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8th March 2011

posted 16 Mar 2011, 07:05 by Narssimhan Kannan
Woke up early, had a nice breakfast and drove to Pune from Islampur. Mr. Shinde came and gave us the photos that we had taken yesterday. I thanked him for his hospitality and left Islampur.

The drive was pleasant and the roads were fairly empty. We reached Pune by 11.30 am and drove directly to the Yepre school. Got some chocolates (reminded by Rajesh) for all the children. The teachers were expecting us as Mr. Bhalke had informed them about our trip. Mr. Bhalke was busy and was going to arrive only by 1 pm, so I took the opportunity to spend some time with the children.

I went to every class and met the children. As soon as I entered, they would stand and wish me "Good morn
ing Sir". Some would even salute! I reciprocated and asked them to sit down. In the class where 3rd standard and 2nd standard students were studying, the black board was replete with simple addition and subtraction problems. I took this chance and gave a small lecture to the children on how addition (+) is a close relative of multiplication (x) and how subtraction (-) is a close relative of division (/). The funda was that when you multiply, you are actually adding and when you divide, you are actually subtracting. The children liked the concept and a few grasped it quickly. I spotted a girl sitting in the last bench and a boy sitting on the first as striking.
After a good 30 minutes in this class I moved to the one that housed the 1st grade and the Junior KG. There I met a tiny girl who was teaching the entire class to count numbers. Rajesh has captured all this very well in some of the pictures you see here.

We then moved to a small room which is the office. I was joined by all the teachers while we waited for Mr. Bhalke. We started talking about the next academic year and the challenges ahead. They expressed their happiness and satisfaction that the plastering had been finally done, but the next immediate challenge was the toilet. I reassured them that the donor was ready and whenever they chose, we could start the work. The teachers suggested the time during the summer vacations so that the children would not be disturbed. We agreed. They also mentioned how the plastering and the toilet would help garner some more admissions in the new academic year. By this time, Mr. Bhalke arrived. He thanked us and the donor for the great help. I reminded him again of the 'pipe' story.

We further discussed how we can get electricity to the school. This was another major challenge for the school authorities. Apparently, the nearest pole was very far away and MSEB is demanding Rs. 45,000 to install an all exclusive pole near the school. The idea was that some of the nearby houses had also applied for a connection and when the number hit a threshold, the charges would get divided and become reasonable for the school. I impressed upon them that after we complete the toilet, or simultaneously, we must get electricity. They reassured me that it will be done.

Apart from the major challenges, some of the minor ones such as the need for notebooks, text books, pencils, erasers for the next academic year were also discussed. I suggested that we should also help some of the deserving students with not only books but also with uniforms, bags and footwear. This thought was triggered when I saw some of the children without any footwear in the classroom. The teachers agreed that these students came barefoot to school. We made it a mandate that no child should come to school barefoot henceforth. It was such a basic necessity! We also decided to provide free education, books, school uniform and bags to only such families that were truly economically backward and not to everybody. Mr. Bhalke mentioned to me that there were families that could afford the education but would be tempted to not contribute if we made it free for everyone. We agreed.

I went out with Rajesh for another round of the school building to see the plastering. Mr. Bhalke mentioned that we would paint it later. Most likely after we completed the toilet. It was a good idea. We then, went out for lunch with the teachers and Mr. Bhalke. At around 4 pm, we bid them farewell and left for our next appointment in the center of the city.

A very satisfying day! I thanked the donor once again in my heart and left...