Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye”….

                                         By Ciara McDermott, Suas Volunteer


Nine weeks have flown past in a flurry of colours, sights and sounds and we are fast approaching the final week of placement with Pratham Delhi. With interruptions to the usual timetable for Eid, Independence Day and a farewell party, it is easy to forget how much can still be achieved in only the few remaining teaching hours. Nonetheless, the end is nigh and thoughts of home comforts have long since crept in. We look forward to comfortably cool Irish weather, comparatively bland food and reliable infrastructures. Bathtubs, clean feet, and the familiarity of our family and friends are coveted at this late stage.

There will be certain poignancy to our joyful return home. We will be saying goodbye to the smiling faces, playful voices and enthusiastic spirits that greet us with shouts of” Ma’am ji!” and “Sir ji!” every morning and afternoon. It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that when we leave the children will continue to be taught through rote learning, they may learn incorrect turns of phrase; spellings and phonics and perhaps much of the progress they have made in the past ten weeks will be forgotten. There is a sense of regret that we could have done more, and some frustration with the unchanged systems we are leaving behind.

Looking back to our first day in the learning centres, when we struggled to remember the names of the kids, let alone communicate with them, we have come a long way. In stark contrast to the somewhat negative feelings we are struggling with, we feel immense pride that “our kids” can understand almost all of what we ask of them. When a visitor arrived at our centre last week the students could introduce themselves, their families and their interests with ease and confidence.

There is an enormous sense of achievement when a student can correct the grammatical errors of his or her peers and excitement when the students ask us about our interests and our home places. Tests have been conducted to record quantitative evidence of the improvement made throughout the programme but they merely scratch the surface. It is the warmth and confidence of the children that has increased every week that has been overwhelming. Although their English levels are far from perfect, they can adequately be comprehended by a native English speaker. The other teachers at the centre have also been exposed to a new way of learning.

Returning home and readjusting to the lifestyle there will pose its own challenges. As we reintegrate into society in the west however, we will not forget the culture we have been exposed to and the experiences we have had. We will miss the hospitality of strangers, fresh fruit on every corner, our chai Walla, and generally, the mayhem and intensity of what has been our home. The summer has been full of ups and downs, likes and dislikes, successes and failures but I for one feel that we have learned far more than we could ever have hoped to teach.

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