Friday, October 7, 2011

season's first

It’s been a week into Ultra training! We had the first long run at Kanakapura road on a hilly terrain. It turned out to be a surprisingly good one for me. It drizzled a bit at the start, and by the time the sun peeped out we were almost finishing up. I only wanted to put off walking up the inclines as long as I could. But I never walked up any hill that day, completed 15km in 1:49 which is not longer than what I’d take on a flat stretch. That peaceful run was a welcome break after a week filled with a mean cold+fever combo, internet conking off - inevitably leading to long work days, less sleep, and more. Maybe the hills aren’t that bad after all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sita school

Last month some of us Team Asha runners visited Sita school, one of the schools supported by Asha. We were a group of around 25 packed into cars setting out to Silvepura village located about 20kms from Cubbon Park.

About Sita school: The school was started in 1975 to try to address the problem of many local children not going to school and the fact that many children dropped out of school. The reasons were varied and included economic factors and lack of flexibility in mainstream schools to accommodate children with special needs…The school is structured in a way that children can enter at any level and are encouraged to learn at their own pace without pressure of exams or fear of failure and disapproval. Read on.

We found two boys waiting for us with signboards about a km away from the school. The plan was to - run with the children, interact with them, help the school with some work and have breakfast. The max distance for the day being 8km we were done within an hour. Most of the kids joined us when we were on the second loop on the 2km stretch – and made running look effortless the way only kids can, a smile pinned on their faces and anticipating high-fives when we crossed each other!

The Surprise
We then came to know that the children were going to perform for us … kollatam dances (the older girl who clearly had choreographed it would get so adorably annoyed if someone missed a step), hula hoop spins (the youngest girl had to be asked to stop, she would’ve gone on without ever missing!), break dance to music being played on a keyboard by a mentally challenged student - all prepared on their own for Teachers day.

Children at Sita
We then all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, most of us attempted in kannada as the kids were most familiar with it. There are around 30 children, the youngest around 4 yrs of age, and the oldest an early teen. The kids each told us a bit about their school - they stood up and spoke about their favourite subject, their computer room, the organic garden they tended to, and more – with Santhosh translating for us. These snippets from their days helped us get an idea about the learning methods at Sita.
Craft, languages, maths, gardening, helping the cook, computers, running … they do it all. Acads is rightly only a part of their education. It being a Saturday we didn’t catch the children in action, but this newsletter offers a peek. There are no grade levels, children are organised into groups (Spandana, Karuna..), at the end of the year move on as the same group. At the level of 7th std, they switch to State curriculum. The idea is to get these children, who’ve mostly dropped out of a nearby convent school, interested in learning.
Pic courtesy: Karthik Basavaraju
The kids come from disturbed backgrounds – many have no healthy environment to go home to, families troubled economically. Teachers here attempt to meet parents regularly, some of whom are just indifferent. Education here isn’t free - parents pay a small annual fee (Rs.20 or so, and those who are unable to pay, help out in the school in some way) so that they value the schooling their kids receive.

Running expenses of the school are entirely funded by Asha, donations raised by a group of runners every year. Schools like Sita run solely on fundraising by the respective Team Asha chapters. Santhosh mentioned there were cases of schools shutting down when the Team Asha chapter that funded them didn’t continue doing well. A season of fundraising gone bad would have an immediate and direct impact on schools like Sita.
Surely added a perspective to our fundraising efforts. I request you to donate generously so that many such children can continue to learn.