SAIIER Annual Report 2014-2015: Kuilapalayam Cultural Centre

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Laboratory of Evolution
Kuilapalayam Cultural Centre


Introduction

The team of Kuilapalayam Cultural Centre comprises of several volunteer tutors serving an increasing number of young men, women and children from the surrounding villages of Auroville. The Centre grew from a need for young Tamil men and women, who work in and around Auroville, to have a place where they could spend their valuable leisure time meaningfully in order to develop and acquire additional skills apart from their work skills or their studies.

These days, many village children and youths spend a lot of time watching television programs in their homes, playing video and computer games or sometimes just go roaming around aimlessly outside. By providing alternative activities and safe environment, we intend to bring a change in their lives as we provide a wide range of interesting and skill-based programs. With these skills, we believe that they will be motivated in a positive way. The Centre opened on 2nd March 2003 and one of its objectives was to bring the rich arts of Tamil Nadu back to the villages and the world through its courses, programmes, activities and performances.

For example:

  • Tamil traditional and classical dances
  • Tamil folk music and folk dances
  • Silambam (weapon-based art programme)
  • Karagattam (a form of classical dance)
  • Bharatha Natyam (Natya Yoga) for 2014 -15.

We also provide homework tuition, books and newspapers to read; a ‘Health Class' to create awareness in children on how they should protect themselves, and make them aware of their rights. Plus English lessons 2 days a week, quiz programs at weekends, eating together once a week and, of course, sports – many inside games and outside games.

Activities of the year

Every year, more than 50 children and youths from nearby villages come and participate in the offerings of Kuilapalayam Cultural Centre. The programmes are taught in the free time of the participants, seven days a week, from 6pm – 8pm. Approximately 30 people attend every day. Students from different schools of our surroundings including Aikiyam School, Trust School, Aravindhar school and KPM Govt school are regular attendees, coming to get help and support in their studies. Through our facilitators, we are trying our best to give them guidance and academic help. We also organize outings, field trips to different places for learning about many different things.

These sessions are offered every Monday through Saturday from 6pm to 8pm. Three tutors - Vishnu, Iyappan and Nandhini - and one English teacher are facilitating these programmes. We also frequently get help from volunteers.

Evening Tuition: The evening tuition programme is our main activity. It is for a mixed age group of students, 7 to 13 years old. It is an interconnected activity bridging school and home, as we have the chance to update parents directly about their child’s progress. From our individual donations we also provide snacks three times a week. Many of our students felt so happy to have this evening assistance after school, for different reasons.


Feedback from students on Evening Tuition
“First of all, we are thanking to our KCC, because this place is very nearby to our living place. Secondly, we are offered snacks after our studies. And then, a very good tutoring, monitoring and caring by three of our tutors and co-ordinators in different groups by age level.”


Feedback from parents on Evening Tuition
“Some of us, we feel so happy to send our children to KCC, because we do not have enough time to help them in the evening to look after them due to many of our commitments in many other things and then we didn’t study at all.”
“Our children are studying in English medium schools, and when they ask some doubts and questions, we aren’t able to answer them.”
“These days, the level of the lessons, whatever if it is, we feel totally puzzled and we are always looking for some assistance. And for this, the KCC is doing a meaningful and useful job for us and our children.”


English Class: Our English classes grew from the needs of adults who come forward on their own initiative to learn or improve their English. This was facilitated by Selvaraj (Coordinator of KCC) with the help and assistance of a volunteer from Germany named Kaya. For every class we received approximately 8 to 10 students whose expectations were on different levels, but through this programme we got a chance to analyze and synthesize their needs and expectations. We assessed their levels through giving opportunities to talk about some interesting topics, or telling stories, interviews, etc. Then they were given tasks in different sessions, such as grammar exercises, storytelling, multiple-choice comprehension, finding answers through gestures, communicating with partners, and sessions of interviewing each other. After all types of efforts, they lost their shyness and gained self-confidence. Our volunteer Kaya, who came on her own and wished to contribute her support to this programme especially, was a great sustainable support for us. With the supervision of the coordinator and by planning lessons together, they could prepare the lessons to be motivating for the students. Her presence also helped the students learn to communicate and have conversations in English without fear when they meet English-speaking people.


Feedback from a student on English Class
“I was looking for English class nearby my village, but when I got the chance to learn English at our KCC, I felt so lucky by myself. Before attending this English lesson, I had no self-confidence to talk with the English people, but now I am so happy because I am brave enough to communicate with them and so this must be continued and many of them, like me, should be benefited through this English lesson in future.”


ATB: A volunteer from Germany named Clara offered Awareness Through the Body (ATB) sessions twice a week from 7pm to 8pm. This programme was a great opportunity for laughing, sharing, playing, jumping, puzzling, working together... After reading and working on studies, everyone was in need of relaxation and this was fulfilled through ATB.

Quiz programme: Every Saturday a quiz programme was organized in order to entertain the students and cultivate their knowledge of information. The students were appreciated through rewards and compensations. These types of programmes helped us a lot to strengthen community, creating a base for building connections between the teachers and students.

Field trips: Often our students were taken to different places to study more visually about how they could intimate their learning experience on the spot. We went to Tanjore with our students and teachers to study the ancient culture of Tamilnadu and to learn about the history of Tanjore Temple, which was built 1000 years ago by the King of Raja Raja Cholan. When we came to know that the temple is still alive after three huge earthquakes, we were amazed at the infrastructures and how it was planned and built.

Night walks: Sometimes we took students for full moon walks around Auroville, where they experienced the adventure of getting to know how places are at night time and what types of animals, birds, reptiles and other creatures live next to their existing environment.

Games (indoor and outdoor): Before the Evening Tuition begins, students typically have some outdoor games like Shuttlecock, Volleyball, Throw ball, Cricket, Skipping, Coco and Swinging with the supervision and the guidance of the tutors. After their studies, they have some indoor games like Chess, Carom, Snakes and Ladders, card games, Pallanguzhi, Dhayyam, etc. These let all the age groups mix and play together and have lots of fun learning about the rules and the procedures of the games.

Clean-ups: In October, with the collaboration and cooperation of Kuilappalayam Cleanup Campaign, our Kuilappalayam Cultural Centre students were invited to join for a huge clean-up around our village. A second clean-up was organised in January, where our team contributed a huge performance in cleaning on the road side next to the village shops.

Creating Young Artists programme: An art programmes is conducted on a voluntary basis by an art teacher named Ramalingam, once a week on Saturdays. It is an ongoing programme where around 10 interested participants attend regularly. All participants are very motivated and involved in this activity.

My Dream My India: In January a programme called “My Dream My India” was conducted by a world-record-holding artist. Twenty of our students and volunteers participated in this event, which involved explaining what our India is specialized in and how our India is united even though it is diverse in many aspects. Participants described how they would like to see a change in the future development and growth of Mother Earth.

Eating Together: Every Sunday from 7pm to 8pm we have a dinner together where everyone brings food to share. This has become a sustainable activity to create a platform for good understanding and sharing values among students, teachers, volunteers, and in the future with parents too.

Outcomes

The students in our programmes gained understanding and support for their studies; the tutors acted to relieve doubts and clarify the material. The tutors also understood the needs of the students' requirements and so were able to hold up the hooks for reaching their targets.

English class was a major activity for our youths especially because, after a year, they have more confidence in speaking and writing. Through English class, the level of English speaking and writing has increased and now they are able to face the field of applying their learning procedures practically. Seeing the success of improving their English knowledge was a great progress for us and for the students.

Kuilapalayam Cultural Centre directly helped all its the participants, but also indirectly helped to decreasing the worries and burdens of the parents. The Centre is a solution to how children and adults can find help in hard fields and subjects; it is also a way to hold to a daily committment as a healthier alternative to some usual habits like drinking, coming late, neglecting children, etc.

With the additional activities, our students were given extra boosters which helped us increase the interest and the levels of the students. Always the students were attracted to the Centre by its activities, which motivate them to attend the programme regularly with no skipped days.

Future direction

We will continue to provide the best assistance and aids possible for strengthening the Evening Tuition activity for next year students. The three tutors will continue in their roles. We will carry over the English class programme next year, as an opportunity for interested students to learn English without fear. Our additional activities will be sustained, and will be strengthened by an expansion of the space with necessary buildings, for which we are still looking for funds.

Conclusion

Through facilitating and counseling in our English class and Tuition class, we have a strong faith that we can help students grow their inner potential and skills, letting them achieve their career and life goals. More than that, Kuilapalayam Cultural Centre has become a lively and well-appreciated space for building a healthy community.


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Kindergarten
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Laboratory of Evolution