August 8, 2015:
Even though it was a Saturday, a normal school holiday, the Headmaster of Kandavarayanpatti School (Sri Panichaarudayavar Dharma Kalasaalai) Thiru Mahalingam had arranged for the school to be run as one of the school days with all the teachers and students present. He had made the special arrangement for the meeting with volunteers from Vetrivel Foundation. I was happy to be joined by Thiru Samuel Ponraj from Thirunelveli, Pl. Karthik from Manapparai, CECRI volunteers Kamalambika, Archana, Poornima, Sudhan and Viky.
Meeting started with a prayer song sung by Mrs. Rama teacher. This was then followed by a welcome address from the headmaster Mr. Mahalingam. The main purpose for the meeting was to hear the feedback on the multimedia videos that we had presented during April 2015 visit and to introduce the CECRI volunteers to the school team. Opened the floor for students to hear their feedback on what they liked and what they would like to see more of. Initially the students were shy. Headmaster indicated that in addition to technical proficiency, leadership qualities are important and that they should speak up. After this encouragement, they started opening up. Students really loved to see the stories and the rhymes that were covered in the videos. When I asked them what they would like to learn more of, they indicated that they would like to learn English via videos. Explained to them about the English Kadhavu project and the visit by Kausalya Raman, who completed 12th grade in California, US and is doing English Kadhavu as one of her projects. They were happy to hear about her visit to their school. When we asked if the feedback from the teacher should be in a separate session, the Headmaster felt that it would be good for students also to hear the feedback. I liked the transparency that he maintains with students.
Teachers’ feedback was given by Mrs. Rama. She indicated that they would like to play the audio and also teach the lyrics of the songs in regular class, in addition to the multimedia class. She said that the quality of audio in the given rhymes multi media DVD was not very good and was difficult to write the lyrics down. Topics that they would like to cover in addition to Khan Academy are as follows:
Biography/Story of National Leaders, Freedom fighters
Videos about districts, local districts etc.
Videos about wild animals, domestic animals
Videos about zoos, botanical gardens etc.
Videos about production (of milk, textiles, tea, coffee etc.)
Then we asked the students about their aspirations. It was very inspiring..What we heard in terms of their career aspirations was amazing. It was not the stereotypical doctors and engineers. It included Teachers, Miltary/Army, IPS, IAS, Scientist etc. These are the kids of day laborers, tailors and local agricultural laborers. Very driven to succeed. That moment made the whole visit for all of us worth it and we were happy to be part of providing that opportunity to succeed.
After this, we introduced all of the volunteers. After planning class meetings with individual volunteers, decided to break for lunch for students. After this, had a brief planning session with the school staff and volunteers. Since all of the Saturdays are holidays, we discussed the best day for CECRI volunteers to visit the school. CECRI volunteers were kind enough to devote their Wednesday afternoons, the day when they do not have labs in the afternoons, to visit Kandavarayanpatti.
In the afternoon, the volunteers split into two teams and met with individual classes. They had a great experience as the students opened up more and they felt happy to be of service to them. Overall a great visit. And a start of a great journey. What we do everyday in support of creating educational tools accessible to the rural schools really does a make a difference.