Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Illiterate Children Write for the First Time!

Yesterday evening we had our second day of classes for the women and children from slum areas in Faridabad! The children arrived a little late, but they got to work right away. First, our teacher distributed some personal-sized chalkboards to each of our students, which they enjoyed very much! The smaller children practiced counting English numbers and writing the number "1" on their boards. Vicky was a natural with his chalk, and he even moved on to drawing the number "2." I have never seen a child take more interest in drawing the same number, repeatedly, at any angle, as I have seen Vicky! Badal was just getting the hang of how to hold the chalk and write properly, so we could only have him practice the number "1." Ajay was pretty good at drawing, like Vicky, but he has less patience, so we moved on to listening exercises with him, while the rest continued practicing writing with chalk. Nancy was very good at learning numbers, as she practiced writing each number for the first time, while saying each number's English translation while she wrote. Mohini already knew how to write numbers, but she did not know any symbols from the English or Hindi alphabets: so, we taught her ten symbols, and practiced each of them one by one with her. After mixing up each of the symbols, she was still able to distinguish the correct characters and their appropriate pronunciation.

Otherwise, most of the children came dressed in better clothing, which was a nice surprise to see that they have some emotional support from their family to acquire education. When the children first arrived, I took some pictures of them with my camera, and then showed them the photos: Ajay erupted in laughter, his only reaction to seeing a photo of himself for the first time! Every photo we showed the children resulted in Ajay's bursts of laughter, which rang like music to Mohini's (his mother's) ears. At the end of the day, we played for them a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon, which they relished! They had never once seen a cartoon or computer in their lives, and it was a special moment for the Ek Koshish team and I to witness their bliss. I wish we could do more to give these children, and all children living in shambles, back their childhood, which too many of us take for granted!

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