During his stop-over at Mumbai on his way to Rajasthan, Ed Forrest (Co-founder & CEO of Educate for Life) was here to speak to students of the M.A Elementary Education Course at TISS. I happened to attend the talk since I was on campus. After the presentation I had a chance to meet with Ed and speak to him about our work and also understand what they do at their School- Hunar Ghar.
What started as a chance meeting with Ed has now, nearly a year later, turned into a wonderful partnership between Apni Shala, Educate for Life and the entire team at Hunar Ghar, the innovative school in rural Rajasthan that Educate for Life established in 2007. Starting with just 60 first generation learners, they now have 258 and are busy constructing classrooms to increase that even more next year. They integrate education with health and community work to transform life opportunities for children from community.
We have recently started on our journey of working with the team at Hunar Ghar on integrating Life Skills education as a part of their teaching learning processes.
As a part of our first phase of work, our team visited the school to understand the existing routines and processes, the socio-econo-cultural context of the teachers and students, resources and strengths of the team at Hunar Ghar. We visited the school and the nearby community for three days and got to speak to the teachers and children of the school, observe their classes, meet with community members and parents of children coming to Hunar Ghar.
On our arrival, we were welcomed by a team of dedicated and passionate individuals working with Educate for Life and the school- Hunar Ghar. We arrived at school close to lunch time. Children from the school were busy having lunch which is made in the school kitchen by the women from the community. We met the principal Chandrakantji who showed us to our first classroom for observation. A humble, enthusiastic, warm and welcoming classroom of students was getting ready for their lesson on Helen Keller (A chapter in their Hindi language textbook). Ajitji, the Hindi teacher, was putting together all the material he needed and then began his lesson with recapping the last one. Soon after our observation we visited a house of one of the families in the community. Coming from an area in the city of Mumbai, where electricity and water is not a very big challenge, to learn that the village of Bakhel has only recently received electricity supply gave us a sense of the challenging circumstances within which the team at the school is working. We also learnt about the incidence of mortality and the lack of enough health care services in the area.
Our second day began with interacting with the teachers at the school. They shared with us what their backgrounds (educational) are and also spoke about what they try out in their classrooms to create great learning opportunities for students. We went on to discuss the challenges they face and then observed classroom lessons. The rest of the day we had a chance to conduct an hour long workshop with the kids. Our last day was spent in conducting workshops with children and also individually speaking to some of the teachers. At the end of the three days we realized that we had learnt so much from the children and the teachers ourselves: being resourceful, adapting to changing circumstances, orientation to learning from others, and the humility while doing all of this!
It is so heartening and inspirational to see the hardwork and relentless efforts by the entire team, whether it is bringing in organizations from other parts of the country to build capacity or ensuring that students have a meal at school so their parents do not worry, or organizing regular medical camps for students and mothers to help keep them healthy, the team at the school is doing a splendid job to ensure the children are learning and are happy being at school!
We can’t wait for our next visit to the school when we will have longer and more intense conversations with the team around life skills and learning.