Generally, I’m not a big fan of cloudy days, but I appreciate them here in Sittilingi for two reasons. First, cloudy days tend to be a little bit cooler and are often accompanied by a breeze; in these summer months, I welcome any relief from the often suffocating heat. Second, the sunsets tend to be more interesting when there are some clouds in the sky. Plus, it is often cloudy here without it raining, which is good for me, but not so good for the crops. On Tuesday, there was cloud cover for most of the day, making it a bit cooler, and leading to a beautiful sunset. The sky was lit up in a beautiful pink after the sun went down – this picture doesn’t do justice to the breathtaking landscape, but I’ll post it if I can anyway.
Sittilingi sunset on a cloudy day. May 5, 2009.
It is possible that I especially appreciated the sunset after spending the afternoon at Thulir. I last wrote about Thulir awhile ago, and I didn’t write much about it at the time, so I’ll do my best to explain it now. Thulir, which is Tamil for “sprout,” started as THI’s education initiative, and is now its own trust. It is run by a husband and wife team, Anu and Krishna, who became friends with Gi and Tha when both couples were in previous jobs. Thulir has two main programs: one is an after-school, supplementary education program, and the other is a kind of rehabilitation program for students who drop out of school.
Thulir is particularly unique in this area in its educational philosophy. Most schools in India emphasize rote memorization, repetition, and obedience. For instance, my first or second weekend here, I was sitting with the staff kids who are in elementary school, and they pulled out one of their school books. The book contained pictures of various fruits and vegetables, and had the English words written under the pictures. With the book in their laps, the students pointed to a picture, spelled out a word such as P-I-N-E-A-P-P-L-E, and then pronounced the word in Indian English, such that I could barely understand what they were saying. This went on for about twenty or thirty foods, which at first I found impressive. But then I remembered that the only communication they are capable of in English is hello, good morning, and what is your name. It certainly seems to be that teaching kids how to think is not a priority in the school system.
At Thulir, however, creative thinking and expression is the norm. The younger kids attempt complicated word problems with pebbles as props, and the older ones learn about wiring and electricity, so that they can design torches (flashlights) and light fixtures. There is also open space for the kids to run around and play sports, as well as a plethora of games and art supplies. Every day at Thulir, many new project ideas are born, and Anu and Krishna do their best to enable the kids to make the ideas a reality. Perhaps most importantly, the students really like to go there, and thus develop a love for learning.
When I went to Thulir yesterday, Krishna was holding down the fort, while his wife and kids were on vacation for a few days. The school-age children were already in their summer holiday, so the afternoon program was on break, but the older students were still on the campus, in the midst of cataloguing the Thulir library. Many of them were planning to go home the next day, and they wanted to finish the task before they left. I was really impressed by the dedication and motivation these students were displaying, and when I remembered that these students had dropped out of school, I realized how much Thulir has changed their lives. In Israel, I had purchased some wooden brain-teaser puzzles for Thulir, and when I presented them to the students, they all started working together on them, allowing the collaborative atmosphere at Thulir to shine through.
Yesterday, I spent most of my time at Thulir hanging out with Krishna, and talking with him about his philosophy of education, and of life. I’m still digesting a lot of what he said, and I’m sure I’ll hear more tonight when Lalit, Geetha, and I head over there for dinner. I think I’ll stop here for now, and encourage you to get up from your computer and do something fun, in honor of the kids at Thulir.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Leave a comment »