Month-long summer vacation for students is now over, and Vidyashram-The Southpoint School is back in session for a new school year. There are about 150 students at this school, from Preschool to 12th grade, studying on the same campus. The campus that I had known to be pretty quiet is now full of children’s laughters, which is quite exciting.
Administration of Vidyashram-The Southpoint School is one of the key components of NIRMAN’s work. This private school serves as a model of education system in the new age by bringing in students from diverse backgrounds. Instruction is in English, with the exception of some classes in younger grades and Hindi/Sanskrit classes.
There are a few ways that Southpoint differs from the traditional Indian education system. First, Southpoint provides scholarships for students that require financial assistance to attend, as well as free nutritious lunch every day. In India (and many other parts of the world I’m sure), education has been only available for those that can afford it. In offer for children to attend school, they need to come from families that are willing to support them financially and morally; however, this support is difficult to gain for girls, Muslims, and children from lower income families, just to mention a few. Southpoint strives for a diverse group of students, with different religions, genders, and social classes represented.
Second, Southpoint puts emphasis on cultural activities including theatre and visual art. Students engage in one large theatre production every year, and take classes in various art forms regularly. Southpoint students are trained in Indian vocal and instrumental classical music, as well as some visual arts.
Finally, Southpoint engages students from nearby villages by having a separate campus in Betwar, in the outskirts of Varanasi about 15 km away from the main campus. This campus houses 60 students, from Preschool to 5th grade; after 5th grade, students are bussed to the main campus where they can complete 6th grade and above. I had a chance to visit this campus on Sunday, and it was very nice and serene — in the middle of the fields where they grow food crops such as rice and lentils, right by Ganga river, surrounded by birds, flowers, and plants of all kinds.
At Southpoint, I am teaching music to 8th and 9th grades, as well as history to 8th grade. Working with these students is both fun and difficult. I am very happy that they are excited about learning music with me for this month; all of their music classes have been on Indian traditional music, so what I am teaching (basic Western music theory and English songs) is new to them. However, teaching music has been made very easy because they have good ears and tonal memory, most likely because they are taught music by ear from younger age. On the other hand, teaching history has been challenging. Some students are more interested in history than others, and some students don’t behave. Some students don’t have the books necessary for the course, while the others have all the homework completed. I’m learning how to manage a classroom full of naughty 13-year-olds for the first time, and hopefully this won’t take too long.
I am working with another intern, a master’s student from Bangalore, to conduct a research on how these differences affect the experiences of students, families, and staff members. It is still in the early stages of planning, but we will be collecting data from students, teachers, and staff to examine the impact Southpoint has on various people. More on this later.
I am now halfway done with my 7-week internship now. I’m hoping to make the second half an enriching experience with full of learning and meaningful connections.