A new summer at UPAY

“Woh din bhi kya din the….”

When a group of childhood friends get together, conversations often start with ‘Woh din bhi kya din the…’(those days were the days). It would be fair to say that times have drastically changed. Children born mere ten years apart have little common in their childhood experiences. These differences are the most visible when looking at how children across the generations spent their summer vacations.

Summer in The Good Old Days 

Summer meant vacation—a break from academic pursuits to recharge our minds for the coming year. In the good old days’ the life of a child on vacation was simple. 

Wake up and go to play with his friends till you are too hungry and tired to stand. That’s when you go home to have lunch. Lunch was always so much tastier when exhausted. While you wait for noon to set, you would fall asleep in front of the TV watching your favourite cartoons. Then you wake up, and before your mom could stop you, you run off to play again. 

Quite a memory, isn’t it? Looking back, I marvel at how relaxed we were for most of our school days too. Wake up early in the morning, get ready to go to school. In the afternoon after coming home, we had lunch, an afternoon nap and then played with our friends outside. Finish homework before dinner and then straight to bed. 

Well, today’s kids have a whole lot of academic expectations and responsibilities on their shoulders. Let’s walk a mile through their day.

A day in the shoes of children today.

Suppose Prasad is in class 8th. He has to wake up at 5 am because he has a Sanskrit tuition class at six sharp, then after that, he has another class for English scheduled right after it at 7. Prasad then has the maths and science class till 11:30, immediately after which it’s school. He then reaches home with enough homework for two students. Besides all these, he also has to worry about the weekly tests and the unit tests. 

This tightly packed schedule follows through in summer as well. Multiple lectures, extracurricular activities, summer camps take up all the time a child has. It’s a whole lot of rigidly scheduled activities with no free time left for the children to account for themselves. 

“When I was a child, I wanted to grow up quickly, become old and responsible. But now that I am old and responsible I understand how great it was being a child” this is the plight of every adult- young or old. But looking at the experiences of today’s children diminishes my desire to be a child again.

Competition! 

All of the scheduled academic and extracurricular classes are for a reason – the competitive job market. Everyone is looking to have the upper hand, and what better than to start at a young age. We know opportunities are few, and people are, let’s say, many. So fighting for opportunities is inevitable but is it a desirable situation for children at such an early age to have to face so much pressure and responsibility?

 Is it necessary for competition to put students in situations where they are couped up in their homes with books and schoolwork that leaves them with no time for play? Is this what it is like being a child in this era? Because it doesn’t sound like something, anyone would look forward to. 

The solution!!!

As we said before, competition is inevitable. No one can be told to let go of any opportunity or fall behind in the competition. So what can we do? What can we do to lessen the stress and burden on children’s shoulders? We can opt for a more experiential-based learning model. This way, children are exposed to multiple concepts within a shorter time. All packaged in a fun manner to instil curiosity while also seeing how the basic concepts play out in the real world. 

This idea is not a novel one. It is a part of many different pedagogies, one of them being Nai Talim. Our nation’s freedom fighter Gandhiji promoted the pedagogy of Nai Talim through his schools to empower the marginalised community of farmers at the time. The principles stated that knowledge and work were not different from one another. Thus, many teachings in these schools took place in interaction with nature and the community. 

UPAY’s activity-based learning model

Our main two initiatives, ‘Reach and Teach’ and ‘Footpathshala’, are established to spread education in the marginalised corners of our society. At UPAY, along with traditional education models, we follow an activity-based model that focuses on experiential learning. 

Our educational initiatives for summer included good-old storytelling. Although storytelling seems like a leisure activity, it is a fun way to impart language skills. It has become a student favourite. They are curious and look forward to the storytelling sessions. The concepts of grammar, sentence construction and vocabulary can be quickly learnt through story-telling. 

How? Many of the students who have enrolled in the summer school program come from poor backgrounds. Our volunteers observed a shared fear of the English language among our children. It is only natural for them o feel so as the language is foreign to them. They do not come from an environment where English is commonly spoken.

So when the storytelling is done through English, they subconsciously get familiarised and comfortable with words and phrases. Covered in the warmth of a good tale, English is presented to them in the least threatening form to help them get rid of this fear. 

 This way, UPAY doesn’t let learning become a burden on kids’ backs. The language is now not something that needs to be conquered. Instead, it is something that has sparked a positive experience that makes them want to learn more. 

Childhood is the time we learn about the world. We learn to make connections. We learn about ourselves. Learning is ingrained in the human experience. It’s dynamic and should be presented that way. The monotony of lectures and especially at a younger age, will only make education seem more like a burden than a boon.

This summer, we at UPAY have taken one step forward to bring to life the fading joy of summer vacations while keeping the spirit of education at its heart.

Written by: Chinmay Jumde
Edited by: Ananya Shetty 

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