Friday, May 29, 2009

DBDS #010 THE TEACHER

Lyra Pinto
‘We have to find someone to take class in Bodgaam, atleast till we get hold of a local teacher’.

The situation was a bit worrying. Bodgaam, a remote village on the border of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, is a place where we are just beginning work, and many, many children are eager to learn to read and write. But given the low literacy levels, finding a teacher from the village was proving difficult.

So the next morning, as our team climbed into the jeep headed for Bodgaam, I was surprised to see a little boy, with notebook, pen and and a box of chalk in hand, jump in with a big smile on his face. ‘This is Kachla’, explained the centre director. ‘He will take class in Bodgaam until we find a regular teacher’. I was not convinced. The boy was a tenth standard student, and he couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15 years old. How would he ever manage a class of more than 50 unruly kids?

Kachla, though, seemed to have no such doubts. He talked and laughed non-stop all along the way, commenting on every thing and person we crossed on the dry, dusty road to Bodgaam. ‘Well’, I thought, ‘he seems cheerful enough’. But his true talents were revealed only after we got to the village. Rounding up the kids with a yell and a whistle, Kachla got them on their toes with a fast-paced game of dodge ball. His enthusiasm was so contagious that everyone joined in, even some of the parents and the shy older girls. Later, as he gathered the childen around a peeling blackboard, Kachla began his class with a bold statement—‘My father was uneducated, just like yours, and that wasn’t his fault. But I don’t have to be like him, and neither do you’.

He taught them to read the names of things they were familiar with—house, tree, dog, cow. He taught them to write in the dust, with sticks, and to count with stones. He used methods that have taken experts years to define, but he used them instinctively, with a confidence that came from knowing his people thoroughly. And that made this simple village boy a better master than the most experienced teacher.

On the way back, Kachla turned to me with his trademark lopsided grin. As if he knew what I wanted to ask, he said, ‘I know how to teach because I know how it feels to be illiterate while others around you can read. You don’t need great tools to teach these people, you only need great faith’.

In that one day, Kachla taught me more than the best teachers ever have.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

DBDS #009 SHG BREAKS NEW GROUND IN AHMEDNAGAR

Alex Gonsalves sdb AHMEDNAGAR, MAY 15, 2009: Empowering people through the Self Help Group movement has been one of the major programmes undertaken by Bosco Gramin Vikas Kendra in rural Maharashtra since the past two decades. Over the years, the SHGs have invested their savings in a variety of income generation projects which have all borne rich dividends. Moving beyond the stereotype projects, one SHG decided to invest in an altogether new item – the purchase of a JCB multitasking machine. On Thursday, May 14, 2009 there was a short function to bless and launch this newly acquired machine. The members of the Group were all smiles as they proudly stood around their prized possession. Present on this auspicious occasion were Fr Anton D’Souza, Fr Ivan Rodriquez, Fr Suresh Sathe the Social Work Coordinator of Nashik Diocese, several village leaders and other civil dignitaries. While the Group invested Rs. 5 lacs from its savings, Rs. 16 lacs were taken as a loan from the Corporation Bank to pay for this machine. This has been the highest investment that any of our groups has received from the Banks till date. The SHG members are confident that there will be quick earnings on this investment and that they will be able to successfully pay off the loan. This entire venture has been a great stimulus to the other SHGs, who are now considering creative and relevant ways of investing their savings. In the midst of the recession, our villagers are charting a bold new economic path for themselves!