Flowers of Honour

Schools are always a bedrock of excitement on the occasion of Teachers Day, not the least for the reason of dressing up as teachers!

RDF Rollakal School, like all RDF schools also paid a fitting tribute to Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and all its management and teachers. However, there was a lovely difference to the celebrations. A social and environmental cause was a part of the celebrations – children were asked to avoid bringing anything made with plastic. Kids are normally keen to give small tokens as gifts to their teachers, therefore, this year, they decided to only present flowers.

The kids collected many flowers and then painstakingly fashioned them into garlands and bouquets – a delight to the eyes and the environment!

The teachers were very moved by the flowery creations and their gesture.

Thank you to the staff for always guiding our children in the right direction, towards greater conscientiousness, responsibility  and honouring themselves, their community and the planet!

 

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Traditions, not Trends!

Urban areas are witnessing a revival of traditional arts, crafts and food practices. Organic bazaars are de rigeur in many parts of Hyderabad and across the country and people gleefully buy local produce, organic fruits and vegetables and traditionally prepared spices and delicacies. This is a very positive trend.

However, in rural communities, such as those that RDF works in, traditional has never been ‘trending’! Generations old practices still find their rightful place amongst families. Children grow up with mortars and pestles and stone grinders instead of expensive food processors. These traditional methods are something the villagers are proud of and hence teach these practices to the next generation. Since RDF staff also belongs to the same communities that the children belong to, discussions on culture and traditions take place very normally and within the context of their social and cultural reality. The schools also support these practices which have been proven to be more beneficial and healthy for people and the environment.

To say the least, food prepared the traditional way tastes absolutely heavenly – every urban visitor to an RDF school is testament to that fact!

Making Magic!

Children and even many adults across the world are enchanted with Harry Potter’s world of magic! In India, shows by local magicians are an essential part of childhood that remain in our memories for a long time. Even adults are not immune to the charm of magic and trying to learn a few tricks to amaze their families and friends!

Ventriloquism in action!

A troupe of magicians was invited to RDF Matendla School in order to create an atmosphere of fun, excitement and enjoyment for children as well as staff. The magicians wowed the audience with over 40 tricks and ventriloquism. Everyone was amazed and delighted with the tricks on display.

Learning tricks time!

The icing on the cake was when the children got to learn some tricks from the masters! Now we have these budding magicians happily showing their new found prowess to their friends and families!

We are grateful to the magicians who provided a day of entertainment and fun to our children and giving them a lifetime of memories! It was an absolutely magical day! Thank you!

Immersion in New Traditions

Vinayak Chaturthi is a huge festival across the length and breadth of India; celebrated in a multitude of ways by the ardent followers of Lord Ganesha.

In recent years, there has been widespread coverage on the damage done to river systems and other water bodies due to the immersion of POP idols. Sadly, many people continue this ritual despite the sustainable alternative of using clay being easily available. At the same time, we are happy to see many groups using clay idols to venerate Lord Ganesha.

RDF schools have been making clay idols for 10 years, including getting the larger community involved. This year, the students and staff made clay idols together and distribute these idols to villagers. The children, as in previous years, with the strong belief and desire to make sustainable changes, went around surrounding villages to motive villagers to only use clay idols.

It was amazing to see the dexterity with which the kids shaped and moulded the idols and the enthusiasm with which they approached their elders and community to become more aware and conscious citizens, rather than blindly follow rituals. They were able to convert those resistant to the idea of making such a change. Such is the power of belief and conviction for the greater good of society!

On the day of the immersion, the children sang many songs and performed traditional dances on the festive journey to immerse their idols in the local lake and tank. We have seen the positive impact these efforts have brought in the lives of staff and children – right from understanding their role in protecting the environment, to team work and rallying people to a just cause, to using their creative and artistic abilities to fashion beautiful clay idols and seeing the outcome of their positive attitude on the larger community. These real life experiences and skills cannot be learnt in a classroom – they come from engaging and empowering individuals to ‘be the change they want to see in the world’!

Backing the Backbone of India!

Major events and celebrations in schools typically involve inviting a VIP or any other esteemed individual from a high profile profession. These events are seen as opportunities for children to learn from successful individuals. Not so in RDF Kalleda School! On the occasion of the 71st Independence Day celebrations in the school, the staff invited Mr. M. Veera Reddy, a humble farmer from the village to hoist the flag. The reason? Farmers are not typically felicitated in society. More and more young people from rural areas are moving away from traditional farming, seeing it as a difficult and unstable line of work. The school wanted to give a positive message to the children about the importance of farming and the need to give farmers value and respect.

Farmer Veera Reddy was very happy to be invited to hoist the National Flag and give a speech. He gave an important message to the children: “Farmers are the backbone of India because farmers give food to society. If there are no farmers growing food, then there wouldn’t be life!” Very somber and true words indeed! He encouraged the students to work with soil and try their hand at farming too. He said that farming provided him with a lot of satisfaction, despite its inherent difficulties and challenges.

Through this gesture of inviting the farmer, the school hopes to instill strong values and ethics in children to not forget the backbone of India – agriculture. At the end of the day, what Mr. Veera Reddy informed the children was that challenges are present in every profession and that farming is not the most challenging profession; toil and hard work is required in any profession and it is the attitude to the challenges that make the difference.

We agree with him and thank Mr. Veera Reddy for humbly sharing his life experiences and message with our children.

The Power of Community!

School can have a profound impact on the lives of children, in surprising ways that one cannot predict.

Today, we would like to share the stories of two young children who joined the Tech Mahindra Foundation sponsored Government Mandal Parishad Primary School, Bahadurapally. Their stories are very different but show us the importance of community building and maintaining close relationships with the parent and the larger village community.

Md. Sadhiq Khan first joined MPPS last year in Class 1. His two older brothers are happy and settled in the same school. Sadhiq was extremely homesick while in school and distraught at being away from his mother and friends, kept running back home. His teachers made several attempts to coax him back, but seeing how upset he would get, they suggested that the parents not force him to attend school and to let him be. For most of last year, Sadhiq attended school very irregularly and would go back early even on the rare days that he went to school.

This year, his parents again attempted to send him to school regularly, but Sadhiq was still inconsolable at leaving home! Since was was a year older and able to express himself better, the teachers asked him why he was reluctant to go to school. Everyone finally learnt that he missed his friends and playing with them. He wanted his little friends to go to school with him! With that new insight, the teachers, with the parent’s cooperation, assured him that he would make new friends in school. He was taken to his class and introduced to each child personally. They asked the other children to be friends with him and share their toys and things with him. With the compassion shown towards his nature and his needs, Sadhiq, in a matter of a few days, made new friends and now attends school regularly – without a single complaint! He’s happy and cheerful in school, participating eagerly in class and school events, where he has shown talent in speaking activities. We are really happy that Sadhiq has settled in and thank all his teachers for their kindness and effort to integrate him with his classmates!

Sravya joined MPPS this year in Class 2, transferring from another school in the area. Sravya was a bright girl, keenly interested in all subjects and actively participating in extracurricular activities. However, after a month, her teachers noticed that she was looking withdrawn and not engaging fully in class activities. Concerned about this change in her behavior and demeanor, her teachers asked her if there was a problem. Sensing their concern and their kindness, Sravya confided that her father was an alcoholic and abusive towards her mother and this behavior was disturbing her immensely. The teachers decided to visit her parents to counsel them about the detrimental effect the home environment was having on Sravya. The counseling session was taken well by her father who felt remorseful about his behavior. Since that day, he has not imbibed alcohol and lets her mother be. Sravya feels happy with this turn of events and looks at her school and her teachers as her extended family, who will help her in difficult times!

We are very grateful and proud of the efforts being made by the school team to build and nurture these personal relationships with each child’s family. This level of care is rare! These relationships have helped children like Sadhiq and Sravya feel cared for and connected with their school; reciprocally, the parents also know that their children are in good hands and do what they can for the school. That’s the power of a true community!

 

Truly Natural Learning

Learning from the land and learning through one’s interactions with nature can feel idyllic for many city folks. At RDF schools, we feel truly blessed that children still have access to open land, farms, rich nature and her biodiversity! They learn so much through the natural resources around them.

We have written several times about the organic kitchen gardens in each RDF school, which are tended to with great care and love by RDF staff and students. These gardens, affectionately called the ‘Vegetable Farm House’ in Rollakal School, are also a wonderful learning resource for the young ones in pre-primary.  These little ones are eager to get busy in the Vegetable Farm House and they do not even wait to be ‘taught’! First, they happily plucked the ripe vegetables diligently and carefully, amazing us with their instinctive ability to be careful with the harvesting. Then they wanted to count the harvested vegetables, leading to an effortless lesson in ‘addition’. Thereafter, the teacher asked them, “How many are not good?” This led to a meticulous removal of the ones not fit for consumption and another lesson in ‘subtraction’ as well as segregating good produce from bad through working with their sense – maths, science and social science all rolled into one!!

These are activities that RDF school teachers are very proud of.  Not only does this make concepts very easy to understand, it also helps the children bond with the world around them, making it very real and contextual.