Little angel - Samreen
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As we start a new academic year, meet Pranshi - the new teacher in this classroom and her little angels.
8 year old Samreen* sits quietly in a corner with a smile on her face as her new didi walks in. The curiosities that are bubbling inside of her is evidently shared by 32 other classmates of hers, who are all moving on to the 4th grade this year. They’re all sitting on their mats on the ground. Eyes shining and locked on this new person. Hands by their side. Books opened. Criss cross applesauce.
Any teacher’s undisputed heaven.
And then it begins.
Two weeks into teaching these 16 boys and 16 girls in the 4th grade of Government Public School, Gandhinagar, I realize these are no ordinary people. And they’re definitely not what they looked like on my first day. These are kids who like to create havoc, to run around screaming for no particular reason, who would at any given day decide that they’re just not in the mood to study.
But wait till you hear this: these same of bunch of little kids are the ones to get in the classroom and pick up the mats they sit on first thing in the morning, pick up the broom and clear the room up all nice and tidy. These are the kids who’d debate every rule and every moral preaching of mine till they find a loophole and get that ball to play with during lunch time, because they’re just smart that way. The wave of energy that flows through the air of the room that these kids occupy is so electric it left me intimidated and apprehensive of my own capabilities of monitoring it.
And amidst all this is Samreen. This little angel with a sunshine for a smile and sparkling stars for eyes has come a long way since Teach For India came happened two years ago. Back in her 2nd grade, when Meghna didi stated there be perseverant efforts to talk only in english, she was one of the first warriors to actually comply. Today if there needs to be any communication where strong memory, logical reasoning and imagination is the prerequisite, Samreen is your girl. What struck me about Samreen is that when I was talking to her to find out the kind of exposure these kids have had in the past and the ways of teaching they're used to, she could remember most of her experiences in the class in the past two years with remarkable details.
Apart from TFI, Samreen's confidence and achievements have got a lot to do with the household she comes from. A family of eight, where she's grown up with five other siblings, Samreen has three younger siblings whose education she considers her own responsibility. Every day after school she goes back to teaching them what she's been learning and then helps her mother with chores, and there's undoubtedly a strong thread of love that binds that family together, something that's evident in the way she likes to talk about her father, "He sometimes gets angry didi. But everybody gets angry. My father has a lot of patience. He only asks us not to make the mistake again."
After the training in the beginning of the fellowship, a month back to be precise, I had all these virtuous ideas of bringing a change and introducing things from my end of it. But after knowing these kids my vision for the class has changed tremendously. And this is just the beginning. I'm starting to see the diverse potential for drama, music, dance, academics that this bunch contains which has been giving rise to an immense amount of dreams in me for them. As difficult it is to narrow those dreams down to units of achievements, I feel highly motivated to take those baby steps for the sake of these souls who so far have been going along with my sometimes tedious daily plans with a gratifying patience.
Even before I can begin to realize my vision, there are some issues surrounding the daily lives of these children that are begging to be acknowledged. Apart from the regular hindrances of vandalism in school due to lack of infrastructure, theft of academic material and littering in school premises; domestic violence, gender discrimination, poverty and even gender abuse, I've been told, are the demons holding them back. As imprinting as they are in their lives, they also are the major obstacles in the exposure that these kids deserve, which is what I intend to address in the two years of fellowship with them. These very societal obstacles, however constricting, are the very foundations of the people they fundamentally are; and I want them to retain these sensibilities in them. I want them to be able to decide for themselves what works and what doesn't work for a society to function smoothly and be the changemakers of it accordingly. And for this to happen, I want theatre to be a potent tool that helps them get there. I intend to give these kids the platform of theatre and music so they can express themselves freely. What this means is hard work, and rigorous, very rigorous reflection.
Knowing these kids, I'm confident they're going to sail through it and I wouldn't even know when it got over.
*Names changed to protect identity of beneficiaries
My kids all energetic for the day