Celebrating Teachers’ Month – Taking the School to Children’s Doorstep (School-on-Wheels)

The ‘School-on-Wheels’ is a signature program of Door Step School. A bright yellow modified bus full of teaching aids, charts, pictures and other gadgets along with two teachers reaches out to those communities for whom education is still a distant dream. At present there are four such buses; each reaching out to around 100  children spread over 3 to 4 sites in a day.

And who are these two ladies with confident smiles inviting all the children and their parents into the bus? Yes, they are the teachers of the ‘School-on-Wheels’ who willingly put their patience, perseverance and commitment to test as they move from one site to another in line of their duty. After an initial survey they identify a site to park the bus for two hours so that at least 15 – 35 children from the nearby area benefit from it.

Malti and Anagha are the teachers in the Wakad area. They have worked in DSS as teachers in various Education Activity Centers for the last five years. Malti says, “Our work on the School-on-Wheels bus is an extension of our EAC work. The main difference is we cover three different sites in one day; that gives us just about two hours to work with a group of children. And ours is a temporary arrangement until a shed or some other facility is given or identified to start an EAC.” That means they have to work smart to be able to give maximum inputs to the children on any given site!

The big yellow bus attracts a lot of attention especially the first time that it arrives at a particular site. Children and adults are curious to know what it is all about. “When we go out to call them into the bus, it is an unbelievable opportunity for the children and they jump with joy! They are very excited to step into this different world. But the parents hesitate, and reluctantly give in to their children’s enthusiasm.” Anagha adds, “Some parents are paranoid and think we are here to kidnap their children! It takes a lot of convincing and a few days are spent before they allow the children to come and sit in the bus for two hours.”

Malti elaborates, “The first thing we teach the children, is the importance of being neat and clean. We use various games, songs and puppets for this. Some of these children were enrolled in schools. But because of their unclean habits and appearance were treated badly and now they refuse to attend school. We have to change this perception and need to work with the children as well as the schools.”
Sonali and Pragya are the School-on-Wheels teachers in Kondhwa area. They both want to know if their bus is suitably decorated! One forgets it is a bus once you step inside. If you were to make a list of things found in a common classroom and compare it with the School-on-Wheels, you would tick every single item on your list and then probably make another list of the more uncommon items! There are two black-boards, one at each end; the one behind the driver displays the number of students in attendance; the other black-board is for teaching and playing games. All the storage compartments are neatly labeled for easy access of their contents. A number of charts and craft items display useful information for ready reference. There is also a list of safety tips for the children; and another promotes good hygiene. Letters of the Marathi alphabet and numerals sway in the breeze. Colorful pictures done by the students adorn the sides. It is an ideal place indeed for any educational activity.

The teachers keep the children busy for the two hours that they spend on the bus. Sonali gives the details, “They are divided into four groups based on their learning levels. Each group is given a language/math teaching aid to start the learning process. It could be a game that encourages them to identify letters or match shapes, find the missing letters from a ‘Barakhadi’ chart, or form words. After they have spent time in seeing, touching and handling shapes and letters, it is time to do some writing work based on their competency levels. After this they read – from charts, books, black board or flash cards. The last time slot is for story telling or some creative activity which is based on the project title for the month and/or the festival during that month.”

Maya confidently adds, “The curriculum is very well planned and adapted as per each child’s need. It is a result of relentless research, observations, and feedback collected over the last 20 years of working in the field.” She expands further, “We maintain a detailed report of every single child that attends the class. It is a record of what a child does every time he/she attends the class and the outcome is discussed and recorded every week. Is the child able to keep up with the expected outcomes? What is encouraging (or preventing) the child? Is the attendance regular? What is the cause for absence? Does a child have any health/hygiene issues? Which parents need to be counseled and for what reason? Some parents are grateful that their children are getting the attention they deserve; some are indifferent; and some are almost hostile for bringing a change in their environment. We have to deal with all types of parents and convince them of the advantages of education and the change for the better that it will augur.”

Lata from the Hadapsar School on Wheels laments, “It is sad to see that in spite of our efforts, there are still some parents who do not send their children to school. They prefer their children do house work and look after their younger siblings. A lot of patience and continuous effort has to be invested before such parents can be convinced of the advantages of education.”

“The School-on-Wheels attracts a lot of attention. Some people stop and ask us how we run a school in a bus. Some are curious to know which children attend the school. Some junior college students are keen to see it as they have a lesson in their English text-book about Door Step School. Some regular schools want the bus to come to their school so that their students can see it. All such comments encourage us,” says Jyoti rather seriously.

Lata says on a lighter note, “I always liked travelling but I never imagined that I would be spending eight hours a day in a bus like this! My five year old son asks me if I give a ticket to all the children!” Everyone joins the laughter.

Anagha sums up for all of them, “Our families are also very intrigued by the way we conduct our work. They are always keen to know where all we go in a day and how many children we enroll in schools. My daughter is only eight years old but she also keeps a look-out for out-of-school children!”

Yes, it is indeed an interesting way to teach and learn. No wonder, everyone wants to be a part of the School-on-Wheels story!

– Written by Archana Vyavaharkar, based on inputs from Door Step School Teachers

(This article is a part of Teachers’ Month series by Door Step School, Pune. For other articles in the series, please visithttp://blog.doorstepschool.org/search/label/Teachers%27%20Month%202016.)