Sunday, October 27, 2013

From India

The photo above is my conversational English class at a small girls school in the south of Tamil Nadu, India. My friend and I are here volunteering as English teachers for 5 weeks, participating in a program to educate girls, to give them an opportunity to see English as a spoken language, and to encourage their ongoing education.
The girls school provides an intensive education to girls who have started school late (usually about 9-10 yrs) after having either been working on family farms, or in factories or cottage industry to help their families. The school offers years 6, 7 and 8 and prepares the students for the high school exam. they have 3 years to complete their primary school education.If they pass their high school entry exam, and they want to go to high school, there is very little government funding to support them. Many of the girls at our school could not continue their education without the support of the NGO I am working with - ODAM.
My friend and I have two classes at the primary school, and we are also leading a discussion and reading group at the girls hostel, managed by ODAM. I wanted to share with you a small joy for us this week.
My friend and I first came to work with ODAM in 2007, and some of the girls we taught then are now in our hostel English discussion group. It's such a pleasure to see them still interested in English - especially when English is never used in these rural parts of south India. In 2007 we taught the girls an Australian song - Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree - but they were still young and struggled with some of the words. This week (6 years laters) they asked us to help them with the last line of that song.
Another highlight for us was when I proposed the idea to the discussion group about reading English news papers - there three or four girls who were really keen. I raised this with the Directors, who said we could get a subscription for the hostel if we thought it would be helpful. For me this is great progress on several levels - a) We've found something that the girls are interested in that links their world to English, b) it gives us something in common to discuss, and c) it will bring the other hostel girls in contact with English in a practical sense.
Its been a wonderful experience to come back to see the girls growing up, and to find that our relationships with them are life long. Some of the girls we've taught over the past 6 years are now in college or university studying nursing, zoology, arts and science. Some of our girls have pursued tailoring training (probably one of the most common qualifications for women in this district) and office administration.
Still, funding for the work of the hostel is critical. The hostel has had to undergo some serious renovations to meet government regulations so they can achieve the standards required for some government funding. We are currently looking at purchasing 25 bunk beds so the girls don't have to sleep on floor mats. Any support is welcomed - visit here to make a donation.
Our girls performing for us on our first day at the school.

More updates soon.