The word ‘panchi’ or bird bears many connotations, and is, hence, open to many perceptions – freedom being the foremost. So, whether it is freedom of expression, freedom of individuality or freedom of harbouring a dream, among others, the center that bears this name facilitates all of these important aspects of freedom, and much more.
‘Panchi’, a school located in Ghazipur, commenced operations in May, 2015, with eighty children from neighbouring families, whose main profession was rag-picking. The major challenge was retaining the students, more than anything else – ensuring their regular attendance, and devising means and ways of sustaining the same.
Today, the school hosts almost 170 children across the age group of 4-16 years across three batches throughout the day. Three supplementary teachers: Heera, Ritu, and Shagufta are the backbone of this school, facilitating the active participation of the students, across almost 7-8 challenging hours of the day, encouraging them to learn, grow and express.
The narrow staircase that leads to the school on the first floor, as well as the walls of the room, which serves as a classroom for three simultaneous batches of students, depict interesting learning aids: the drawing of half-a-butterfly invites the students to use their skills of symmetry to draw/paint the other half; a story telling board invites children to read stories with the following pillars in mind: setting, characters, problem, happening and solutions; another painting on the wall titled ‘word search’ is self-explanatory; the very hungry caterpillar invites the kids to write what type of food item they had and when, thereby encouraging vocabulary and its retention.
These are just some of the creative didactic tools. On the other side of the room, a gamut of books is labelled according to the level of reading, starting from exclusive picture story books.
A teacher’s manual, lesson plans and consistent refresher trainings are some ‘tools’ the teachers are equipped with. Says Ritu Rawat, who has been teaching class 3 students since November last year: “My mother is an ‘Anganwadi’ worker, and I have always been positively influenced by her work, more so teaching. I love to adopt my teaching methods based on the level of the child I am teaching, even if it is a heterogeneous group. At the beginning it was challenging explaining children even about the basics of hygiene and nutrition, but over the passage of time, the results were so encouraging that it was the biggest reward for my hard work.”
Little Sultana, who is very keen to be a part of the interview jumps right in with her quote: “I love ma’am and the way she teaches. It has inspired me to be a teacher too; to change lives too.” It is heartening to hear of such dreams from children, for whom regular study was a challenge just a few months back.
The second floor of the building houses an abode of creativity called ‘Gulmeher’: here women create wonders from scrap paper – different kinds of stationary that blossom from wounded flowers and recycled paper. The third floor harbours a tailoring unit, which creates innovative and bespoke bag styles. Both units encourage women from the neighbourhood to make an impact through productive application of their skills and creativity.
The center is a world of its own, far from the madding crowd – a symbol of hope kept alive by the determination and grit of its team. The quote “Be the change you want to see” could not be more apt true for this center.