Opening doors to a new world
Music has immense power to uplift the senses, and when mixed with pleasant weather the concoction is enthralling. On that clear morning, my spirit touched a new high when the chirpy song “Bombe Hellutaithe” filled my ears. I glanced at the crowd of more than 100 students sitting neatly on the carpet, with their parents at the back, and marched straight to the Learning Space. Later in the day I would learn that in Kannada “Learning Space” is called “Kalika Tana”. I ducked the red ribbon, and a smile spread on my face. The place looked absolutely clean, and energizing. I could not wait to see it packed with children.
Outside the Learning Space was a festive atmosphere with happy faces, music, sweets, guests, and busy hosts (volunteers). There were representatives from Village Panchayat and the Education department.
Almost every Hindu ritual begins with the lighting of the lamp, and so did the inauguration ceremony. As I lit the lamp, I wished for light in every child’s life. Master of ceremonies invited the Panchayat Head to speak a few words. His speech was followed by another from a member of Panchayat, and then came some other officers, and teachers. After half a dozen discourses, I straightened my back, and relaxed again, moved my legs once in front of the chair, and then under it. Looking around I wished to join the line of volunteers at the back. I could relate to children who were stretching, and rotating their heads in all directions to catch a glimpse of something more interesting. I smiled at a little baby sleeping peacefully with his head on his sister’s lap. Whispers among children had turned into active discussions.
Precisely at this point, Mr. Sheshadari from Pratham threw a question to the gathering, and children sprang to life responding to his question. I smiled at the power of questioning. Learning Spaces are based on the concept of making children think, analyse, and learn by giving them problem questions. For instance, instead of teaching Ashoka, I would ask, “Why was Ashoka called great?” And children would group themselves to find the answer. In the discovery process they would learn and retain more than they would in a normal class setting. And maybe the next time I would ask them, “Are Alexander and Ashoka called great for the same reasons?”
Anyways, let us come back to the inauguration. I would take up the concept of Learning Spaces in more detail some other time. The energy was maintained with dances, and songs that followed. I had been racking my brain thinking about ways of engaging children on the inauguration day, and here they were, engaged not only today but also in the preceding days to prepare their performances. In a short span of 4 days, children had managed to pull together multiple dances involving detailed choreography. Their liveliness and joy was incredible. Hearing the peppy music, I felt that I would develop an affinity for Kannada music.
After a long wait, the Block Education officer arrived, and the program moved forward. He made some good points about importance of discipline, and prudent use of resources provided. I could relate to him when he mentioned that he got to touch computers much later in life, and that children in the village were lucky to get exposure at a tender age. Thenceforth, everyone proceeded for ribbon cutting. Students, teachers, and parent alike flocked to the Learning Space. It was time for mid day meals, and children could wait for the meal, but not for a glimpse of the Learning Space. We devoured Jangri, Mysorepak, and banana, and left to open the second Learning Space.