Ana’s Jobshadowing in India

The first week of the jobshadowing period in Jeevan Rekha Parishad (JRP), Bhubaneswar, India, occurred from February 27th to March 4th. The schedule focused on the observation of the activities undertaken by two French volunteers in Sitanath and Mahima Cooperative Schools (governmental and private schools, respectively) as well as in the slum schools of Kanchanjanga and Banafulla, under the program Eurasia Net – International Civil Service “EurasiaTwins”. The strong partnership between JRP and this French organisation, based in Marseille, has been considered a key strategy to provide English and French lessons in different classes of the formal schools mentioned, although the methodologies upheld throughout the activities are consistent with non-formal education and learning approaches. Concerning the activities carried out in the slum schools, to identify features of a specific educational paradigm, pedagogical model and/or learning approach is a challenge itself.

In the slums there are no rigid methodologies or defined pedagogical goals. Children are playing around in the streets and their school attendance is irregular. Somehow, the lack of rules is an evidence of the poverty experienced on a daily basis as well as the uncertainty that the future represents. The high risk of malnutrition can impact on children’s learning capacity. We can see that the majority may not understand the meaning of those complex concepts that are target of major concern in contemporary societies: School and Education.

The school is a place in the neighbourhood where they can find other children, where they can repeat numbers and the alphabet that may be useful one day, a place where volunteers arrive with a smile and open arms that allow dreaming of a world that goes beyond the boundaries of the slum!… Suddenly, when we step in the slum for the first time, it becomes clear what is the main purpose of the happy kids school: even if only for a moment, making the children smile and forget the poverty that surrounds them!… It is important to mention that communication is a major issue, considering that the majority of the children only speaks Orya (dialect of this region that is significantly different from English, official language, or even Hindu, widely adopted by many Indians all over the country).

For this reason, non-verbal language gains greater importance as a key strategy to overcome these huge barriers that perpetuate the cycles of poverty experienced by thousands of Indian families. A smile on our face and wide open arms to welcome them in the (slum) School is crucial to engage the children, strengthen ties, motivate them to come back to School and stimulate their interest in learning!