As I walk onto the premises of one of the private school in Hyderabad, I’m greeted by the singing of young children as they dance around in a circle. They laugh and play, while also encouraging their peers to jump higher or shout louder. I think to myself that this is a promising learning environment for a child to grow in. I write down some quick notes and head into the small waiting room.
One of the main tasks I’ve been assigned with at SAFA is to create, design, and implement a project that will recruit 10-15 underprivileged youth to attend a private school where they have access to more educational resources and emotional support than they would at a public school. Visiting different schools will help me see the curriculum they use, the atmosphere they create for the children, and the learning opportunities they provide. My observations and reviews with my mentor will help select a school that aligns with our goals as well as provide the most opportunities to the students.
In addition to building a relationship with the schools through the visits and observing what they are like, it was important to review with the school’s principal or administrator the costs associated with enrolling a student. The budget for the program is flexible but it’s important that not all of it is spent on enrollment costs. Workshops, field trips, and stipends must also be considered to assure the students are given as many advantages as possible to succeed.
The schools I decided to visit were based off suggestions from colleagues who were more familiar with the school system in Hyderabad. Following their suggestions, I researched to see that they offered language courses, safe learning environments, activities/clubs, and that the curriculum they offered was like what many top schools were using.
The first school I visit is small but welcoming. Upon meeting the secretary, I try my best to introduce myself, and articulate the reasons for being at the school. I had called beforehand but the conversation was rushed and unclear. Luckily, the woman I meet speaks English and connects me with the principal. Again, I try my best to articulate my reason for being there though the words are all jumbled from nervousness. The principal is kind and asks some straight forward questions which I try my best to answer. By the end of the conversation, I leave with some booklets and pamphlets about the school, as well as a rubric detailing the costs of admission. I thank everyone for their time and head off to the next school.
The next school is far, located on the outskirts of the city. As I arrive, I understand why. The school’s campus is enormous, and there are at least 1000 children outside. The staff quickly notices a lost American in the throngs of playing children, and kindly leads me off to the administration’s office. There, I meet with the head administrator to explain my presence, again failing miserably. Though I phoned ahead, I struggle to express my interests clearly, probably again from nervousness.
The woman explains to me a bit about the school, and its admission process. She quickly throws out some numbers and I struggle to write everything down. My memory served me better than did my voice today, I think. Before leaving to report back at the SAFA center, I grab a beautifully illustrated booklet that highlights the achievements of the school, and rush off.
It’s nice to see schools challenging children and surrounding them with positive environments to succeed and reach their potential. Some schools even want to encourage their students to choose a path based on their passion, rather than solely on chances of future employment. Though this may be an option for only a few, it is interesting to see schools shape the minds of the youth in a unique way. Of course, the goal is that every child is someday born into a society where their decisions for the future are not restricted by economic or social pressures.
So far, my experience interacting with different schools has been educational. To see first-hand the schools and school systems in India has been a tremendous learning experience. I learned that private schools are preparing their students to excel in as many school subjects as possible. With India having the largest population under the age of 35, the job market is as competitive as ever and it’s important that the students develop into well-rounded individuals. I also learned that schools are veering away from teaching students about more traditional career paths (doctors, lawyers, software engineers) and designing classes that attract students to other jobs (police officers, social workers, entrepreneurs). In these last three months, I’ve seen some of the best, and sadly I’ve seen some of the worst, schools in Hyderabad. It’ll be interesting to see the impact of the new program as it unfolds over the coming months.