Over an unbelievably tasty meal provided by the school of rice and curry, we were humbled by not only the generosity but also the talents of these women we are proud to have as our teachers at Patashala.
Committed, previously uneducated women from Yellemabanda somehow manage to balance running homes with limited means and bringing up their own children with full time work at a school of 200 children ranging from 3-13. Not only are they challenging social norms by being working mothers from the dalit community (the lowest caste), but through a programme set up by Hyderapals we are supporting them as they gain qualifications in teaching. It is with great pride and delight that we can now report that 7 of our teachers have completed BTECS, 6 teachers have completed their 12th standard and three have started degrees.
Our trip to the school this October enabled us to join in lessons, have time with the very special teachers, honour their achievements and head up a project on space which culminated in a trip to the planetarium for all of years 2,3, 4,5, and 6. To hear the audible ‘wow’, as the children witnessed the planetary projection show took our breath away. The previous day we had created a solar system mural on their class wall, taught them key facts about each planet (later turned into posters for the walls) and demonstrated the planetary orbits with children orbiting each other holding a number of different sized balls (and in the case of Saturn, a hula hoop!).
As for the trip to the planetarium, this commenced with an early start and 50 very excited children and their 7 teachers having to walk up a steep hill that defeated the rickety local bus we had hired. The effort was well worth it. By the end of the day the children not only been dazzled by the planetarium show and a bonus 3D film about the oceans, but had seen a skeleton of a real dinosaur and paid a visit to the Hyderabad science museum. This is a wonderfully interactive place where the students were able to pull themselves up on pullies, sit on a gyroscope seat and engage with light, sound , wind, air gravity, weight and speed as they discovered each individual exhibit.
After a lunch of samosas and juice, a few “hokey cokeys” and Rachel’s favourite “chicken has a wing” song, it was time for the children to go back to the bus and head home.
The next day we were able to build on the lessons learnt, discover further space facts and create a further colourful mural to add to the solar system with posters displaying the facts the students had learnt.
It took a lot to ensure the teachers resisted the urge to only let the children who could write beautifully display their work. Our aim is always to ensure that there is ownership of the school space for each child; when home becomes challenging we want to ensure that school is a safe place where they feel they belong.
That the school continues to be cherished by our students even after they have left was demonstrated when we saw a former pupil coming after school to give lessons to older children who were having difficulties with their studies, We later learnt that this was an initiative set up by the ex-pupil herself.
It is a privilege to engage with the teachers and children of Patashala. It puts life into perspective when we are blessed with so much and they are doing the best they can with the little they have. The kindness of those who give time and money to help Hyderapals lets them know that they are cared for and regarded as precious.
With no administrative overheads – just a set of trustees who care – we ensure that every penny donated goes to them directly.