Festival season is in full swing here in Hyderabad – exacerbating the familiar sense overload of India and creating a series of obstacles to navigate in class scheduling and seeing projects to completion. August 15 marked the 66th anniversary of India’s independence, and coincided with a transition period occurring in our curriculum – photo stories finished and venturing into the new territory of video pre-production.
Each of our schools extended anxious invitations to join them for their special school programs to celebrate the brave actions of Gandhi and the Freedom Fighters that allowed India break free from British rule. However much I wanted to attend both schools, I should have anticipated that it would not be so easy to peel away from the students wrapped up in excitement at the first, MGM, to share their pride in being Indians. I also did not anticipate that I, myself, would be expected to contribute to the ceremony by giving a speech on India. I have to admit that when they announced I would be speaking it came as a complete shock, not entirely sure that I felt appropriate to speak on behalf of a country I feel only humbly welcomed to live and teach in. That said, it did not take me long to realize upon this spontaneous reflection on the Indian Independence Movement, that this was not an isolated historical event of localized importance – but rather, the introduction of the power of nonviolent civil disobedience onto the world scale. The whole world has, through its influence on global social justice movements, and can continue to benefit from a remembrance of the words and actions of Gandhi and the Freedom Fighters. I enjoyed incorporating this into this week’s lesson plans by having the girls make ‘protest’ signs inspired by various quotes from Gandhi – on topics ranging from Character and Truth, to Women, Religious Unity, and Democracy.
I also thought that Independence Day came at an appropriate time of switching gears in our curriculum, because it is our aim to engage the students in socially conscious critical thinking. As much as Independence Day could function as a celebration of where India has come – it is also a platform to focus on the issues still alive in present day India and to imagine what India can be in the future. I love this country and its spirit, but there is also a reality that it is a place with some startling statistics if you begin to look into them- where 40% of schools do not have functional toilets, 42% of children are malnourished and underweight, and basic reading and arithmetic levels struggle to keep out of decline. It was nice to reflect on the relevance of the stories written by students for the Photo Story in this context, and I am excited to share these below.
Completed Photo Stories:
The girls of MGM wanted to draw attention to the struggle women face to receive an education in India. The story, written by students, is set in a village, where a young girl dreams about going to school. She pursues this dream for education despite the lack of support from family and community, creating a role model for local girls.
The girls from Sultaan Bazar bring us a lesson in overcoming our superficial differences. A new rule from the Commissioner has created rifts between the various people of Rainbow Park – fighting and prejudice transform the formerly peaceful park into land divided in inequality. It is only with the help of an observant young girl and a ‘Friend Book’ written in multiple languages that recognition of unity in diversity is restored. I like this story because subtly it addresses themes ranging from caste and religious unity to the celebration of Friendship Day and Independence.
Looking forward to sharing more in the future!
Until next time,