Although I enrolled as a volunteer to the Umang Foundation Trust as a requirement from the college I attend, it truly proved to be a fruitful experience. My very first class as a volunteer teacher was very different from what I thought it would be like. I entered with the teacher in charge who was nice enough to offer me some tea and inducted me into what I should expect. I was the only volunteer present that day and I was quite shocked by the number of children I had to teach. I taught about seven children that day. I didn’t realize how hard it would be teaching so many different children belonging to so many different grades.
I noticed how little some children actually knew about what they were learning. It was shocking that a fourth grader couldn’t associate the sounds of alphabets, in both Hindi and English, with their corresponding letters. Later, I found out that the boy suffers from a learning disorder. Unsurprisingly, his younger brother faced the same issues. It was really disheartening to know that they would not be able to avail the kind of education they actually required. However, I found solace in the fact they could attend these classes to get that little extra help they needed.
There were very bright students that did excessively well. I found it funny how a few of them would insist on staying longer so they could complete work while the rest happily flocked home. A subject that most kids seemed to learn with ease was Math, possibly due to the lack of linguistic skills required to learn it. Teaching English proved to be the hardest. Every second word in the textbook demanded the meaning of its Hindi counterpart. I was exposed to a science textbook completely written in Hindi. I probably learned more from that session than that boy did.
On an odd occasion, I had to take a very small girl to relieve herself at the washroom. A student brought the keys to the common bathroom in the area, but the girl was unable to use that washroom. Then I went on to take her to own house, where nobody was present. Finally we went to her neighbour’s house. This provided me an insight into their lives. Two other girls accompanied me and to them, it almost seemed like a fun trip with their “didi”. In a way, I too, see them as an extension of my own family now. In October we actually went for the Esperance event and on the bus ride there, the children were more excited than I’d ever seen them. As the speakers went on to give their speeches the children waited in a different room with a foosball table to receive an award. Watching them try to play with a table without a ball and broken pieces was perhaps the purest thing I’ve seen, really put the term ‘jugaad’ into application. I went to volunteer thinking I’d be teaching them, but the children provided me with more insight than I could fathom. I learnt more from them than I could ever teach them.