Guest Post: Pathways World School, Aravali teachers K.Guru Charan Kumar and Sumit M. Dargan wrote to us to share an exciting CAS project completed by their IB students. This article originally appeared on the IB Alumni Network blog. To contribute your story,contact us .
By K.Guru Charan Kumar and Sumit M. Dargan:
Gurgaon is often referred to as one of the major I.T. hubs in India and therefore draws a reasonably large number of cosmopolitan residents both from the Indian sub-continent and from other parts of the world. Very much within the precinct is the Aravali ridge – one of the most fragile and critical ‘natural’ guardians that stands between the sand dunes of the Thar desert from advancing into Delhi.
Our school, Pathways World School is located on this ridge and therefore as natural residents of this locale, we owe a strong sense of commitment to the region. In the past few years we have worked towards restoring a water body in the region – which was in a poor state owing to silt and neglect. The first such effort was undertaken in the summer of 2009 and has been an annual feature ever since.
As we understood the region better, our students clearly established the need to integrate more regularly with the villages on either side of the ridge. This led to a series of visits, interactions and surveys – both as part of the ‘field trip/excursions’ and otherwise.
As part of what evolved therefrom, we identified work in the village schools – specifically targeting the ‘Girl Child’. Student enrolment in these schools was falling due to a high ‘girl’ dropout rate. This was largely attributed to the absence of amenities/facilities for these students to access clean, hygienic lavatory facilities.
As a start, we engaged in re-building girl toilets in the summer of 2011 and having seen the positive impact, made it our core purpose of service activities under the aegis of ‘Friends of Round Square, India’.
Our collaborators were The Millennium School, Dubai, The British School, Delhi and All Saints’ College, Nainital who partnered in spirit and effort to undertake the task of building 6 toilets for girl students at Government Village Middle School, Hariyahera and Government Village Middle School, Raisina.
We also planned to repair and paint furniture, plant saplings, protects existing trees from termites etc. in these schools to make the overall environment conducive for learning.
The construction work involved a lot of physical labour that most of us weren’t accustomed to, but we adjusted fast, and with help from the little village kids with ever-present smiles, the manual labour didn’t even bother us much by the end of the project.
From the first day, we tried to involve the village kids as much as possible to instill in them a sense of responsibility for their property, and to establish trust and a sense of unity among all of us.
When the village school students first came, on the 8th of July, we all paired up with the small kids while lifting sand trolleys (among some of things we learnt to do in this Project), as we thought they wouldn’t be able to handle the weight because the trolleys were bigger than them! But we soon realized that they were, unfortunately, accustomed to hard physical labour even at their age, and we were the ones in unfamiliar territory.
But we learned fast, and by the end of it, we could talk to them as animatedly as they had talked to us on the first day with heavy bricks, shovels or pails of water in our hands.
When we weren’t building toilets or painting furniture, we had interesting activities in school- Design and Technology and Visual Art. At the end, all of us were really proud of our little wooden pencil stands, and equally delighted with our little clay pieces.
Each day, we also had time to relax in the cool waters in the swimming pool, which was absolutely wonderful after work in the sweltering heat.
The heat was one of our main challenges. Working under the scorching sun was not easy, especially since we are used to constant air conditioning. The village kids found it very entertaining when we reached out for water every twenty minutes and tried to stand in all the shade we could get.
Yet more exposure to the harsh reality of life: these little kids face this kind of weather without anything to protect them. They get electricity in their houses for about 4 hours a day which they use to run their favourite Disney channels
Round Square wasn’t all hard work, though. We had lots of fun too. We all especially enjoyed the hike to a Shiva temple in the Aravali ranges, and a village-type, muddy rain dance.
Though Round Square posed a lot of personal challenges for us, working with people of our same age, but with different backgrounds and outlooks on life helped a lot. Right from those monotonous bus journeys which were lit up by our constant chatter as we interacted with people we’d never met before, to trying to establish a certain routine of passing bricks in chains as fast as possible.
Our Project break took us to The Energy Research Institute (TERI) where we learned about fascinating ways to conserve energy, dispose waste and about various horticulture techniques was not only educative but also well integrated to the Project objectives.
All in all, Round Square was an excellent experience for both, the students from diverse backgrounds, as well as the adults. Though we could not fully complete the toilets, we came far, and we were extremely proud of the red-brick structure that we took a week erecting. Although it wasn’t complete, or perfect, it was the result of our commitment and passion, driven by the desire to make a difference in the lives of those little village girls.
Working with them and all the other new friends we made opened our eyes to various aspects of life. This project was very successful, with both tangible results, and intangible ones connected with the IDEALS of Round Square.
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