5:30 am-7:00 am – Wake up and get ready for school
7:15 am-10:00 am – School
10:30 am-11:45 am – Down time at home
11:45 am-1:00 pm – Lunch time, chores and play time for kids who finish early
1:00 pm-3:00 pm – English Study Time*
3:00 pm-3:30pm – Play time
3:30 pm-4:30 pm – Snack time, chores and play time for kids who finish early
4:30 pm-6:00 pm – English Study Time*
6:00 pm-6:45pm – Play time
6:45 pm-8:15 pm – Dinner time, chores and play time for kids who finish early
8:15pm-9:00pm – Reading time or optional study time
9:00pm – TIME FOR BED.
[* For those not familiar with the lingo, “English Study Time” is what the children named general study periods back in 2005 when they were brand new to AIC and didn’t know any English (hence, in their eyes, no matter what we were actually teaching them, the main thing they were trying to grasp was the English itself). Despite being an awkward-sounding, and often inaccurate name (as the children use this time to study all of their academic subjects), “English Study Time” has stuck.]
|Tushar, sleeping during study time|
I just stumbled upon this article about corporal punishment in Indian schools. The article, published a couple days ago in the Times of India, is based on a study conducted by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights in 2009-2010. Of 6,632 children interviewed as a part of the study, only NINE denied having received some form of corporal punishment at school.
In other words, 99.86% of the children surveyed said that they had received corporal punishment at school.
The most prevalent forms of abuse including beating with a cane/stick, slapping children’s faces, boxing their ears, and – this is truly nauseating – administering electric shocks was even cited as a type of punishment received by children at some schools.
|Teacher Vaishali helping her student with English numbers|
Truth be told, it has not always been easy to get AIC staff on board with our “no corporal punishment” policy since almost all of our employees were themselves raised in a culture that accepts corporal punishment and even promotes it as an important teaching tool. Even parents of AIC children, during discussions about their children’s behavioral issues, will respond with something along the lines of, “well you just need to beat him! Obviously he’s not going to behave if he isn’t scared of you! You have permission to hit him when he is bad.”
A couple years ago, we implemented a Zero Tolerance Policy for corporal punishment in the Education Outreach Program, which means that confirmed instances of corporal punishment will result in termination of employment. Bewilderment and frustration are often the first reactions that newly hired teachers have to our policy, since they have to refine their classroom management skills in accordance with the rules at AIC. New teachers quickly realize that they had relied very heavily on corporal punishment (or the threat of it) to keep their students under control in previous teaching positions, and, without that, have very few alternative strategies in their skill set to fall back on.
|Story time – gotta love how excited they are!|
To support the teachers and help them adapt to a policy that many find challenging at first, we have implemented a number of measures that include regular regular reminders of the policy and staff meeting discussions about how to deal with certain situations in the classroom, better communication and organizational procedures in the Education Outreach Centre, improved teacher:child ratios, the introduction of caregiving staff into the classrooms, professional counseling for children with consistently disruptive behavior, involvement of families when necessary to develop behavior plans, time for play, meditation and yoga built into the daily classroom schedule, and various other steps designed to foster an environment of respect, tolerance, kindness and learning.
Although enforcing this policy is not without challenges, it is absolutely imperative that AIC be a place that is safe, both physically and emotionally, for its children. 99.86% is unacceptable.
YESSS. This is the photo I was wishing I had gotten way back when. Turns out our lovely volunteers Kathy and Sophie did manage to get a picture of the lemur eye rings. Yey!
Claudia didi accompanied Anu, Pooja, and Rajni into the mall, and the girls were absolutely in awe of their surroundings; they kept looking up at the lofty ceilings and shiny, bright lights and almost falling over backwards. Once they met up with their teacher, the girls rode an escalator for the first time, which you can imagine was quite a thrilling experience for all three!
Left to right: Poonam (Res Program), Anu, Rajni and Pooja
The girls were registered for the competition and received their drawing kits. They were so excited to have their own sets of crayons and pencils that they almost forgot to start drawing when the contest started! Competing children were given two hours to draw, and our girls drew their school and the Indian flag.
The girls received certificates for their participation in the drawing competition and then headed to the bathroom, where they had a blast using automatic sinks and paper towel dispensers and the bathroom attendant got a kick out of showing them how to use everything. Finally, they were treated to a veggie burger and soda at McDonalds! While they were eating with their teacher, their other teacher showed up and joined them. The girls were so excited to have all three of their didis (two teachers and outreach director) sharing lunch with them that they were almost too distracted to eat. After lunch, all three girls – balloons and goodie bags in hand – piled into a rickshaw and headed back to the slum, where they showed their new toys to their friends.
All in all, it was a successful, eye-opening adventure for the girls, and a fun afternoon for the adults who got to share in their wonder and excitement.
Walking through the Waghri and Sikligar slums, it is glaringly apparent that none of the children have safe play areas or toys to play with. It is not uncommon to see little ones toddling along busy roadways, playing with an exposed wire dangling from the web of cables through which the communities tap their (illegal) electricity connections, playing with (and putting in their mouths) glass bottles, metal cans, sharp/rusty/filthy/choking-hazard-sized items, playing dangerously close to open fires, peeking down from open rooftops, etc. Once they stop nursing, many toddlers are left to be supervised by their well-intentioned-but-easily-distracted older siblings, who are often barely even school-aged themselves.
Last weekend marked the end of a big celebration here in Pune called Ganpati Chaturthi. During this two week festival, many families in Maharashtra bring home statutes of Ganpati (Lord Ganesh). Ganpati stays in the home for anywhere between one-day and two-weeks, and during that time, is carefully decorated with flowers and colors. Here at AIC, we had our very own Ganesh, which we decorated over the course of the holiday. At the end of the holiday we took our Ganpati to the river for a traditional visurgen. During visurgen, a big procession follows the Ganpati to the river, complete with music, dancing, and colors. Then, once at the river, the Ganpati is submerged, taking away all the problems and troubles of his generous hosts.
It is such a festive time here in Pune! There have been fireworks nearly every night. All over the city, there are beautifully decorated Ganpatis and many, many traffic-stopping processions!