On 7th March 2011, almost the entire office was mobilised to help the TCoL team managing the Bal Mela they organised at GKHPS Akkitimanahalli (Bengaluru). The event aimed at introducing the children to computers, but some children were too young to be able to do so; which is why we all searched deep into our souvenirs to find games and activities which did not require too much knowledge of language, were fun, not competitive, and full of learnings. Body paintings, circles of bubbles, and races.
And the day finally came, with apocalyptic warnings from the TCoL team: 200 children to keep busy ! Off we go to Shantinagar in the school where children of three language communities were taught: Urdu, Tamil and Kannada. I cannot help but think of the problems Belgium has, with only two languages. All those efforts to promote bilingualism, those widespread prejudices against the Dutch language, and also, my already poor Dutch which is not happy with me working and living in English. Back to the Mela. Teachers from the Indian Montessori Institute had come to help take care of the younger children, and I was to help them. They had prepared language games, but finally, I was assigned a snakes and ladders game to be played outside, but not any snakes and ladders: one that the children build themselves, while exercising their number skills. A bit of adrenaline – I was about to be responsible to entertain a bunch of kids without any common language or background, and having to explain to them snakes and ladders (the rules suddenly seem very complicated). But then, one of the Montessori teachers reminded me that you only need to kick start the process, throw the spark, and then, children will manage themselves ! Souvenirs of my school days, where learning the volumes meant cooking a pumpkin soup and understanding the metric system included measuring the length of the school's street. It resonates even more acutely after seeing scary looking teachers using sticks to avoid any mess. Trusting children is indeed a lot more relaxing – but the help of a Kannada speaker was even more! Phew, Neha accepted to join the game to help me, her presence was very useful even though, very soon, the children were totally caught in pasting small squares and adding the numbers one by one, with no concept of linearity: why would it matter to follow the lines? Dynamics among children are so interesting and funny to observe, and finally, whichever the country, they're quite similar. Children's energy is so refreshing, and when not being in regular contact with them, one can easily forget that they're much more a potential-full bubble of oxygen than a trouble to be managed.