In May, my father-in-law, a retired math teacher, traveled to India on our organization’s friends and family trip. On one of his first days, he, and several other trip participants walked around the neighborhood surrounding our offices in India. After returning, I asked his impressions. I expected one of the typical “first impression” answers: something about cows or car horns or population density. To my surprise, he mentioned the school he observed. I was surprised by his response because schools don’t typically top the list of sights in India's vivid scenery. I asked him to explain. He said, "I didn't see any teachers."
My father-in-law stumbled upon one of the main issues in education in India: the lack of teachers. A 2014 World-Bank study, conducted by unannounced visits to government schools in India, found that 25% of teachers were absent from school. This same study found that, of the teachers who were present, only about half were teaching. Primary education sits at the forefront of any sustainable developmental effort. India has recently enacted several policies to improve education across the country, but these policies will only be marginally effective without enough trained teachers to implement them.
We have been working hard to respond to the need for teachers at schools in the area near our offices. Over the previous three months, we have been able to develop a promising relationship with a new school in the area. Started in early 2016, the school has grown to over one hundred students ages 5 to 16 years old. Although many of their faculty are untrained and unpaid, they are present and eager to engage with their students. Over the last three months, representatives of our team have been able to support their staff by teaching Math, English, Art, and Drama, as well as assisting with various administrative tasks.
Robert Munoz, one of our primary teachers at the Academy for G.O.D., interviewed the principal of the school recently. In the interview Rob discovered that not only were the teachers volunteering their service, they were charging just a fraction of normal tuition costs in this area. Principal Sonny said, “I have dream that these children can have access to a good education.” At the end of the interview, Sonny asked a question - “Well maybe you can give me some tips?” It was refreshing that his response wasn’t for money or supplies, which they so obviously needed. Instead, he just wanted guidance and wisdom to navigate this uncharted territory. Rob shared some of the key protocols he implements at the Academy. Principal Sonny stopped the interview to grab his notebook and pencil and feverishly jotted down each idea.
Not only are the teachers meeting regularly now, next week we will be facilitating teacher training for the faculty, focusing on introducing various effective classroom management techniques and creative methods for teaching subject matter.