When I was presented with this wonderful opportunity a while back, I was sure it would be an experience of a lifetime. I had always wanted to give back and was presented with the idea of going to another CfBT branch in India to volunteer as a teacher. I wanted to go back to India anyway so I decided to help and work with this fantastic project in Nandyal at Oxford school. Nandyal is a town of over 200,000 people and Hyderabad is the closest city where CfBT’s head office is located. They have been involved with this Christian school with over 300 students for almost a year and they support it by offering professional development and workshops. They also do teacher observations as they document and give feedback so they can help and guide their teachings so the children at Oxford can become more active in their learning. Recently, CfBT provided colourful tables, chairs and Math activities for the kindergarten school. The school is divided into 2 schools as the main school is not big enough to fit all students so they have been given some space at a nearby Women’s Resource Centre for the children ages 3-6. This location about 3 kilometers from the main branch and the idea is to expand the bigger school so all the children can be together as the headmistress can’t visit the kindergarten school on a daily basis. Oxford school is run by an amazing woman named Nirmala Devi, a dedicated educator who took a year off from retirement from a different school but was convinced with the goodness of her heart to come back by working full-time as the current headmistress at Oxford School. All of the teachers here are a close-knit community as most of them are related and are all very supportive of each other. This wonderful community’s mission is to help those in need by educating them and supporting their studies as much as possible.
Since my arrival, they had embraced my presence, welcomed me with open arms and had made me feel like part of their family. I had been teaching Yoga and English to the children from 8:15-2:15pm Monday-Saturday then English class to the teachers from 4-5pm. The youngest class was the nursery group and the oldest class was called 10th standard. After passing the final government exams in 10th standard, the students go to Intermediate College of 2 years before entering university if they choose. In the evening, the 6 teachers that teach 10th standard work in shifts from 6-8pm and 8-10pm to ensure these children are studying hard for these exams. Their dedication and hard work certainly have shown results as it’s been 2 years in a row since the 10th class students have had 100% pass rate. Academics are of top priority and it just proves that children from every kind of socio-economic background have the gift to learn if they choose to. Some of these children are orphans and some are poor but they love school and also have many hopes and dreams for themselves.
Every morning before school assembly, Yoga was taught to the eldest class because the headmistress felt that they needed some relaxation techniques to help them prepare for their final exams. For the rest of the day, I was on premise and teaching English to 2nd-8th class. The main language in this area is Telugu so children will learn Hindi and English as the 2nd and 3rd language. On alternate days, I would go to the kindergarten school and teach the small children. This school is comprised of 3 classes of nursery children ages 2-4, a lower and upper kindergarten combined class and 1st grade. The late afternoon classes with the adults were probably my favourite of all because it gave us a chance to be as a group every day and get to know one another through speaking English. By having a native speaker around, they were able to practice their English skills in a practical environment and gained confidence while doing so. Even some staff who did not speak English on a regular basis were forced to communicate with me and I saw a huge difference in their attitudes and willingness to improve.