Sunday, 24 March 2013

Art Project at Turkahan - stage 1

Turkahan school - the most remote of our Primary schools - has a lovely little library courtesy of Baal Dan whose funding made the school possible and who have continued to support us by sponsoring pupils and providing resources. Libraries in many Indian schools are a disgrace. They are often locked, dusty and uninviting and the books are frequently tattered and stored in closed cases, crammed in, spines out, on shelves that are more often than not out of reach of the smallest children.
Children reading in Guria library

Over the last couple of years we have worked to make our libraries more accessible and pleasant places, to encourage staff and children to come in and read. An image I have used to try to help the schools improve their libraries is to say that the library should be a temple; clean, beautiful, cared for and visited regularly with love and respect. We have started to make some shelves suitable for books for younger children, where the books face outwards and can be easily seen and handled.

Turkahan Library has high ceilings, which helps keep it cooler in the fierce heat of summer, but as we keep the bookshelves to child height, it meant that we had quite an expanse of bare wall high up, which seemed to cry out for decoration. From this the idea of an art project where the children of Turkahan would design and paint a frieze on the library walls was born.
Sanjay - class 7 - drawing

The walls were measured and the space divided into a series of panels. Children were given pieces of paper of the correct dimensions and asked to paint a picture for one of the panels - the subjects were to be religious stories or tales from Indian history. 
The artists drew a grid on the paper so that later their drawing could more easily be transferred to the wall.

Sanjay's completed painting of Hanuman burning Lanka
Once the paintings were completed they were judged and the best and most suitable were chosen for the next stage.

The quality of the paintings submitted was amazing, and the difficulty was to choose from among so many wonderful pieces of work.   

Laxman Shakti by Ravi Shankar - class 4

Many of the pupils chose stories from the great epic poem The Ramayana and the decision was made to take six of these two tell the great story along two of the walls. The remaining two walls would contain pictures of stories from the Mahabharata and historical stories of Rana Pratap, a 16th century ruler of Rajasthan.
Ram resting in the forest by Ashish - class 2

The next stage would be to transfer the pictures onto the walls and the next blog post will show how this was done.
Ram killing Tadka by Gauri and Fuldei - class 7

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Diary of a Volunteer...the final chapter...(at least for this year!)

Wednesday 27th
Lesson for today…don’t put liquid soap on your hands before checking to see if the water is on…
On duty at half eight …all the teachers that came over to help with yesterday stayed over and so not to pass over an opportunity when we have them all together we  have fitted in a  teacher training session…more phonic games taught and sounds embedded… then I passed them on to Anne who spent the rest of the day updating them on the new English syllabus. The rest of the day was spent writing up plans and talking to the children.
Being in India has literally been a life changing experience….mostly for the good, but worryingly I seem to be developing a liking for a nightly Kingfisher beer and the occasional night in front of the “tele”..(or in our case…Robin’s Laptop) watching a blood and guts western…I think I’m turning into my father!
Thursday 28th
Last day of February…Turkahan to day; the roads have deteriorated over the last couple of weeks as a result of the rain we’ve had and so, coupled with the fact that it’s beginning to get really hot, and windows can’t be wound down because of the dust,  the drive is getting less and less pleasant. It’s worth it though….the “littlies” at Turkahan are now completely at ease with me and we had a lovely time playing. Today Vinod and I tried to make a video to show how much progress we’ve made with the phonics program…not only does he teach like me, he also takes videos as badly as I do…we used up nearly two memory sticks and there’s about three minutes worth of decent footage!!! We had a lot of fun doing it though…and the children can confidently recognise, blend, encode words containing and write the /ue/ phoneme…back to Guria and more planning…then a relaxing half hour with the girls. After having a head and leg massage…while the girls took over my ipad to watch all the videos I’ve taken during my time here, we had an impromptu dancing class. They were singularly unimpressed by my ballet moves, slightly more interested in the tap but thoroughly enjoyed my making a fool of myself as I attempted to dance their welcome song and Krishna routines!

Friday 1 March
The girls turned up in the flat looking very glamorous in their “civvies”…no school today as all the teachers are in Guria for a teachers meeting; the year 10 girls are going home for the weekend to revise for their exam. The Teacher’s meeting was a chance for Robin to give certificates to the staff to acknowledge their hard work…one went to Manjou for best improved Pre School teacher…a very worthy recipient….I am very fond of her, she has really made an effort to develop the right atmosphere in the pre-school  and I love the way she is around the “littlies”…but best improved?...we only have the one preschool!
I spent the afternoon planning and then Robin Anne and I enjoyed our last supper from “the Ritz” together…chilli paneer…and a bottle or two of cold Kingfisher…
Saturday 2nd
A whole weekend off! Kusum and Wendy picked us up at 9 and we headed off to Varanasi for a girlie day of shopping and lunch out…First stop the bank!  We visited Mother India, a temple but not for worshipping. On the floor is a map on India cut from blocks of marble. It’s quite a work of art. Next stop the gullies. We weren’t allowed to take the bicycle rickshaw down the main road, Varanasi is full of pilgrims; mainly from southern India …tomorrow is a special dipping day. Finding a seat in any restaurant was almost impossible…all the southern Indian restaurants were full…and the southern Indian dishes on the menu of the restaurant we finally squeezed into had long since run out! For a change I had chilli paneer. After lunch and a bit of a set to with our driver we dropped Anne and Wendy off at their hotel and set off back to Raipuri. Kusum hired a taxi for the day. It’s about 45 miles from Raipuri to Varanasi; the driver took us to the bank, to the Temple and to the Gullies, he then stayed with the car because he wasn’t convinced it was that secure even when locked..hence the set to as he hadn’t had any breakfast or lunch and it was 4 o’clock by the time we’d finished eating and returned to the car park. What we didn’t know that before he’d picked Kusum up he’d been to Lucknow…quite a considerable distance away. Anyway we finally got back to Raipuri at 7.30pm. For the day, our taxi and driver cost 14,000 rps…less than the cost of a single taxi fare from Derby to Repton!
Supper of Kerelan vegetable stew..delicious..no bigli and almost no generator….Kusum is having difficulty getting her gas bottle exchanged due to the black market trade so it was nearly salad!
Sunday 3rd
A wonderfully relaxed day; reading, crosswords and lovely conversation. Another vegetable stew tonight, this time with Punjabi flavours….amazing what a difference a few cloves and some cinnamon can make.
Monday 4th
Back to Guria…a productive day in the office, Chap from Cambridge University Press didn’t show…which is a bit of a blow…
Tuesday 5th
Hasra and Patehra today with Vinod; carefully manipulated timetable to ensure that I would be having lunch at Hasra. The cook there makes the most amazing pickle and it has Robin’s vote for the best rice. Super day teaching…one child at Patehra sounded out barbecue perfectly, completely independently. I’m not sure when she’ll ever have cause to use the word but…barbecue is a pretty impressive word to read when you live in a hut and your parents are probably illiterate.
Back to Guria to play badminton with Dopali and then to sit on the roof and watch the sunset, which is always spectacular.
Then back to work ….I’ve completed the basic code plans and have almost finished the first 6 weeks of the alternative spellings. Still got a report  to finish and resources to make….busy busy busy…
Wednesday 6th
Another bumpy drive, today… visited Amoi….mango pickle…swadisht!...and Patehra…where the girls made excellent  pakori… I did manage to fit in some phonics related work between the scoffing sessions!. We went a different route to avoid some of the road works…Northern India really has some of the most beautiful scenery, and the two hour drive soon passes. Lesson for today: We had been driving  along a remote single track road and were approaching a village when a gang of men, who appeared to have constructed a crude but very effective speed bump across the road, stood in front of the car and one of them, wearing a bandana around his head approached the driver side. He and Daktar had a very serious conversation which involved much head shaking and hand waving and then Daktar reached for his wallet and gave the man money…being female I didn’t look at the men or say anything but was a little concerned for Daktar, …I was very confused when another of the “gang” gave Daktar a receipt for the money he’d just handed over…turns out the men are building a temple and were asking for donations, they had chosen the speed bump as the place to approach travellers…quite sensibly…as they had to slow down anyway! Daktar was quite serious because I guess the men were telling him why they wanted to build the temple…what did my Mum teach me…you should never judge a book …!!!
Thursday 7th.
Sadly cancelled Mujehra…my tummy decreed no more car journeys, so it was a day in the office for me today plus two lessons with year 2 in the morning…lovely! Started work at 6.30 this morning and came back to the flat with every intention of continuing to work at 7.00…Dipali had other plans for me…she had brought henna and I am now sporting a very classy mendi…however as it takes two hours for the henna to dry so no more typing. I think in hindsight she did me a favour! Last night I was “persuaded” to download some Indian music and a Bollywood film onto my ipad…so this evening we sat and watched Aaina…or at least part of it…I have the rest to look forward to tomorrow night!
Friday 8th
Can’t believe this is my last full day …I went up on the roof this morning to watch the sunrise. The surrounding fields were covered with an early morning mist… sunrise and sunset are quite spectacular here…something else for me to miss! I started work at about 6.30 as the girls were heading over to the cookhouse for breakfast. About 30 minutes later I heard noises on the roof…naturally I went to investigate…suspecting pigeons…you can never tell what they may be plotting next, always good to be one step ahead of them…but it wasn’t, it was the girls, stripping twigs off the neem tree. We provide the children with toothbrushes but they prefer to use the neem sticks to clean their teeth…
Home tomorrow...will miss everything about being here....mostly the children....am already getting excited about 2014!
Visit this link: http://www.projectmala.org.uk/content /en/school-link.aspx to find out what I'll be doing next!

Sunrise: the view from the roof