Friday, 15 March 2013

Book Bus India has begun!

Day one of week one of a brand new project finds 5 eager, yellow shirted people in the back of a jeep heading out to school with our bags of books and supplies, not really knowing what to expect.

We pass through dusty dry farmland, spotting the occasional gazelle and camel and attracting the stares of other drivers and pedestrians but the stares soon turn to smiles and waves when we smile back
We could never have imagined the welcome we would receive! We arrived at the small village where Monday’s school is located. We were asked to get down in the village centre and were greeted by traditional drums, which when beaten, tell the villagers that something is happening. We were soon the centre of attention with village elders in white clothes and turbans, women in beautiful brightly coloured saris and children of all ages crowded around us. Almost all the villagers don't speak English but their smiles and handshakes told us that they were happy to have us there. In this area of Rajasthan, Hindi is the common language, and the medium of teaching in all rural schools. English is taught as a second language, as we would learn French or German at school.

We then followed the drummers in a procession to the school, Jajiwal Brahumana. It is a small school, with 3 teachers and 79 pupils in classes 1 to 5.

We then had to dance together with some local people in the middle of a circle of curious onlookers and all the school children. Everyone was extremely happy and I think our dancing was the source of much amusement, especially when all the professionals disappeared and left just the yellow shirted visitors dancing!

It was then onto speeches, tea and flower garlands. What a wonderful, colourful and vibrant welcome.

We decided to work together as a group for all sessions in week one and we based all activities on the theme of colour. We wanted to be able to gauge the different levels of the various classes and at each of the 5 schools. 3 of the schools are class 1 to 5 and the other 2 are class 1 to 8. The largest school has only 115 pupils and the smallest 57. All schools are government built and run.

We had a fairly basic book about a dog involving a high level of repetition and various colours and we adapted this book for the different age groups, from interactive storytelling to individual reading. We used visual aids, worksheets and multi coloured paper to make the lessons fun and lively. Over the course of the week we adapted our technique and refined our activities according to what we experienced each day. It was a steep but very enjoyable learning curve.

At all 5 schools during the week we were warmly welcomed by the teachers, many of whom don’t speak English but all of whom are happy to have Book Bus in their school. The children we have met are enthusiastic and curious. It has been a very rewarding first week and we have all come away with a better idea of how these rural schools operate the needs of the schools, the level of English of the pupils and now we can use this knowledge to plan for the coming weeks.

- Kelly, Group Leader, Book Bus India