“Build a bridge and get over it”
My daughter’s extraordinary second grade teacher had a collection of quips that she would use to teach lessons beyond the textbook. When they whined, she replied, “Build a bridge and get over it!”
The bridge quote resurfaced after reading an article about an Indian shopkeeper, Rajesh Kumar, who saw the value in supporting education in his poor community. In the slums of New Delhi, he organized a classroom under a bridge, creating an opportunity for his students to cross over from poverty to prosperity. The article goes on to say his students also attended a government school, but their classrooms were overcrowded with 60 or more students in one room, and the teacher would instruct by writing a problem on the board then leave the room.
In Rajesh’s makeshift classroom, A painted rectangle on a broken concrete wall serves as his blackboard. The students sweep the dirt to provide a surface to place their mats.
They attend this school to learn!
The shopkeeper is providing these students with one of the greatest gifts we can give a child: Access to a quality education!
I experienced the reality of government school while training teachers in Zimbabwe. After visiting a rural, public school, I was disheartened by the school environment. The walls were blank; desks were in poor condition and the teachers were exhausted( up to 55 in a class). The school housed grades 8-12 with a morning and evening session to accommodate the sheer numbers. I requested a meeting with the principal- careful, not to sound condescending…. I had some ideas to share. With a smile, The principal said his school was the best in the area, so everyone wanted to attend; he would add students to the attendance list just to give them the best opportunity. I thought, wow, I can’t even imagine what the other schools must look like if this is the BEST. He said the teachers’ salaries were so low that they would often not show up for class. I inquired,” What would the students do?” He said they would scrub the school. Hmmm, maybe I should try this with my American classes. I tried to convince him to hire more teachers. “No money from the government,” he responded. (That’s another story/post).
The principal working against all odds
As an educational specialist with a wide range of classroom experience, I am crossing the “American bridge” to the developing world where I can train teachers who are often young, inexperienced, and overwhelmed; in return, they can make a difference in their communities,bridging their students from poverty to prosperity.