Hope for Children in Slums in India: Class is in Session!
India never awakens to the dawn gently. The sea of humanity collides as each heads to work, market, and schools. Familiar scenes of pupils scampering to their schools during assembly like the one at Koramangala, Bengaluru are all too common.
Getting an education is paramount in this nation of 1.4 billion people – a point that Peggy Foo, a volunteer with Singapore International Foundation is keenly aware of. “Children in India - they have great potential to learn,” she says while being warmly greeted by a sea of students dressed in blue and green school uniforms as she stands at the school assembly."The key is to provide them with the right kind of guidance to help them maximise that potential.”
In 2017, the Singapore International Foundation partnered with Parikrma Foundation and launched a specialist education volunteer programme, with Peggy and other Singapore International Volunteers (SIVs) coming together to galvanise the teaching of Math and Science in Parikrma’s schools.
Parikrma is an NGO that is dedicated to providing free education to children from Bengaluru’s slums and orphanages. The work that the NGO does is not lost on Peggy. “What inspired me to take on this project is having benefited from people who have taught me and coached me very well when I was in school, I thought if I could train the teachers to teach more effectively, that could in turn benefit a lot of children”.
Through annual exchange programmes between Singapore and India, the SIVs have nurtured a core group of Indian Master Teachers, proficient in the pedagogies that led Singapore to excel in international competency rankings. These Master Teachers waste no time in sharing their knowledge with their fellow educators. The speed with which change and knowledge gathering was happening stunned Shukla Bose, the founder of Parikrma Foundation. “The teachers came back flying, literally, metaphorically, figuratively! We could see the impact in the classes.” What became apparent to Shukla and the other teachers was that the level of interactivity and engagement of the students just went through the roof. Learning has become fun.
The Covid-19 pandemic threatened to derail the programme, as closed borders meant teacher training had to be brought online. Reflecting on the pandemic years, Shukla marvels at the way the programme still worked well over the Internet. “Peggy ran the online classes extremely well when we had no other option,” Shukla remembers. “When she is teaching her knowledge, her expertise comes through. Our teachers gravitated towards her and learning happened automatically.”
The trials and tribulations throughout the partnership forged a strong bond between the SIVs and Parikrma Foundation. “Peggy has been more than just a Master Trainer for us. Peggy has been a friend.” Shukla is grateful for the person that is Peggy and the knowledge that she brought to the meetings. To both Shukla and the teachers in Bengaluru, Peggy was not a foreigner - she was one of them.
The mutual admiration is apparent. Peggy always arrived and left India with a healthy dose of respect and love for her counterparts and friend Shukla. “It’s a really wonderful experience that some of us, including myself, can go to India and share our experiences with them. I think it’s a lot more personal now. We have friendships. We have relationships.”