After a lovely trip with my family to Mexico in the New Year, I thought my trip to India in February 2020 would be the next major event to remember. Little did I know what awaited me as I returned on 28 February after what was a really uplifting and exciting as well as educational trip to Chaparda. Covid 19 and the resulting lockdown had indeed changed our perspective on what is truly important in our lives.
I and the trustees of BEHT and BET (India) wish everyone good health in these worrying times and thank you all for your good wishes.
I would like to tell you briefly about my recent fact finding trip to most of our many educational establishments in Gujarat.
I spent time meeting the Principals and staff of our schools in Chaparda and surrounding areas (Anand Dhara Project), Adhoi (Kutchh); Dwarka, Junagadh and Savarkundla. Apart from the school in Dwarka which we adopted recently, all the others are well established now and can boast of some very dedicated and competent leaders. The first sign of a good educationalist is their willingness, eagerness to listen to others and then pick out which new idea would take their school forward. Each Principal was prepared to share honestly where they thought they could improve further. Through our detailed discussions ranging from academic standards to competitive sports, the place of the arts and independent learning to teaching health and hygiene and the environment, we all saw the benefit of sharing our expertise with each other on a systematic basis. To this end, we agreed to share information through regular reporting and developing a base for ongoing discussions on pedagogy through a WhatsApp group.
We also have developed a Safeguarding Policy for all our schools to ensure we keep our staff and children safe. The importance of everyone being alert at all times was discussed and the leaders were made aware of many cases of child abuse all over the world. Unless children feel safe and secure, they cannot learn well.
At the end of my trip there was an education seminar where all our Principals got together to discuss the new challenges facing them ahead as the Gujarat Board brings about much radical change in the curriculum and exam practices. I put forward my ideas of what makes a good school be it here in the UK or in the rural context in Gujarat.
At the moment, due to the lockdown in India, all our schools have sent the children home. I am pleased that the staff are providing support to the children though online teaching and guidance/clarification is provided on the phone. Not all our children would have laptops/tablets but in India the mobile phones are used a lot. The Gujarat Education Board is also providing lessons on TV. It is not an ideal situation by any means and there will need to be a sustained effort to enable children to catch up.
For now, let’s hope the Covid 19 pandemic does not spread to rural India as the effects would be devastating there. Keep safe!
Meena Modi OBE