from work for more than a day or two, they will cut my pay.”
Neeraja spoke with her head lowered. She lowered her voice further, fearing that if she is heard, her classmates might make fun of her. But everyone knows, it seemed. Bhavani announced, “Neeraja will have to work after school Maám, She will not have any time.” Class looked at Neeraja.
I asked Neeraja to sit, to temporarily ease the situation.
Did I ever imagine this condition? These kids have to be observed more closely.
School dispersed. All children were on their way to their homes. Bhavani walked along with me, and started talking.
“Ma’am, Neeraja has to do a lot of work at home. Now her mom is also bedridden. Her father never bothers about the family. Nor does he give any money to her mother. He earns good, but spends all of it on liquor.’ The twelve year old is explaining like an adult.
She would have continued. But I gently asked her to go home as it was already late.
Neeraja was absent from school the next four-five days.
How are things at her home? For once, shall I go and see for myself? Will they think that I am intrusive? Whom should I ask? May be Bhavani could help me out. But it will not be fair to discuss others’ matters with her.
I put these thoughts across to the other teachers in the staff room.
“You are a new joinee and it is quite natural to be concerned about these children and their studies. We passed that phase. Over a period of time, you will also get accustomed. They are unchangable. They don’t need education. They will just attend the school and go. That itself is uncertain.”
I must admit that Syamala Teacher’s explanation of the situation pained me.
Karuna Teacher spoke with a little compassion. “Deepika, I am glad that you are thinking about them. They are mostly daily wagers’ children. They have to work every day. If they find work, fine. They reach home after dark. They would bring enough food for that day and consume. That’s all. They simply do not have the time or inclination to bother about the studies of their children. They can’t even understand the subjects their children study.”
“Then what about the future of these kids, if they don’t study?”
Karuna Teacher is about to retire. She smiled and answered my question in a soft, polite tone.
“You can encourage some children to come to your home, if they are interested. But, not many would come.”
I liked her suggestion.
“Please come to my home if you do not understand any subject..” I announced. Few kids were happy with my announcement and even started coming to my home, but for only a few days.
When I enquired, they said, “teacher, we are reaching home late. We have to finish all household chores and cook dinner before Amma returns from work. Last two days, we were late and dinner was delayed. My sister and brother started weeping. My father assured earlier that he will let me study till tenth class. But now he orders me to forget school and stay at home”. Nandini wept.
Suguna continued. “Ma’am, my mother is a heart patient.. If she is active for four days, she rests for the next four. She still says that I must study well and get a good job,” her voiced choked with tears.
“If it is so, I will come to your hamlet. That will save you some time.” I blurted out.
Children showed both happiness and surprise.
“But only if you promise me that you will study well.” They nodded happily. School bell rang, echoing their ecstasy.
Attender Kamala accompanied me to the hamlet and introduced me to its residents. “She is our new teacher. She will be here every evening to teach your children. Please ensure to send your children to the Anganwadi building, before she arrives.”
Many are pucca houses In that hamlet. When Kamala stopped at each house and called, one or two of its residents trickled out. They heard her and without responding, turned inside and resumed their chores. Few of them queried Kamala about the fees that I would charge. “Deepika Maám will teach them free of cost,” she assured. Many of them did not seem to believe.
We spent more than a couple of hours for this exercise. We told them that we will come tomorrow and then started on our way back home.
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