School has never been so much fun
In January, Niels Arnbak visited Troy in Bangalore, and had a chance to see the Edelweiss school:
“When I asked my Facebook friends for tips on where to go in India, Troy invited me to visit the ABC-schools by the slums of Bangalore. So I expected slum schools. I expected schools like I had been involved with in Cambodia: Pupils and teachers with the best of intentions, making the most of it makeshift barracks with dull interiors, often without electricity and equipment, using outdated textbooks to follow a chaotic curriculum. Then I stepped into the Edelweiss school and I soon realized that Troy hadn’t managed my expectations very well.
We were greeted with an explosion of color and joy. The kids were learning English through song and dance videos on big flat-screen TV’s. Every time we entered another classroom the kids would perform a song and associated dance routine. As we moved towards the older kids they became more confident in their performances and their level improved, so it was clear their method pays off. The fun in the last class was so contagious that we joined in and danced our big floppy bodies around the room. Finally, the kids chased us for a big group hug from which it was hard to escape.
Slightly overwhelmed, Troy and I went upstairs for a chat in the colorful rooftop playground. I love singing and dancing and believe is is a great tool for teaching young kids, so I told him that this looked like the most fun pre-school I had ever set foot in. Not so bad a compliment from a well-off Dutchie for a free school by a slum. But I also wondered what would be next for the pupils of this fantastic pre-school. How can they afford to continue their quality education when public schools are poor and private schools are expensive? It is not easy but there is hope, said Troy.
This year the Indian government has passed a law called Right To Education (RTE). It states that all schools in the country, also the private schools, have to accept at least 25% poor children. The government has even promised to pay for the poor children’s tuition fees. Probably, the kids in the ABC-schools have a higher chance of getting accepted. Their level of English is high, they are healthy due to ABC’s nutrition program and the ABC helps them to submit the right documents.
Managing expectations is more important here than in some friend’s Facebook-comment: Things in India never really go ahead as planned. Whether RTE is implemented as envisaged remains to be seen. The other option for the ABC would be to open its own elementary school. But the costs and logistics involved in such an ongoing project are huge. Since it would only be feasible to open one big school this would involve bussing in the kids from the different slums over Bangalore’s consistently congested roads. After my experiences in Bangalore I feel that these kids deserve the very best in their follow-up education – and that the ABC will do its very best to make it happen.”