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Education: The process of (un)learning

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

They say, the human mind is the most complex machine in the world and human imagination knows no boundaries. Yet, we tend to associate certain words with certain visuals and defend those with utmost vehemence. ‘School’ is such a word. It automatically brings visuals of huge buildings, tall classrooms and smiling children decked up in neat uniforms, saying ‘good morning, teacher’ in unison.

Having similar expectations, the five of us geared up for our first encounter with the children of Asawarpur Middle School in Haryana. How little we knew that ‘there are more things in heaven and earth’. We were living in a fool's paradise beaming with confidence due to our previous work in NGOs and international schools. As expected (not), our journey to the school became an adventure scrambling through the obscure lanes of Asawarpur, dodging bulls and ogling men simultaneously. Nonetheless, with squinted eyes (1 o'clock in the afternoon!) and head held high, we entered the school like we mean business.

Hold on! Where is the huge building and tall classrooms? We saw with dismay that the school was all of three rooms and a sorry excuse of a garden. More disappointments were on our way when we met the principal, who was not very optimistic about five postgraduate students from a posh university actually impacting the village kids. So, with profuse instructions to be strict with the kids, we finally get to meet our little clients.

Here, let us deviate a little from the narrative and take the liberty of saying a thing or two about children per se. We often perceive children as pure beings, untouched by their socio-economic, geo-political circumstances. What we fail to understand is that children, with highly impressionable minds can capture the essence of what is happening around them and reflect the same in their level of cognition, collaboration and creativity. This realisation dawned upon us while engaging with the kids from Asawarpur as we started our first round of ice breaking activities. Being asked about their favourite hobbies, kids came up with hobbies like ‘cleaning’, leaving us dumbfounded. To our surprise, we found kids not more than 12 years of age taking leads in showing us around, arranging the classrooms and to some extent, maintaining discipline. We realised that their circumstances and responsibilities have made them way more mature than we expect 12 year olds to be. Nonetheless, we conducted our first activity, where we let them enjoy freely with a bunch of colours and tried to gauge their extent of imagination and collaboration. What we wanted was to create a basis of formative evaluation and what we got was vibrant paintings depicting landscapes they have never even been to. They imagined tsunamis in the ocean, bright sky filled with colourful kites, little butterflies and what not! They even came up with own mixes of colours! We’ll speak in more details regarding the activities later, but let us say that ‘the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination’. Imagination at what we failed as adults and they excelled as kids.

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