This was my 1st visit to "learning home". What is this learning home? Ummm… should I call it a school? Nope! Is it an educational institute? Yes… but it still sounds a very big word… I would rather say that it is a small and beautiful homely world - just for children!
Many of us must have experienced in our school days when just for the purpose of some inspection or any minor visit, we all were requested or ( scolded?) to sit neatly, in perfect rows, according to height, and then unanimously say " good morning" or " namasteeeee"…
Gone is that ideology! Learning home has no such army rules. When I was little awkward to enter a group, one small boy said, "hi! Come! Sit here with me!". such a warm greet! Then I joined them. I played a small game with those 1st and 2nd standard students, listened to their stories, songs.
The first thing I noticed was the harmony among those students and also between them and their "taai" ( don't want to call her a teacher!). All were active participants and no one was left out. They were thoroughly enjoying each and every moment. Songs were interesting with lot of humor and acting in it. All were moving, dancing, jumping, and clapping according to their own wish. If anyone doesn't want to move so much, he was free to choose his own way of expression by all means! The whole environment was as fresh as those little champs!
After some time I moved to another group of 4th standard students. All students were engrossed in writing some essay except one who welcomed me by his own style. " why are you here? Who are you? What is your name?" he fired with his AK- 47! I was little fumbled. Such an arrogant attitude! But before I could settle myself to give him a few answers, the same boy held my hand and said, " will you chat with me?".
His name was Rutu. Anyone can easily notice the difference between him and other children. He was sitting on a chair with few cut pieces of sponge. Rutu was unable to walk on his own or even sitting independently without support was not possible. He is a victim of "cerebral palsy". It occurs due to brain lesion in early years of life before myelination of the brain gets completed. Though he was not participating in classroom work, he was all with them! Everyone was taking his care. One small girl came and wiped his mouth. The other came and took all efforts to make him sit properly in a chair. Those small children were taking care that Rutu should never feel that he is not exactly like others, he has certain problems, limitations. If children of year say 7 or 8 can have such a high emotional quotient, why do grown ups not understand such small things? Do they think little more or not at all?? Don't know but " the little prince''(a book written by Antoine De Saint-Exupery) correctly says, " all grown-ups are like that"! I was taken aback by Rutu's knowledge about car. He was no less than any 4th standard student in that class room except certain motor skills. Today, how many children with cerebral palsy go to the school? There are many such patients coming for physiotherapy treatment in our pediatric dept. Very less parents are enthusiastic about their child's education. This attitude is because of physical limitations. So even transport, compliance of the school teacher pose a problem. But here, Rutu was getting mixed up with all. He was happy and energetic! I remembered one incidence from "Tottochan"( a book written by Tetstuko Kuroyanagi) where the headmaster of "Tomoii" school took all efforts to get takahashi and yaasukichan ( both had certain physical limitations) their best physical abilities. Afterall what is school? It is the first exposure to the external world. Here we learn not just the syllabus but also different ways to tackle the problem, different ways to handle the situation, different styles of behaviors, does and don'ts in a particular situation, different angles of looking at life. So, how can we ignore children with physical limitations? Mixing with all types of people, acceptance of minute adjustments and a very positive approach towards self and life! Rutu, along with all his classmates are really becoming " good human beings" !! No need of special lecture on " moral education"!
In one corner one taai was making hard efforts to make student learn some mathematical concept. Giving her as much time needed, leading her towards correct definition, giving her hints, telling her the same concept in different ways and if still not understood asking her to think about it and come up with her own logic! That girl then came up with her own definition and logic. I would not say that it was illogical but atleast it was difficult to understand for taai and me! At the end taai was somewhat successful in coming up with an acceptable definition.
There were many charts, drawings attached to the wall. One chart captured my attention. The title was " when do I laugh and when do I cry?" Children had written wide variety of reasons. Such an easy technique of self analysis! Psychology lessons start here!
Then I met Prerana taai Walimbe who is the head of "Learning Home''. She gave a brief idea about the basic principles and philosophy of "Learning Home''. We all must be knowing Ramesh Panse who is an educationist. He runs an NGO called 'Gram-mangal'. learning home is one of the educational institutes run by Gram-mangal. Basic principle on which it runs is " brain based education" and " multiple intelligence theory". To say in brief, it is a cognitive learning process. It takes into account child's various skills and intelligence and tries to stimulate them by variety of techniques. It tries to achieve multidimensional growth of the child. It means educating the child according to his/her need. Afterall education is one of our basic needs. It is a food for our brain! Learning home does not follow SSC board syllabus blindly. But it definitely takes into account what all abilities are to be developed for each standard student. So, they work to develop 'Abilities….. '
Examination methodology is different from that of typical 'SSC board' type. It goes on checking the development of a particular ability. No terms called 'pass' and 'fail'. Detailed evaluation of each and every student is given to the parents. This is possible because of less number of students and personal interaction with each student and parents.
At the end, while coming down from the stairs, I got the last shock! Many students were sitting in a big circle around our state map deeply involved in finding something.. I said 'bye' to them and one smart girl asked me, " do you know the names of the rivers which flow through Nandurbar district?" I just smiled and then came out with a masked face! I had definitely understood the need of many more "learning homes"!