This was our first time teaching in a school. We have always been on the other side of the benches before. It was doubly different because we have never been in a village school setup. By village setup, we simply mean where students are from village households, mostly farming households. WhiteEaglesSchool, Devpur is a CBSE affiliated English Medium school with a set of really active students. They play hockey at national level, excel at other sports, have extra-curricular sessions weekly and are dexterously talented when it comes to art and craft.
However, we were entrusted with a task of creating a comfort level with spoken English amongst students. We started by simply observing them converse. It wasn’t hard to guess the reason of their discomfort and grammatical horrors. It’s like expecting a thorough resident of Thar dessert to qualify swimming examination. There simply isn’t any platform to practice.
The kids already know three languages – Hindi, Gujarati and Kuchchhi (though it’s technically not a language). So there is no question about their aptitude. But the avenues to speak and practice English are virtually none. The teachers, themselves being from the village, also are not comfortable instructing completely in English.
This, we thought, was one of the reasons why education in villages isn’t considered great. Our fascination and great dependence on English in day-to-day lives has made village education lose its shine. Also, the availability of good teachers is always an issue in villages. Most qualified teachers would want to settle down in cities or at least towns. The exposure a child gets in the city is again another plus against a village-education.
But, I still am not ready to accept that these students are getting a raw deal by not being born in a city. For one, the sheer cleanliness of the air these kids breathe daily amounts to added years of productivity. The innocence one would have expected in a 12 year old in 1990s is still visible here. These kids don’t grow up bracing themselves from competition as much as their city counterparts and are not exposed to the violence, road rage and other such detrimental aspects as much as the city kids.
As a kid I used to wonder if I would have had a better education had I been born in a larger city. Options to learn and pursue music, arts and other such talents were limited in my home town. So was the awareness of available career options. It has changed now, but I am talking about more than a decade ago.
But as I started living in the cities, I realised I was blessed to have had a childhood so pure. Kids here at Devpur have the whole world as their playground. They understand community living. Neigbours for them are real faces as opposed to flat numbers and they can be seen playing on streets even at 9PM. There is no dearth of options to pursue talents. Though they can’t do an advanced course in Salsa or Karate, they have access to the traditional arts and craft – music, rogan, lipan, lacquer work, the list is endless. What’s more, they have the time to pursue these arts. Their daily commute is of few hundred meters. And their life isn’t marred with traffic.
The exposure gap can be bridged if there are more schools like the White Eagles. There are numerous subscriptions to all sorts of magazines and pretty decent library. Mr. Krutarthsinh Jadeja, principal and member of the founding family of the school, has a vision that ensures a well rounded development of students. He has an eye for spotting talent and has recruited teachers from outside Devpur, some from non-teaching backgrounds. The fact that the school and the home stay is with in the same boundary is a great advantage too. Guests from all nationalities and professions interact with students giving them a very unique exposure. Although still on a 2G network, the village nevertheless has internet connectivity which can be used for an advantageous exposure. In the times of internet, the reach of information can not be and should not be a factor boggling down education in any part of the country.
I know so many people who became well versed with foreign languages at later stages of their lives, because they needed to. So these kids may pick up English or Salsa later at university, if they so choose to; but the innocent, pollution-free, wholesome childhood that they are living now is what will shape them.