Visit to Native Upper Primary School.
India, December 2016
and the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the establishment.
Native Upper Primary School
I left Italy from Bologna Airport to visit the school in India on the 2nd December. I was very excited at seeing my Indian friends who have become more like family over the 20 years have known them. After a comfortable flight with a change at Dubai I arrived at Hyderabad Airport early on Friday 3rd Dec. Prem one of the Native team met me and I was taken to Ebenezer House where I was welcomed by Edgar and other Native staff. The apartment upstairs at EH is very comfortable and spacious able to accommodate teams that come to work with Native each year. I had Ashok’s dear wife Keran as a constant companion while in Hyderabad. Yadamar, Edgar’s house keeper and cook prepared a delicious lunch for us. Wow! Here I was back in India to relax and enjoy being with these dear people and the school for the next 16 days. Although it’s India’s winter the climate is perfect it’s still hot in December so very enjoyable. I was eager to get on with preparations for the school so after lunch Edgar and I went to Pryanka Enterprises Educational Supplies Store www. playschoolneeds.com to buy the colourful tables and chairs and book-stand I wanted to give as a birthday gift to the school. Thankfully the distributors had everything we wanted. It was fun choosing things for the Kindergarten including picture books and educational books to enhance the children’s learning and reading.
Saturday was a rest come preparation ready to leave day. The items we had bought were collected and packed into the NATIVE van that would travel with us. It was also packed with everything needed for the celebration event which was planned for the 15th. We travelled to Machillipatman on Sunday and settled into the hotel. We had an evening meal together and I met Pavani a 20 year old student, daughter of one of the Native Pastors who was to be my delightful and constant companion and translator while at the school.
Native Upper Primary school.
It was with great joy we arrived at the school on Monday morning to be welcomed by Pastor Sundar, his radiant wife Tabitha who runs the school and the very happy head teacher MV, together with three new teachers Elisha Rao teacher of 2nd and 3rd year, Peter Kolanti teacher of 1st class, Chaitanya Jammala teacher of Lower and Upper Kindergarten, and the two wonderful auxiliary ladies who are the cooks and caretakers of the school. Some village pastors were also there to greet us and to spend time with Edgar. All the children were working in the classrooms but smiling faces with lots of waves and giggles of excitement came through the windows. It was the first time I had come through the school gates and seen the entire school and grounds resting peacefully within the protection of the newly built boundary wall that had been completed last year. It was very impressive. The grounds were clean with a pervading sense of calm and order. I was surprised to see so many tall mature trees around the grounds making the whole scene very attractive, and very authentically Indian . The trees are banana trees which apparently grow very quickly they had lots of bunches of bananas which I was informed were to be used when ripe to make banana curry for the children’s lunches. During our visit we tasted it too, it was quite delicious and is obviously very nutritious for the children. The children have a freshly cooked vegetable curry and rice every day.
As soon as we arrived dear Prem and Mishek started to unload the van, so in the usual, waste no time Frances style, with the help of the pastors, the legs were soon fixed to the new tables and by lunch time the Kindergarten was transformed. The choice we had made last time I was visiting the school, and the guide lines for serving lunch earlier to the younger children in their classroom, had been maintained and worked like clock work; everyone knew the routine and knew exactly what to do. But this time the very excited dear little children who were chattering away to each other in Telugu, were now sitting down for lunch on the new colourful red, yellow, green and blue half moon shaped tables. It was delightful to see how pretty everything looked and how much the children were enjoying it. The dinner ladies served lunch very efficiently and it was so much easier for them to clean up afterwards with the new tables. I was thrilled as was everyone else. The children now have colour in their lives on a daily basis, they are more grouped together, there can be as many as six at each table which is perfect for interactive teaching and interactive free play together. We utilized the old tables along the back wall, fixing the children’s names on them so that they now have a specific place to put their bags and personal things. Developing everything towards learning new skills and independence within the classroom is essential at this tender age. That afternoon the book shelves were put up and filled with the new books along with others I had taken. I had the special privilege of introducing the children to colourful pictures of animals and things children love in the natural world as they sat on the mat learning how to look at and handle books. They chattered away excitedly about everything they saw in the pictures. The joy of discovery on their faces, in things that we take for granted, was so precious. The joy of having books to look at was opening for them a completely new world. I was very, very, satisfied. This was something I had wanted to introduce to the school for some time. Now it was done!
Look on the website for more photographs www.nativeonlus.it (Click on "Native for India" then over "The place")
Time goes very quickly once at the school. Each evening I prepared with Pavani what we would be doing the next day. She was a perfect help to me and very capable with the children herself. For several days we went from class to class doing different things. One day we taught Sudoku at different levels. I liked this idea because it’s a game the children can play anywhere with family or friends at anytime, creating structures themselves once they had a model. On one occasion we had several classes together using the dining room and tables for craft work, making games for each child, this was great fun. The older children helped the younger ones. All this was part of a plan to teach new organizational skills for the school to keep developing. Another day we gave out the gifts I had been given for the children by a lady who has a stationary shop in Ferrara. Pens, pencils, rubbers, pencil sharpeners etc. Often in the afternoon there would be games outside. I bought some big colourful balls while there for the little ones. They just loved playing with them! There was also much preparation during the afternoons practicing dance or drama ready for the 20th birthday celebration.
During the mornings I also spent time teaching the top class a Christmas Carol, ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ in English, which they sang beautifully to a backing track played by the Salvation Army Band. I chose it because it was written especially for children. I had a wonderful moment during one of the practices, talking about the words they were singing and the truth they contained, I asked these young students to remember and to think about the words as they went on in life. Soon they would be going on to High School where they would have to face new challenges without NUPS protection, love and care.
I spent as much time as I could in the Kindergarten too, encouraging the teacher to try new methods. Explaining the importance of letting the children do more for themselves, like keeping the classroom tidy by putting the chairs under the tables; letting the children take turns to give out the milk and biscuits each morning, learning from a young age to serve each other; learning how to put things away tidily when they’ve finished with them. Pavani and I demonstrated how the teacher could now teach individual groups new skills easily with the new half moon shaped tables. I helped her to understand how to organize the children by introducing time for free play and the use of didactic materials, for hands on learning , leaving her free to teach specific concepts to just one group, rotating daily with different children. At the moment rote learning is still the norm with the children being completely static, it’s hard to break this pattern. The school does have to follow the Indian National Curriculum which keeps them busy with lots of text books so they don’t have much time for other activities. But in the Kindergarten we must keep working towards more interactive teaching with activities and movement, which is essential for ‘The Early Years’ and must become a regular part of the daily school life.
The school has State Government Recognition for Primary Education and is held in the highest esteem. There is no other school anywhere like it in the area. It has a completely different ethos which is easily recognized by the attractive orderliness and cleanliness that pervades every aspect of the school. It was a joy for me to see the dining room being used and the dignity it gives the children to sit at tables with clean utensils eating with a fork. This is not to force on them a different culture but it is introducing health and hygiene into a culture that has learnt to live with dirt and doesn’t seem to notice it. This was apparent to me yet again, when I saw the children in there lovely uniforms, and Pavani in her lovely dress, just sit down on the dirty soil in the play ground while the children waited for the school bus to take them home. This with as much ease and indifference as if it were a lovely grassy bank. I am very glad to report that the washing of hands before they eat has now become the norm for the children. The school has wonderful facilities for this and the children are going on from strength to strength with these new healthy habits. See photographs on website. Also there is no more throwing of garbage outside the school grounds. It is noticeably cleaner all around. When one of the new teachers was asked what she liked about the school she said immediately it’s order and cleanliness. The timetable is also followed strictly with a big bell being rung for breaks and lunch. These are all very good new practices I noticed had been put in place.
After a few days of wet unsettled weather the sun was shining brilliantly as we travelled to school for this very special occasion. There had been a lot of preparation the day before, the children were even given the afternoon off. As we approached the school the usual Indian style banner was up on the road side announcing the event to the world. I love the way the Indians celebrate! There is always so much colour! As we entered through the gates the colourful flags that lined the drive were blowing in the gentle breeze, the big awning was up and spectacular with it’s blazing beautiful colours in the morning sunshine. There was bustle and excitement everywhere, The platform area was stunning with a big banner complete with a photograph of the school children and staff proudly displayed. The lovely ladies on the Native staff in Hyderabad had arrived in their beautiful saree’s and were preparing the plaques to be given out in memory of the occasion to the special guests of honour who had been invited, which included State Education Officials from the area. However one must always remember we are in India. The school and staff had everything and everyone ready more or less on time, they are very well organized for special occasions. But where were the guests, the seats were empty? The celebration that was programmed to start at 10.00 eventually started around 12.00 as we were obliged to wait for the parents and guests to trickle in slowly during the morning. Here was a sharp reminder of the contrast between the discipline that has developed in the school in the midst of a surrounding culture where time means something else. The children sat so patiently, but at one point I insisted they needed to run around and drink something. They didn’t need any encouragement! Then suddenly we were ready to start! In the usually gracious Indian style some children presented shawls to the special guests on the platform. Other children did a lovely celebration dance. There were lots of testimonies from parents and from old students some who now have degrees, one even a master’s degree. Thanks and well wishes abounded, speeches of appreciation one after another from the officials who had left their busy schedules to be present. I had the joy of reading some of the greetings from Italy sent by many people who support the school but who were not able to be there. I also had the privilege of presenting Tabitha and MV each with a piece of inscribed Italian glass as tokens of appreciation for their dedicated hard work for the children and school over the years. Tabitha 20 years and MV 14 years. Also a gift of thanks and appreciation to Pastor Sundar for 20 years of spiritual oversight and commitment to the school. I had prepared a power point presentation of the various stages of the development of the school starting with the first photograph in 1996, The older class sang the Christmas carol beautifully. It was really wonderful! Unfortunately because of the late start we couldn’t do everything that had been prepared. I felt sorry for some of the children and teachers who had practiced drama and dance through the week, but didn’t get chance to do it. The dignitaries had to leave and lunch was waiting! Edgar closed with a prayer of thanks to God for all the children whose lives had been transformed through the school over 20 years. Thanks for God’s faithful provision and for the hard work of all involved. The hot curry and rice was then served to everyone in celebration style in the grounds of the school. Everything was perfectly laid out, everyone had a joyful happy time. We had celebrated well. in the best way we could, in a way that honoured all that had been achieved with God’s help over 20 years. Young people with degrees, many on work schemes and in colleges. The amazing new building, protected by it’s boundary wall. When the school started we could never have imagined that 20 years on we would be enjoying such bountiful goodness. God had done far more than we could have asked for or imagined and we were full of joy. It was a very moving occasion! Absolutely unforgettable!
A urgent need
More funds to provide regular solid foundational support through the setting up of 30 ‘clusters of love’ throughout Italy, England and USA
The school stands as a shining light of hope in the darkness of severe poverty.
It is different!
It rises out of the paddy fields as an amazing testimony of a living God of his love and his amazingly wonderful grace that reaches into the darkest of places bringing forth springs of living water which transforms them into places of beauty, light and life where peoples lives are forever changed,
Bringing order out of chaos.
God said “Let there be light”
With love, Frances
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