I am woken at 6am by the family preparing for another day of school. I hear some chanting coming from next door. It is only now I realise there is a private school next door. Nitesh being an amazing host takes me next door and shows me around. I’m getting used to the staring, the children giggle and point, fascinated by my presence. I meet an English teacher who explains to me that English is high on their agenda. Parents pay good money to the school to educate their children in Hindi and in English. Some private schools only teach English. My native language is regarded as a passport to a good job and a successful career. Something that Nitesh wants for his own children.
Both his daughters, 4 and 8 years old wake early to get the school bus that takes them to an excellent private school. Government run schools are efficient but do not offer any English lessons. Some families go without just so they can afford a private education for their children. Slum children and children with no fixed address cannot go to Government run schools. Their parents probably do not want them to go either as they are a source of income. The caste system in India extremely hard to break but not impossible.
We travel to the school and I deliver a lesson in life in the UK. I sit on a chair and use a laptop to show pictures of my home country. Nitesh teaches them English so some discussion and buzz words aid my lesson. We discuss the Olympics, the Queen, Buckingham Palace, cricket and football. The older pupils are fascinated, they see the west as the land of the rich. They love our music and clothes and everything they do is an attempt to copy the western way of life, the way they dress, the use of their mobiles to show me the western songs they have.The younger ones however, have limited English, some are as young as four, so they fidget but are well behaved and respectful.
After my lesson we eat. Chitra and her helper have been preparing a lovely meal of vegetable masala and chapatis. The children sit on the coir floor mats and wait for the food to be dished out to them. I join them as a guest. It’s delicious. The children have been taught to eat all the food on their plate. They can eat as much as they want but they are not allowed to waste anything. They even clean their plates with water on the outside tap. The older pupils helping the younger ones, lively banter flowing.
I introduce to the children my high five game, they introduce me the Indian version of thumb wars. We play and laugh for the next hour, all their problems and the language barriers not an issue. They enjoy school and playing like every child deserves. Nitesh has got a good thing going on here. He does something magic everyday. He’s given the gift of education to these children, the first children to be educated in their families, ever.
That night I am entertained by the boisterous and hugely confident Coco, Nitesh’s eldest. She shows me how to play Indian card games, with her rules, and practices her already amazing English skills. She’s charming and reminds me of my Charley. Coco has an amazing future ahead of her.
Today has been mega. Although I was the teacher today, I received an education.