It has been four months of memorable moments in Bangalore!
The kiddos had their last day of school at CIS on the day before Spring Break (Easter week). School resumes for two more weeks before we leaved, but it seemed like a good natural break in the schedule. Our April is filled with relaxation and travel. We headed to Jaipur and Agra and have another plan to visit the ancient site of Hampi. Otherwise the kids are enjoying relaxing with their neighborhood friends. Most Indian schools are done at the end of March or beginning of April so all of the neighborhood kids are off of school right now. Most are unavailable to play though untinl about 5 in the afternoon unless they are inside due to heat. But also because some parents don’t want their children to get any darker. So their friends aren’t allowed to swim during the hottest part of the day.
Both classes had lovely going away parties for the kiddos, complete with snacks and a movie. Carson’s class posed for a photo. Every was present except his friend Gabriel who had already left for England for the Easter holiday.
Carson’s last day was particularly fun, since it included the Easter Egg hunt and the final day of Arts Festival week which had special ceramic, chalk, and puppet making classes and special musical performances as well.
Kaden’s class had an especially sweet goodbye for her complete with gifts including a photo of the class.
Kaden is going to miss her dear friends from her class. I love this photo of all of them!
After the parties, we stayed for the closing concert of the Arts Festival
This is a photo of the entire school, grades k through 12. The middle and upper school students wear white shirts and the elementary kiddos wear red.
The kids also had some final fun this week. Kaden went to unicycling club (with all of her BFFs).
Carson had his final basketball class. Kaden missed many of her Bollywood classes because she played on the house basketball team, which one the tournament for the Red House! I don’t have any photos of this match because the school never told the parents that it was happening!
Carson will be very sad to leave his cricket coach. In the final weeks, Dada helped out with the trainings.
On the way home, the kids enjoyed reading the letters and cards that their classmates had made for them. They will treasure these for a long time. We need to have more times when kids write personal messages to each other about why they are special. What a difference that would make in the world.
No special day is complete without a trip to the Swensen ice cream shop!!
In addition to our own celebrations, it was fun to be able to celebrate Easter at school this year! The school seems to be a center for holidays and celebrations as a school community, thanks to the great parent organization.
Grades 2 -5 at the Canadian School, the moms organized elaborate Easter Egg Scavenger hunts throughout the school. The kids had to collect puzzle pieces from people including the Assistant Principal and Librarian (below)
When they assembled all the puzzle pieces together, it spelled out that they should return to their room to receive chocolate treats.
Carson also was given a carrot and is eating it below. The moms in bunny ears, below, were some of the awesome coordinators of the event.
The wee little ones got to have an egg hunt. I think the second graders were a bit jealous! Here is a pre school class lined up to collect eggs!
And off they go!
Both kids proudly displayed their projects for the CIS science fair, which took place in the school hallways on a hot Friday afternoon. Today was “dress up, dress down day” so few kids were sporting their spiffy red and blue uniforms.
Kaden had been working for several weeks on her human eye display. She teamed up with her German classmate, Elena. Their display included a survey of eye color, a model of the human eye, and guessing game with the answers hidden behind little doors. Kaden LOVED working on this hands on project and was very proud of her work.
Kaden’s teacher, Miss Elizabeth James, is very sad that Kaden will be leaving soon! With a few other kiddos leaving ass well, the class will be down to 10 students!
I got to sneak a peak at some of Kaden’s other work, including her polar biome project (far right in the left picture) and some work on angles for math class.
The second graders displayed a series of science experiments that they had conducted as a class. Groups of kiddos were in charge of individual experiments. Carson was partnered with Kosei and Raina to share a neat way to get water clean with a string and gravity.
Carson’s teacher said that he LOVED doing the experiments in class, but he was a bit reluctant to present the information during the fair!
The kiddos had to fill out a log and document all of their experiments throughout the week.
I also snuck a look at some of Carson’s poetry on display in the class.
It was fun visiting all of the booths and learning more about the experiments. Below, Carson’s friend Gabriel gives an animated discussion of why things sink or float. And to the right, Kaden’s dear Danish friend Esther and Manisa (who recently moved to Bangalore from Massachusetts) demonstrate how sound waves travel.
I met with Laksha who founded the organization APSA (Association for Promoting Social Action). over 30 years ago. The Concerned for Working Children organization was once a part of APSA, but spun off into its own separate organization just down the road.
APSA was started when Laksha noticed as a student training to be a social worker that everything was controlled by local slumlords/corrupt local politicians that prevented the poor from getting the services that the government claimed to be providing. Exploitation occurred on a regular basis in the forms of ration cards, subsidies, identity cards and more. Welfare schemes were not reaching the poor.
Upon graduating, he joined with some friends to provide a service organization that could bypass the slumlords. They originally funded their work through recycling of newspapers. In 1981, they achieved official organizational status which got them legal power. Now the organization is one of the leading NGOs working on direct organizing of the poor. The mission of the organization is:
-a child centered commmunitydevelopment organization
-development without exploitation
– integrated approach
Below is a tent community that borders the APSA property (with my transportation and driver awaiting my return).
As I spoke with Laksha, it was clear that APSA is a model of bottom up reform. Every issues is approached from a systemic viewpoint of identifying all of the stakeholders and developing mechanisms by which all stakeholders can dialogue together raising concerns and developing joint solutions. Each stakeholder must understand the rights and responsibilities of themselves and the others involved in the systemic issue.The organization works on child labor, children, youth, women, and the disabled. They seek to unionize and otherwise gain accomplishments through collective activities and through gathering information about how to achieve justice.
To illustrate how APSA works, Laksha provided an example of the girl dropout problem. APSA’s goal was to improve attendance in schools and to improve girl youth school attendance. But such work must occur community by community. In the community in which he worked, 90% of girls were dropping out by 10th grade, 70% by seventh grade. APSA organized group of children to collect information on why girls were not coming to school:
1) If anyone fell sick or on special occasions, the girl stayed home to do chores–to fetch drinking water, for festivals, when relatives came to stay.
2) Girls had little time to do homework because of household responsibilities. They then became embarrassed to go to school because they had not completed their work and thus would not go at all.
3) Girls would substitute for their mothers in labor situations such as housecleaners when mother could not go to work.
APSA’s strategy is to give the statistics and information into the community and they decide what to do with the information. First they organized meetings with daughters and their mothers, including a discussion of what middle class families choose when the above dilemmas occur versus poor families. Then discussions were held with the other stakeholder groups– teachers and community leaders. Through ongoing dialogues a mutual understanding on reasons that girls did not attend schools and a shared commitment to send girls to school occured —a shift in norms, values and shared commitments.
APSA also runs model schools on its property. The Dream School hosts 120 children ages 10-14, the dream school aims at bridging children into government schools who haven’t been going to school. The school is meant to be a model to the state by demonstrating needs to be a space for age appropriate education. The school provides a bridge for kids who have missed out on education. Most kids are ex child laborers. The goal is to get the kids to pass the 7th grade exams and then the 10th grade exams as private candidates so that they get caught up to age-appropriate classes.
Below, the kids attending the Dream School take a lunch break. Like than Ananya and Creative, this school is unusual in not requiring/offering uniforms.
I noticed that none of the classrooms in the school had desks or chairs. Kids did all of their work on the floor primarily.
This science lab, below, was the only room that I saw with tables and chairs. In all of the classes the kids were hard at work on independent activities.
At age 14, the children can enter pre-university schools or stay on to join the vocational school (shown below). The school offers training in the areas of printmaking, tailoring, electronics and computers. 100 kids in vocational education program. APSA also runs a working girls hostel for first year out of the vocational program. The hostel (what we call a dormitory) allows the girls to save most of their money for a rent deposit. The girls then transition to rent housing together near their work.
I asked Laksha how his work has changed in the 30 years since he founded the organization. He said that before, information was enough to mobilize people. Today, organizing is harder. People are too busy. Focus is more on individual family units rather than on collective community, even in the poorest of communities. Society is lacking a common platform and mobilization is harder. Less turn out occurs now for public demonstrations and rallies.
The organization is also putting more focus on placing women in leadership roles. Laksha explained, “If money is managed by women in communities, quality of life is improved and education and health are priorities. Women consider community first, men consider self-interest.” He has great concerns with the micro-credit movement, saying that it can even be more exploitative than the regular organized crime and loan sharks of communities. Instead, banks must be expected to give loans to the poor. Statistics show that the poor repays loans 90% of the time compared with the rich who only repay 40%. To make it work to fund the poor, banks need to relax some conditions such as requiring individual collateral in exchange for a group collateral system. Collectives can assume responsibilities of individual loans.
I also asked Laksha his opinion of the Right to Education Act. He acknowledged the need to recognize that the law has been passed whether we like the law or not. He talked of the need to work with the government for it to be implemented properly and to suggest amendments. Stakeholders in this situation include: 1) government and education department; 2) teachers and schools, 3) Monitoring committee (parent of children plus two children) 4) children and parents
APSA works with all four stakeholders to clarify the role of each according to the act. But government is not enacting the rules. National government passed law and enacted model rules. But each state must enact tis own rules that will allow implementation of the law. Karnataka has not enacted the rules yet. Suspicion is that private schools lobby is preventing the passage of the bill.
APSA is holding press conferences and public hearings in the Senate Hall regarding problems with the act including: children injured in school when walls and roofs have fallen down, corporate punishment, scholarship issues. Scheduled casts are due scholarships but 2500 Bangalore kids are not accessing the money. Can’t get the money without a caste certificate. The scholarship is Rs 300 but the cost of getting the certificate is Rs 600.
Laksha’s RTE wish list includes:
1) CRC says child is birth to 18, but this law only covers age 6-14. The law should cover birth to 18. Make it comprehensive.
2) Do not commercialize education. State responsibility is for a free education for all. Tuition should be free and common school model should be held. All population should attend the same school rather than the current caste system of schooling )government schools, private schools, ICSE, CBSC schools, Public schools/international
For day two of Kim and Leti’s visit, I arranged for them to give a guest lecture in Shivali’s Foundations of Education class at NIAS, my institution here in Bangalore. They lectured about Diversity in Higher Education in the United States.
Me, Shivali, Leti and Kim
After the talk, we had some delicious “veg” lunch at the NIAS cafeteria. Here Kim is talking with Meetryi (a graduate student) and Shivali.
From NIAS, we went to my kids’ school to catch Kaden in a soccer match and Carson’s cricket practice.
The schizophrenia of two kids–Kim and Mom watch Carson while I am watching Kaden’s match in the other direction.
We went straight from school to the airport to catch a flight to Mumbai. On the way to the airport, I realized that I had forgotten my passport. Luckily, my PA driver’s license was enough to board the plane.
We were graciously met at the airport by Venkatesh from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He took us for one of the most delicious Indian meals that I’ve had in India– Maya at the Trident Bandra Kurla
March 8 marks the day of the Holi holiday in India. It is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the arrival of Spring. It is mainly a Northern India extravaganza. People throw powdered colors and spray colored water on one another. In Calcutta, where my parents are right now, you just don’t leave your house unless you intend on getting doused in color. Here in Bangalore it is more celebrated in controlled celebrations in apartment complexes and schools. Driving into town for some lunch and shopping, we saw some college aged kiddos having fun dousing each other at bus stops and street corners, but otherwise it was business as usual.
Both kiddos learned about Holi in their Hindi classes this week. Kaden can tell you the whole story about the gods and goddesses behind the Holi story.It is a very long story and suffice to say, they tried to kill this woman many different ways and she wouldn’t go down. Carson can tell you about how the colors used in Holi stand for blood and the bonfires lit the night before stand for the fire in the story.
In terms of celebrations, according to Wikipedia, “In most areas, Holi lasts about two days. One of Holi’s biggest customs is the loosening strictness of social structures, which normally include age, sex, status, and caste. Holi closes the wide gaps between social classes and brings Hindus together. Together, the rich and poor, women and men, enjoy each other’s presence on this joyous day. Additionally, Holi lowers the strictness of social norms. No one expects polite behavior; as a result, the atmosphere is filled with excitement and joy.”
The CIS school were to celebrate Holi on Friday after school. So, Todd and I had to go on a mission this week to find Holi guns. We tried several shops/shacks/counters in Yelahanka. We finally found what we needed at this little hut called Krishna’s Gift and Fancy store. We bought one water pistol and one pump for each kid. Thankfully, our driver came in to ensure that they shopkeeper didn’t double the price for us Americans!
These are the packs of powder that you throw at one another!
Friday after school was time to “play Holi” at CIS. We all arrived to pick up our kids and drive them down the road to the Tennis Academy where the melee began. The kids were to arrive with “clothes that you are ready to throw away, water pistols, a towel, a snack, and a bottle of water.” At the advice of the yoga moms, I also coated the kids’ hair in baby oil and also covered their bodies in it–these dyes can stain for quite a few days!
They PTO had set up buckets of colored water and lots of colored powders as well that you throw at one another. Kids brought water guns and these big syringes called pichkaris. Luckily we bought both yesterday! The kids had a blast. Kaden was the last one left standing I think–covered in color from head to toe. She was so busy that I hardly got any pictures of her.
Me and my yoga mamas– Kathryn, me, Helen and Anne.
Below: Carson with a direct hit! and me with another yogini–Meena!