Ask any student how they feel about their History lessons and you get sighs, shaking of heads, shrugging of shoulders and responses that typically echo boredom, disinterest and a sense of inevitability. Why do stories of evolution, birth, deaths, wars, social life, culture, lifestyles, festivals, music become reduced to boring lessons and factoids? How can we help students become intrigued with the past, a past we still very much carry within us and see around us? Taking them out of the class to cities and towns of historical significance is a sure way to pique interest. Seeing and feeling the aura of ancient monuments fires the imagination which can create more interest in the texts.
With this very idea, the staff of Matendla School organised a tour for high school students. Bhadrachalam, Medaram, Ramapppa and Warangal were the cities on the itinerary. From travelling to the small tribal village of Medaram, home to the legendary heroic tales of Samakka to Warangal, the seat of the Kakatiya dynasty and also an ancient Prehistoric site, the students were able to see a part of the history of their region and feel its splendour and stories. The students experienced a sense of wonder wherever they went and felt really happy with the tour. To be able to make connections between their tour and their textbooks, the teachers also felt satisfied that they had succeeded in making not just the tour interesting, but plant a seed to make the subject interesting too!
The Reading Program is witnessing an evolution in the Mandal Parishad Primary School, Bahadurapally. While every child is enchanted by a story well told and becomes gripped in its spell, learning to read on their own in a ‘foreign’ language is a challenge. Learning to read, understanding the stories and their characters requires time – something that can be difficult to do due to constraints of the curriculum. However, teachers and school managements are realising the value of dedicated reading time. With this intention, the school created a library period for each primary class, including encouraging students to read in their leisure time too.
With books in their eager hands and an ever increasing group of enthusiastic teachers and volunteers, the children have progressed from being unable to find letters and reading single words, to reading full sentences and making serious attempts to understand the stories they read. Several activities are planned to enable them to improve reading, writing and speaking skills. To us, it is enchanting to see their sincerity, the willingness to take on a challenge in a language they are not familiar with, sharing stories with each other and of course, reaching eagerly for more books!
“The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion— is it worth of the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.” ~ Swami Vivekananda
With this crucial message and the enduring mission of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math – life building, man making, character making and nation building education and training – two of the senior most Swamijis of Ramakrishna Math visited Kalleda School. At RDF, we have also believed that one leg of ‘standing on one’s own legs’ is the spiritual development of children and adults alike.
Swami Jyotirmayananda ji, the Head of Ramarkrishna Math, Hyderabad and Swami Jnanananda ji were invited to address the staff and students at the school on moral and spiritual values, at the behest of the founding members of RDF. With the rapid advancements in urbanization and technology, many feel that the solid ground of human ethics and cooperation, based on spiritual and noble ideals of living and working in harmony, have been gradually eroding. With the rising aspirations of students and resultant stresses of modern living, the valuable message and advice of the Swamijis on the importance of spiritual living came at the right time.
Who doesn’t love the colour, fanfare and the huge family occasions that Indian festivals are? A very enthusiastic group of Class 5 students from Rollakal School decided organize the Bonalu festivities for their community. With a sense of discipline that comes from a sense of purpose, the children bought pots from their local potter. Another group adorned the earthen pots with neem leaves, turmeric and vermillion and lit a diya on top of the pot as they carried them home on their heads, offering ‘bonam’ to the Mother Goddess at the temple. Together with their local community, they celebrated the bliss of a rich harvest and danced the traditional dance with great abandon and gaiety. This was followed by the cooking of the traditional Bonalu meal where rice is cooked with milk and jaggery in the earthen pots and then shared with their families.
India has been witnessing a change in attitudes towards women. It is still slow and still seen only in segments of society, but it is nevertheless a change. Very often these changes are often prescribed to urban pockets, where in the last few decades, more women are completing education, more women are opting for higher education, more women are working independently and becoming income generators for their families. More women are rising through the ranks in organisations and more women are marrying later and continuing to work, after marriage and rejoining the workforce after starting families.
So shifts in mindsets in rural areas can go unnoticed. RDF’s mission is to educate, engage and empower all children and there has been a special emphasis on the girl child. So we celebrate, feel proud and joyful when we see these shifts with our own eyes – like the change in little Prasanna Lakshmi’s family! Much like the increased enrollment of girls in our schools and more support towards these young girls completing their education, Prasanna’s family has been very encouraging of her enthusiasm towards the martial art of ‘Taekwondo’. Believing that their girls have a right to go to school and should pursue activities that interest them is a sea change from the earlier mindset of keeping them at home and getting them married in their teens.
In the near 2 decades that we have been working with rural communities, we have seen girls empower themselves with choices – choices that their mother’s or grandmother’s generation didn’t have. Many come back to help us in various ways – teaching subjects or cultural activities and even donating money to RDF! Prasanna’s family is one of many families who are slowly beginning to understand that society is only enriched by its women and the lesson’s begin right at home – like little Prasanna’s.
Our highest parameter of success – that we are doing good for our students and by our students is when they return as adults and give back to RDF in whichever way they can. Over the past nearly 2 decades, many RDF alumni have enriched our teaching and learning environment through contribution of their time, talent and even money.
The ongoing festive season brought even greater festive spirit to us when the RDF Archery Coach, Mr. Raju conveyed heartwarming news that 2 RDF alumni archers, M. Prasanna Kumar and G. Chandulal donated four dozen arrows, which they procured second hand for RDF students. Their generosity saved the team over Rs. 35,000! This has been an unexpected and delightful gift for RDF!
M. Prasanna Kumar
G. Chandu Lal
Our deepest gratitude and blessings to our large heart alumni who make us so proud!
Parent engagement is crucial to student learning. While students do spend a large portion of their time in school and pursuing school related activities, the awareness and contribution of parents’ time can never be undervalued. The values learnt at home and in school need to coincide so that the child feels supported in both environments.
With this goal, the Mandal Parishad High School organises regular parent teachers meetings in order to increase the involvement of parents in the school and their child’s activities. At the quarterly Parent Teacher Meet organised in December, the school management and staff explained every school activity that was scheduled during the year. A key topic of discussion was personal hygiene and nutrition. Parents were asked to ensure that children brush their teeth and bathe every day, wear clean and neat uniforms. They were also informed about the importance of nutrition beginning with a good breakfast or morning meal and sending their children to school with a bottle of water.
They also appealed to parents to discuss the children’s school activities when they return from school and participate more actively in checking the kid’s learning levels. They were also asked to send children regularly to school and informing the school in advance in case of any absences. Parent records were updated with submission of Aadhar Card copies and updated contact numbers. Thereafter the class teachers had discussions with parents individually about their child’s progress and distributed report cards. Permission was also sought to take the children on a field trip to Salarjung Museum on 5th December. The idea was welcomed by parents which fanned the children’s excitement even more. All 105 parents were thanked for their attendance and show of support for the school.