- Preethy (Curriculum Support & Facilitator)Gubbachi is a bridge program for children who are out of school or are vulnerable to dropping out. These are children whose families are battling larger battles of survival and see no easy options of educating their child.
These are also children, who as individuals, have ‘copped out’ of the education system and are seeing no meaning in schooling either because they have had no access to it (due to circumstances above) or their brush with a school in the past was not a meaningful one.
How do we restore this child’s faith and trust in the school, so she/he doesnot ‘prefer’ dropping out over attending school, other than her circumstances making her do so?
Even before we address learning levels, this is a clear (but unstated) agenda that we have to fulfill in our classrooms, once the child enters our centre.
The child’s memory is overflowing with horrors of corporal punishment and a negation of self worth in many insidious ways. Children have shared with us, almost unanimously, routine caning practices. Many come into our centre on the first day unsure of what to expect; often crying and refusing to enter. Learning to them is associated with fear and coercion.
In very small, but simple ways we try to address this issue on a daily basis and have gained noticeable success in the last 4 months of our existence. It is the vocabulary of the school–a subtle but powerful presence in any school/classroom– that is important and can make or mar a relationship of trust.
- Assure the child upfront and vocally that “no one here will beat you”. Corporal punishment is a non negotiable rule in Gubbachi.
- Accept the child’s mother tongue and culture as a valid means of communication and way of life. In our daily morning ‘circle time’ we use both Kannada and Hindi to communicate and encourage the child to express his thoughts in his mother tongue- which might also be Telagu, Tamil, Mythli…We also talk about the child’s region and mention the state (eg “Bihar or Maharashtra”) so the other children understand geographies other than their own (predominantly North Karnataka).
- During learning, assure the child clearly that being ”wrong” will not invite censure or derision but will lead to more learning. Praising small “successes” strengthens the child’s self belief.
- ‘Start where the child is at.’ This is a powerful idea that educationists have supported over the years. While the idea takes off from liberal ideas in education of self enrichment and autonomy, we have seen that it need not be a difficult/foreign concept to be boxed as a ‘good- to- have- but- impractical- in our system’ idea!
Do we have another choice, if we want to retain and sustain this child’s trust?
‘Child centric’ and child friendly’ therefore are not mere true ideas (out there), but are ideas (essential for us at GUBBACHI) that act as our polestar and must continue to be for the rest of this journey.