India has stepped into its 75th year of Independence and there is a feeling of change in the air; Azadi ka Amrit Mohotsav is displayed in prominent places and recently I spotted it at the Ahmedabad airport. I thought it was opportune to visit the city over the Easter break and I found it adorned with the night lights and a rich history as I drove past the Sabarmati Aashram close to the river front. India has been on my mind and heart for a few years now and it is an absolute pleasure to be here since March working alongside two organisations as an educational consultant to bridge the gaps for the foundational Literacy and Numeracy skills through Computational Thinking for underprivileged children in two slum schools in Dehradun in Uttarakhand; Sneha and Shifa-one means love and the other healing. I am also working with a rural school in Gadoli, in Pauri Garhwal, which provides primary education to students from remote villages.
Now that I am in India and have connected with all the three Sonrisa Learning Centres, it is inspirational and rewarding to continue the thought-provoking pedagogical conversations that started 6 months ago in New Zealand. These are the people invested in making an equitable difference in the approaches to teaching and learning for the slum children. As an educational consultant, along with suggestions on improving the physical environment, my deliverables are to equip the educators with pedagogical strategies for teaching and learning in the classroom and capture the learning progression as snapshots for their students. This also entails running teacher workshops for the staff to help them implement the foundational journey that is being developed based on the Indian National Educational Policy mandated in 2020. I also had the privilege to run an introductory workshop with the Viva India team to give them a preview into the new policy and some of the implementation strategies; both sessions ended in a Lego challenges (metaphorical and physical) of building strong foundations for the tallest towers to represent the building blocks put in place for the students for their learning journey in early years.
It has been invaluable to collaboratively work with the three teams from Sneha, Shifa and Godoli. We are fortunate that we have designated classroom spaces for setting up the Sonrisa Learning Centres and it has been exciting to see these spaces transformed with new furniture, wall display spaces and whiteboards over the last few weeks as the students start their new academic year on the 4th of April 2022. Our goal for the first 3 weeks was to incorporate the Earth Day celebration in the curricular activities as we worked towards building a plastic bottle greenhouse based on a the design of the 1 +1 > 2 architectural company. The environmental theme was woven around the story of Bagh, a spotless leopard who lives in the Himalayan cedar forests and thinks he is a cat. The Grade 1 and the Upper Kindergarten students narrated the story of Bagh’s antics and his journey to the noisy and polluted city, to their parents and wrapped up with a song about sowing seeds wisely.
Stepping into the next phase of the collaborative planning cycle, the lead teachers from Shifa will be spending a day at Sneha and help with the evaluative reflection of the programme delivered in the classrooms. I am so impressed with the calibre of the teaching and the ability to embrace change that the teachers are able to bring to the table; it is indeed a privilege to serve a group of such a dedicated and committed teaching community.