SAIIER 2013:Tamil Ulagam Evening Schools

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Isai Ambalam School
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Life Education Centre
Tamil Ulagam Evening Schools



Introduction

Tamil Ulagam Evening Schools are a joint collaborative project with Secours Polulair France, Les Enfants de Pondy Patch and the Auroville outreach schools of SAIIER. This project is a completely village oriented educational project. Les Enfants De Pondy Patch, through SAIIER, has now raised the funds necessary to sponsor 119 children for their education.

There are eleven Evening Schools around Auroville. We provide a joyful learning atmosphere for the children to develop self-confidence and personal growth. Our subjects include Eye-Hand Coordination, Language, Painting, Drawing, Clay, Health and Hygiene, Journalism, History, Cultural Enrichment, Natural/Ayurvedic Medicine, Organic Gardening, Music Classes, Theatre and Yoga Asanas.

There are about 665 children between the ages of 6 -14 years. Every school has 2 - 4 teachers, plus regular external teachers.

Activities

Atmosphere of the schools

Evening Schools start their classes after mediation. The children can bring their own stories to read. They also read passages of Thirukkural and share its meaning with the class to gain self-confidence.

Organic gardening

We started giving lessons and training to the children about the Organic Kitchen Garden last year. The children were invited to see the Botanical Garden and Aranya, where they were shown all the different plants and their uses. A demonstration was given to show how to prepare the compost, and then how to plant and then replant seedlings. They were also shown an educational video about various native plants and trees, and shown the principles and importance of water harvest. After seeing this video they wanted something practical to be done so they worked on a “Kottakarai Farm Aranya” every weekend. The children were shown many things in practice: how to prepare the soil and build bunding, the different types of seedlings and how to replant them in the soil, watering, and the importance and methods of mulching. Together we planted many types of vegetables: tomato, ladies fingers, chilies, French beans, eggplant, cluster beans, cucumbers, and pumpkins. They also learned how to weed the field that contained ragi, kambu and vargu. They were shown the rice field, and how to harvest peanuts. The children were, happy and excited about the vegetables they got.

Natural/Ayurvedic medicine

In the village, the knowledge of Nature‘s medicines is slowly disappearing after years of people turning to Homeopathy and Allopathy. While Homeopathy and Allopathy are valid, the knowledge of using medicinal plants is extremely important and must not be lost. Now we are reminding and re-teaching the children how to use Ayurvedic medicine. These plants grow naturally next to houses. The children learn the various purposes of the plants, and how to prepare and use them.

For example, they are taught which plant is good for healing wounds, and which plant they could use to cure belly pains. They also learn which plants do not cause side effects. We have given one-month workshops on this topic.

Spiritual and cultural significance of festivals

In Tamil Nadu we have many festivals happening in the various regions. For example, Ganesh Pooja, Krishna Jayanthi, Saraswathi Pooja, Deepavali, Pongal, Ramjan and Christmas. For these festival days there is usually a holiday, but the children often do not understand the spiritual, cultural, or historical significances relating to these. In the Evening Schools, we teach them the full meaning of these days. The children are very happy to know about this.

Manavar Moorasu, “Student Newspaper”

We are happy to announce that the students are making a newspaper, called “Manavar Moorasu” (“Student Newspaper”). In all eleven schools, the students collect the information themselves: some of it they read from different books, and some children submit stories they have invented themselves. Pieces include poems, questions-and-answers, quiz programs, and stories. Sometimes it‘s a factual story, some stories are creatively written, and some stories are favorites, like folklore. All of these writings, entirely in Tamil, are sent from all 11 schools to the editing teacher. After the material has been edited, and it is published as a newspaper then sent out to all the schools.

The children are amazed to see their own work published, and to see their own names and schools in the articles. They are reading their newspapers out loud in the classroom itself, and then take it home to read and share it. They are very happy and are also proud to show their parents the newspaper. Now the teachers in the village public schools are receiving our newspaper. This greatly encourages the children to collect new material and continue to write and publish. Because of this, the children are learning the value of information and creativity.

Yoga asanas

For three years now, yoga teachers have been visiting all of the Evening Schools to teach the children yoga asanas. When yoga is taught to young people, it benefits many areas of their lives, for the rest of their lives. The children are very happy for this training, and they benefit from the experience as it improves their posture and flexibility.

In many cases, when the teacher needs to facilitate yoga at another school, children who already know the asanas come forward to teach the other children. This has clearly taught them to take responsibility to continue the education of their peers, while they develop self-confidence in implementing their learning to the class. The children are able to feel proud of themselves and capable, trusting in their own ability to teach. The Mother often spoke about the importance of yoga in physical, spiritual and mental development.

Awareness of litter

The Auroville Cleanup Group conducted an awareness program to educate about the damage caused by littering. It encouraged the children to be good examples for others, by not littering and discouraging others from littering.

Summer programs

Every year we conduct summer camps for our children in many different locations in Auroville. This year we will have three days of summer camp at Kottakarai farm, each day there will be different students shuffling so that others can get the chance to participate. On these three days all our teachers will be present and will coordinate many different activities for the children who they don‘t know. This is the place where students mingle together.

Teachers' seminars and training

Every first Sunday of the month, we have a Teachers Seminar which is conducted by Prof. Veerasamy or Prof. Anbu. They both are well known in children‘s education, and Prof. Veerasamy has even been awarded for his teaching excellence by the Government. He helps the teachers to think, grow their knowledge and develop their teaching methodology. True to his training, he teaches the teachers in a playful and joyful way, engaging their creativity and excitement. The teachers then implement their training in the Evening Schools. This makes the teachers, children and parents happy, showing the good results of the added training our teachers receive.

English and computer classes

Both of these activities were newly added this year at Kottakarai Farm; we realized that students are in need of English language learning and computer skills. So we focused on these and tried to arrange the facilities for them; it came out well. The 12th Standard and college students really benefited for their project works.


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