Do Not Judge them by their Appearances

Monalisa Hota from our Research team shares an interesting anecdote with us.

I visited this school in the Boodegere Cluster during one of my routine visits for supervision of RCT (Randomised Control Trial) Assessment Tests being carried out by our (Akshara Foundation’s) Field Coordinators. This school was a Control school, meaning that Akshara Foundation does not support this school with training and learning materials. The first impression I got of the school was due to its dilapidated pathways within its premises; these were laid with large sharp stones all over the front of the first building which made walking painful and, I should say, wobbly. Walking around this Higher Primary School, one could see a lot of open space waiting to be beautified and utilized for sports, games and gardening. As we approached the classes, it got worse; the classes and corridors seemed as though they have never been swept before; the toilets stank and so did the classrooms situated next to them; and the children were dirty from head to toe with the dust that stuck to their feet and clothes from the floor. Despite these indicators, there was something that felt right about this school. The teachers came across as confident and were found capable of handling a class of about 20-30 kids; and more surprisingly, the children, especially that of standard 4, were all bright eyed and bushy tailed…. brimming with confidence and mischief.

We got a chance to dig a bit further as this standard 4 was not being monitored by any teacher and we were needed to keep them from disturbing the data collector (who sat outside this class testing children). So, we tried to keep them engaged and entertained in ways that we could. We started with performances and the girls came forward to present their group songs followed by solo performances by some boys. They seemed fully in control of their actions and were very entertaining too, despite bantering from an overzealous audience. Surprisingly, there were not just one or two but many children willing to come forward and perform.

The performers!

Once this was over, suddenly one boy’s curiosity spread across the entire class and I found all of their eyes on me. Until then, I was quietly enjoying their performances and interactions. In no time, they surrounded us and started asking my name: nimma hesara yenu, miss? then switching to Hindi- aapka naam kya hai, miss? I quietly looked at all of them and then asked them to ‘guess’. They misunderstood and thought that I am asking them to GIVE me a name. Names started pouring out as I was given a range of names ….Shanta, Savitri, Anuradha …While they excitedly brainstormed, I fumbled to find an expression for ‘guess’! Could not find the word then (but on asking around later on, I found its meaning is close to an Urdu word andaaza). Anyhow, they gave up and started asking my name again. So, Shreedevi intervened with some clues to keep the game going. Clue #1: World-famous lady: Response= Indira Gandhi. I did not see that coming!; Clue #2: Starts with ‘mo’ and has four characters (in Kannada of course); Clue #3: Ends in ‘sa’. Seriously thinking by now, they were taken to the board where she wrote ‘mo’ followed by two blanks followed by ‘sa’. Amidst all that noise that did not sound anywhere closer to the name, I heard it.


It was a little girl’s voice who got shy as I spotted her. She had got it right and that was mighty impressive!! Well done! All of us praised her by applauding and I (ritualistically) took her picture. The quiz ended there (I was happy to see my name find its place in something more useful than just causing raised eye-brows and you-are-kidding expressions). Next time, may be I would carry a picture of the painting itself so they’d have something more to associate it with. Finally, we decided to just quickly see if they could read from their own text book; there was no child who could not read from the Kannada book they were asked to read from. As we left them to read among themselves, I could not help but notice what a lively mix of mischief, discipline and intelligence there was in that class. I no longer got distracted by the unpaved bumpy pathway and wondered what was working there.
Appearances are deceptive: an old adage got re-inforced (once again) by this visit.

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