Wednesday, 6 December 2017

My Acquaintance with Gubbachi

                                                         -Arpita Bhattacharjee (Gubbachi Volunteer)

About 3 months back, in September 2017, I started my volunteering journey with Gubbachi Learning Community (Gubbachi). I decided to teach Data Entry Operations to a thirteen year old boy who belongs to a migrant worker's family from Bihar. I was told he had started learning English about eight months back and initially I was skeptical whether he will be able to understand the complex terms and concepts of Computer Studies.  But looking at the work that Gubbachi has been doing for the past couple of years, I thought I must give this a shot.
Learning together is always fun
The first day I met this boy, he greeted me with a wide welcoming smile. His body language told me he has a lot of positive energy and the passion to learn. That’s all I needed as a tutor - the will to learn.
Within the first couple of weeks he amazed me with his ability to learn technical concepts very fast. Though I have to often work on his retention and memorizing capabilities, but nonetheless I have to applaud his efforts and learning abilities. Our class takes places at a corner table in a room which is shared by other younger kids for their afternoon activities and games. Though the room gets noisy sometimes, but my student and I are so focused on our work that we rarely get distracted.
In about ten or twelve classes, he has picked up the basics of Computer and has started working on Word Processing software. I feel this is quite an achievement. I am happy to make a small difference in the life of this smart boy who without the intervention of Gubbachi would perhaps have been lost in oblivion.
"Can I Beat my own score"

On Nov 14th I participated in the Children’s Day celebration. The day was filled with various games, activities, music and food and the children of Gubbachi and the Government School, Kodathi (where the first centre of Gubbachi is located) had a lot fun. I could also meet and connect with other volunteers who were there to support. What struck me was the care and affection with which all the kids were handled. The kids hugged their teachers and though everything was getting done in a very disciplined and orderly manner, there was no need of any rebuke or harsh words. What prevailed was absolute harmony, smiles, joy, fun, love and affection. I am sure this is not a school where there are dropouts or absentees but a school where every student waits to come, have fun, and learn.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Series: Stories untold! - Story #2

-Adity Roy (Writer Volunteer)

Vijay Kumar.

13 year old Vijay Kumar is the eldest of four siblings. The son of a migrant laborer, Vijay moved to Bangalore with his family two years ago for better opportunities. Vijay’s father, Ashish Mahato made a choice. He decided to stay on in the city and provide a better life for his family than move back to his hometown Samastipur, in Bihar, when his first painting contract in the city was over.

Samastipur is one of the districts in India with a high male-out migration.

And that perhaps decision is what changed the fortunes for his son Vijay. That and Gubbachi who took him under their fold. You will be quite taken aback with the fluency with which he speaks the English language and the sincerity with which he does his school work- whether it is arithmetic, languages or environmental science. He his well-behaved mannered and his smile- a complete winner!

One of the founder members of Gubbachi says, “Vijay is a natural learner, we are there only to facilitate his learning. He absorbs a lot on his own and goes deeper questioning ideas at various levels, and their relevance to society and impact on the environment”. She goes on to explain that in a lesson on water, Vijay questioned the relevance of the burden city life creates on natural resources like water, and how if more people found contentment and livelihoods in rural areas, the cities would be less burdened.

A typical day for Vijay begins with waking up, filing up water for the day, getting ready for school, then getting all his younger siblings ready and finally trotting the 10 minute walk to the nearby government school where Gubbachi runs a centre. In the evening, he completes his homework and then helps his siblings with theirs and is in time to catch his favourite serial on the telly, Balbir and Rani Pari. He likes life here better than his hometown, but is nostalgic. “We have a TV at the rented place we stay at and better food too, but I miss my cousins and uncles at the village. But when summer holidays come, it’s such fun right from the time we board the train to when we reach home and meet all our family. Sometimes there is no place to sit but the excitement of going back home makes all that an adventure”.

He’s sure he wants to study “lots” - just doesn’t know how much that is. But is sure he does not want a hard life as his painter father. His mother Rohini is a cook in the nearby apartment. He wants to be able to give his parents and his siblings a better life someday and he believes that his education is going to take him there.

Series : Stroies Untold! Story #1


She’s got a winsome smile and her neat little pigtails outline her face where the eyes take in everything about you. That’s Prema for you, an exuberant and bright fifth standard kid that Gubbachi has taken under their fold.

Every little child here at Gubbachi has an incredible story waiting to be told.

Orphaned at a very young age, the youngest of four siblings, Prema lived with her maternal grandmother at Yadgiri, one of the most backward districts of Karnataka, till six months ago. When her grandmother passed away, homeless and hungry her elder brother decided to move to Bengaluru with her elder sister hoping to find a job as a construction laborer in the ever-booming construction city. One of the sisters remained at Yadgiri working as a flower girl and fending for herself.

“I used to go to a government school in Yadgiri; but I had to stop when my brother couldn’t afford to even buy my books or uniform. We had a small shop at Yadgiri where we sold biscuits, chocolates and such stuff. When my schooling stopped I used to keep practicing my reading by reading the wrappers of biscuits and chocolates. However, we had to shut shop as it was not sustainable and moved to Bengaluru”.

Prema joined Gubbachi six months ago and has been bridged into the adjoining government school successfully. Her fears remain that one day when the construction site is completed she will be moved again. Her elder sister works with the maintenance team of a completed building and she even gets to stay in a shed close to the school.

At the moment, the security of a roof above her head, however temporary it may be, a school to come to where the world is a journey in discovery for her; friends she plays with forgetting all her insecurities; and the Gubbachi team who encourage and instill confidence in her, allows her to dream big. “I want to be able to study forever, go to college and then someday become a doctor” says she.

The incredible thirst for knowledge and the understanding that education is a game changer, has perhaps allowed children like Prema to nurse dreams.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Of churches and Trees !

-Deyone ( Learning facilitator)

A Friday Nature Walk at Gubbachi Learning Community :)

There was some confusion whether we should go to the area behind the school or towards the village. After voting it was decided we'd go to the village. We started at 11.30 am. Deepanjali and I accompanied the children. 22 of us walked along the side of the road towards St. Anthony's church - just 200 meters away from the school. I felt like exploring the church premises thinking that children may not be familiar with the idea of a church and there also are some trees to climb onto.

So we entered the small compound and peeped into the church. There was a statue of crucified Christ who was bleeding all over. Anita was quite sure that her uncle had donated blood to this bleeding man some months ago. :D Vikas thought it was a school, seeing all the benches, and asked where the children are and when does the class happen? Some of the children said that it is Jesu Appa's place and it is equivalent to a temple. But the benches arranged in rows were still a mystery to Vikas.

We explored the area around the church and saw a small garden. We decided to create a small garden like this in front of our center. (Hope the idea will grow into some action.) :) There was a spruce tree in front of the church. We collected the secretion from its stem and burned it. It had an amazing fragrance - (thanks to the candles and match box at the church). Breaking the 'badam' seeds and eating them was fun too. Malli was concentrating on breaking and eating them with no distraction at all!

By this time many of them started climbing the other trees around. There were badam trees, jackfruit trees and teak wood trees. None of them had branches lower than 12 feet high. Vikas tried to teach me how to climb these trees using the strength of my upper body, which I terribly failed at. I even tried hugging the tree and just held to it; then, I would slowly slip down to touch the ground. They advised me to put sand on my feet so that I would have more grip to hold the tree. Everything went in vain. Anyhow, I've decided that I would learn how to climb this type of tree soon. :)

It was 12.20 pm and time for lunch, so we walked back to the school and some of the children sketched out the church building, trees and flowers before going for lunch. In one of the sketches you can see crucified Jesu Appa happily floating in the air. :)

Climbing is fun.
Happiness matters. :)
Have a happy weekend.

Monday, 14 November 2016

It's Children's day !

-Deyone( Learning Facilitator)

Today at Gubbachi Learning Community, most of the students went to attend Kathavana - a literary festival organised by Azim Premji University. 6 students couldn't go since they were too young to attend the event; so I stayed back with them at the learning center. We decided to go for a nature walk. We left the centre at 9.40 am. There is a tamarind tree behind our school; we decided to go there and 5 of us

climbed it. I also got to climb a tree after a long time :) Two were afraid to climb the tamarind tree since it was too tall for them. :( So we decided we'll look for smaller trees around so that everyone could climb.

We walked a kilometer and ended up at Kumar's house, which is inside a farm where his parents work. Kumar jumped over the gate, fetched the keys and let all of us in. His mother and younger sister gave us water to drink. There were lot of small trees and everyone climbed the trees as much as they wanted.

Kumar brought us figs to eat ​and I had it fresh for the first time in my life ... ... and it was amazing! While we were at the farm we heard the train passing by, Malli wanted to chase the train. So we left the farm in search of a railway track. We found the track walking half a kilometer and walked along the track for another 2 kms till we reached the railway gate.

Premakka who works at the railway gate was super sweet and she gave gooseberries to us. She declared all the girls will receive 3 fruits and the boys will receive only 2. :) But the children wanted more once they finished eating the gooseberries. She allowed them to climb the gooseberry tree and pluck as much as they wanted.

All this time Munni, Kumar's dog was also with us. Sanirul realised that we had reached very close to his home and wanted all of us to see his dog. We said bye to Premakka and headed to Sanirul's home. He whistled and the dog was there; Eramma wanted to know what the dog's name is but Sanirul had not yet given a name to his dog. Ladli suggested since we already have a Munni here, let's name him Munna. :) Then we walked 2 kms back to school and reached there at 12.30 pm just in time for lunch.

Happiness matters. :)

... and Malli wanted to play kho-kho after all this; which none of us cared for.

Happy Children's Day to all!

Friday, 26 August 2016

A young Volunteer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      - Michelle (Greenwood High, Grade 9 Volunteer)  
It was in the middle of my summer vacations when my mother told me that Somya Aunty had asked if I would like to volunteer in the government school she works in. I had agreed as I wanted to experience how it felt to teach students and help teachers. On my first day, I was introduced  to everyone who worked in the centre. It was a small building with two rooms, with children who were looking at me with curiosity. Some wished me ‘Good morning’, while some tried talking to me, but I couldn’t understand Kannada and they couldn’t understand Hindi or English that well so we weren’t able to communicate.
 All the aunties, especially Preethy Auntie and Mani Auntie would give me work to do, which mostly included cutting and sticking and making TLMs (Teaching-learning materials). At first I was disappointed; thinking all I had to do was cutting and sticking stuff of little use. I had expected more but I forgot about it after I was told the reason why Gubbachi was founded. In a few days I realised the importance of such materials, without which the students would be unable to learn without actually understanding it. Thus after that I took pride in doing such things which indirectly helped the children learn and enjoy school.
Every day when I came to the centre, all the children would wish me ‘Good morning Miss!’ which made me feel delighted as I felt that they accepted me as a friend. Some girls even had started calling me ‘Akka’. It gave me so much delight at the fact that they liked me even though I wasn’t able to communicate with most of them. Once as I had gone to Mani Aunty’s classroom, all her little students came running to me saying ‘Good morning Miss’ and crowding around me. A few little girls kept on holding my hand even after Mani Aunty had told them to go back to their work! I could not help but feel intense happiness at seeing their enthusiasm.
All the teachers were extremely supportive, always keeping work ready for me when I arrived at the centre. I feel Somya Aunty went out of her way to tell the teachers about my art and craft skills. I really appreciate her effort as everyone trusted me with anything to do with art and crafts. On my last two days Preethy aunty asked me to guide the students to make beads by quilling a necklace. One boy about my age named Vikash talked in Hindi, thus I helped him whenever I could. Lunchtime was always fun, as everyone shared food with each other, which reminded me of my friends in school. We would also have stories told and topics discussed, so I always had a wonderful time.

By volunteering to be a teacher’s assistant, I learned more about the condition of my community, made new friends with teachers and experienced the immense hard work put by everyone to educate children who can’t go to school. I know I will always remember how the children wished me good morning and accepted me, along with the teachers, with open arms. This experience is a memorable one and has inspired me to do more such things in the future.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

My Experience as an intern

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    - Deepanjali (Intern, Bhoomi College)  
I have been associated with Gubbachi for 2 months for internship as a part of Holistic Education Course at Bhoomi College. I distinctly remember the first day I walked in; a room full of cacophony: children making noise and occasionally walking in and out. I was a little nervous and quite clueless. As the day progressed some of the teachers spoke to me about their expectation and my understanding. I was asked to just sit and observe for a day. The very state the children were in startled me. It was different to hear about under-privileged kids and it a world’s difference to see them. Throughout the day I couldn’t stop thinking about K.T. Margret’s book “The Open Classroom”, the school was just a live experience of that book.
As I spent more time, I saw the struggle the teachers/administrators go through to keep the place up and running. A very inspiring bunch of people across all age group work at Gubbachi. Most of them spending their own resources to see these kid, have a better life. We have had some interesting conversation on various topics during our lunch break and it is beautiful to see teachers discussing pupils with so much awe and interest.
The curriculum at Gubbachi is designed to evolve and strives at keeping the child’s interest, psychology and cultural background as priority. Best practices of Nali-Kali curriculum followed by government schools and teaching methods of alternate schools are adopted and improvised to suit the requirement of these kids. It is very interesting…. there is a constant reiteration to keep the environment, child-friendly. Also, a lot of thought goes into understanding the psychology of children, given the troubled and deprived background they come from.

It is amazing to see children of Gubbachi, the gradual change in behaviour, attitude and confidence from the time they walk in, to the time they are ready for mainstreaming. I look at Gubbachi as a space not only for learning, but space of healing, bonding and sharing joy. When one is part of such endeavour, there is lot of healing happening at a fundamental level. It is very beautiful to see, how these kids teach us adults how to bond and be joyful. They might be deprived materialistically. And, to some extent psychologically, but their capacity to spread happiness and love is phenomenal.