The rains have finally passed in rural India, and with them the year’s most severe threat of mosquito-borne malaria and dengue fever. As the season changes, Fairific looks ahead to new needs we can alleviate with our September GoodBag™ distribution. By working with our field partner we’ve found that, just like American children starting a new school year, the students in rural villages need school supplies, too. Happily, the Fairific community is here to help! In late September, Fairific and field partner DISCC, India will distribute 50 School Supply GoodBags™, each with a school bag, two pencils, an eraser, a set of crayons, and a drawing and activity book, to kindergartners at Ambedkar Integrated School. We talked with DISCC President Dr. Tulsi Das about implementing the new GoodBag™ program.
[current students at Ambedkar Integrated School]
Fairific: Dr. Tulsi, can you share a little about the Ambedkar Integrated School with our readers?
Dr. Tulsi: The Ambedkar Integrated School is one of DISCC, India’s permanent projects. The school was started under a tree many years back and gradually, with the support of international friends, we have built a structure of 4 rooms where children can study. The school is situated in a completely rural area with mud huts, grain fields, cows and buffalo, small roads, and villagers who are mostly below the poverty line. Here, below the poverty line means they have a very meager income and few resources to manage their family. Most of them are from a lower caste, have reached a low level of education— just enough to read a little bit, and work in the grain fields where they earn about 100 rupees per day (note: about $2.02). To put that in perspective, potatoes cost 15 rupees per kilogram and onions cost 25 rupees per kilogram— quite a lot compared to the average income. Another quality of life issue is that the children generally don’t have sports or games to keep them occupied, so their choices are working in the fields with their parents or roaming around the village. You can see why going to school, even under a tree, is a much better alternative.
[the early days of Ambedkar Integrated School]
Fairific: Is there anything significant about the school’s name, Ambedkar?
Dr Tulsi: Yes! Dr. Ambedkar was the person who wrote the constitution of India. He was a social activist who devoted himself to the poorest of the poor as well as the oppressed communities of Indian society. This school was established in keeping with his ideas and philosophy. As such, it is located in a remote village with the intention of providing basic education, health, and hygiene skills and boosting confidence in the village’s poorest children.
Fairific: What is a normal day like for the students at the Ambedkar Integrated School?
Dr. Tulsi: The students’ school day runs from 9.30AM to 2PM. Usually the day starts with a prayer, followed by Yoga lesson, followed by Thought of the Day, and then children go into their respective classes. The timetable for these children is not like any other school of the world but is based more on functional knowledge and life skills. For example, they learn the concept of money, the concept of time, and good values, and they do so through stories, songs, and cultural programs. Along with this functional education, children are taught health education, sports and games, English, Hindi, mathematics, and science up to grade 4. The students also enjoy a class picnic each year.
[Dr. Tulsi with older students at Ambedkar Integrated School]
Fairific: We’re excited to be giving out creativity boosting materials like crayons and activity books. As a psychologist, can you share a bit about the importance of these items?
Dr. Tulsi: For starters, the kindergartners love drawing and painting and we wanted them to enjoy their creativity. From a more scientific angle, people see everything of this world in the form of colors, movements, voices, and excitement. These four elements are very important for the growth of the brain. In fact, a hard scientific fact is that we don’t remember in black and white. Rather, we remember in the form of sounds, movements and colors, and excitement. We also know that at around 4 years of age, children are developing their understanding and recognition of color. This, along with the four elements of memory, are for better or worse. For example, if I ask you what is the meaning of Papa in your memory then the face of your papa with colors and sounds is there, but no word which comes in memory as “papa.” That’s just the way it is. All this adds up to the great importance of colors, shapes, actions, and so on, and we saw that by supplying young students with crayons and activity books that we could help them develop these critical functions, and do it in a fun way.
Fairific: Thanks for talking with us, Dr. Tulsi. We can’t wait to see photos from the September GoodBag™ distribution!