Right now I’m just over half way through the fellowship. I’m at a fairly pivotal point at the project site too, as I move away from the report writing, studies and business planning of the last few months and back into the grassroots engagement in my community.
I want to vocalise a few points for action here. My project has drifted away from my work on improving the inclusive education system and raising awareness of developmental disabilities. This is where I want my focus to be in the next five months.
In general, my work in the school involves working with the teachers to improve their teaching methods and approach to inclusion. I’m experimenting with new lesson plans, new learning tools and original learning methods. There’s a tendency for teachers to stick with the tried and tested approach, even though this school is the first of it’s kind for special needs inclusion in the whole of Rajasthan. Their pioneering work continues to create new challenges and the teachers need to adopt a mindset that seeks new solutions, not old stop-gap methods. I see my role to inspire them to what is possible.
Specifically, I’m going to be developing team and group based-learning methods for students, a worksheet filing system for each class, improving access (and understanding of) the various learning materials we have, and running training on inclusion for all staff (not just teaching staff).
I’m working with a team of volunteers from Canada in a few weeks to build a sensory tunnel for our children with cerebral palsy. The Canadian Volunteers – all aged 16-18 – are going to be here for 10 days and I’m excited to see what else we can do with them.
I’m also going to be working with the teachers and students to improve the aesthetic appeal of the campus, classrooms and student areas. Something that hasn’t ceased to amaze me is how inspired students here can be by the simplest of creations. I want to provide them access to ideas, games and knowledge that they don’t have access too – and it’s affordable. I want the teachers to find a role in this, so they can be inspired by what is possible with a little bit of original thinking and some keen dedication.
So I’m doing simple things, like a giant world map painting, a new football pitch, photo displays of the activities the children have been up to, and a solar system display. It’s a shame I only have five months left to do this. It doesn’t sound like much, but there are a lot of hurdles between me and a paint brush.
And then with all that, I also need to work on an awareness raising campaign in the local village, which they hope to continue after I’ve left in other villages. We’ll see if I have time for that….