The samata.shiksha team visited this school in Vablewadi in April. This ISO-certified ZP school is easy to locate on Google Maps. As you enter the school, at one end you see a neatly trimmed garden, while at the other end is an open stage for the students. The garden has tiles with letters of the alphabet, numbers, and mathematical symbols. The walls of the small building with a tiled roof are bright and colourful, displaying the names of rivers, Maths and Science formulas, and the meanings of English words.The first stop inside the school building is the Science centre, or laboratory. Then comes the Computer lab, and the Art class. Visiting the school in April, during the summer vacations, we were surprised to find a group of students in the Science centre, and amazed to learn that they were trying to make a vacuum cleaner! As we stood looking around us, we noticed that the lab was full of models and simple tools and equipment. There was a model of the solar system that moved mechanically, models of our digestive and respiratory systems. There was a miniature dam, an engine of a four-wheeler and even a model of a solar water heater. And there were many charts, explaining various scientific and mathematical concepts.
On emerging from the Science lab we noticed a group of students under the shade of a tree, busy drawing. Another group was doing a handicraft activity with a teacher, while still others were engrossed in reading. We were a little baffled to see the school bustling with activity during vacations! Just then the school Principal, Dattatreya Warey, came up to us with a smile. He laughingly explained, “Here we don’t need to ask the students to come to school, but we certainly have to ask them to go back home! Even during the holidays, they spend four hours in school every morning. They might read, fiddle about on the computer, or work in the garden. Unlike in the cities, parents here cannot afford to send their children to hobby classes, so we have made all those things available right here in school.”This school is different from others in several ways. The students are not divided up on the basis of age and standard. Often, students of different ages assemble in one class to study the same subject at the same time. This was made possible by Warey ‘Sir’, who studied the Maths and Science textbooks prescribed for Std 1 through 8, and identified the concepts that were common across these. He then ensured that there would be enough practicals in the labs for students from each standard or age group. In this way, when students of different ages come to the lab together, they can study and work without disturbing each other. Marbles, ice cream sticks, coloured beads etcare used to teach matrhs concepts.
Art class works like a welcome break, where students go to learn needlework, craft, or gardening. The classroom has a permanent exhibition of the handicrafts made by students.
The school has a novel concept, that of “teacher-mate”, according to which the teacher explains the basic concept, and then the students study on their own. Each subject has a group leader who helps other students in the group. This builds a sense of mutual collaboration, with students approaching the teacher only when necessary. This method originated from the constructivist principal that “a child learns by herself”, as also from the school’s custom of teaching students of different ages simultaneously.
Further, each topic is taught by relating it to several subjects. For example, while teaching the water cycle, just as the occurrence of rainfall is explained scientifically, the link between deforestation and decreased rainfall is also made. While teaching how trees emit oxygen and help rainfall, a poem on rains and the formula for water is also taught.
This school is among the few in the state where students do not carry a schoolbag, as each student has a tab. Warey ‘Sir’ recounts the interesting story of how the school acquired these tabs. “Every year, the village has a fair dedicated to the local deity. As you might expect, the fair offers entertainment for children as well as adults. The entire village used to look forward to the ‘Tamasha’ (a traditional theatre performance with song and dance) that was always a part of the fair. That year at the planning meeting for the fair, I put across the need to have tabs and computers for our students. I explained how our children’s future was more important than entertainment, and to my joy and surprise the village council donated the entire amount of Rs 1,20,000 earmarked for the ‘Tamasha’ for our computer lab.” We, the samata.shiksha team applauded the generosity of the villagers.
To be continued…
Blog & Photos: Snehal Bansode-Sheludkar
Translation and editing: samata.shiksha team