When she heard that the children come to school only to pick up lunch in the afternoon, she broke down. It wasn’t easy to convince the children, or for that matter, even their parents. They would either run away from her or say things like ‘My kids need to take care of work at home’, ‘You have a government job. It doesn’t matter if you’re working or not. You’ll get your salary anyway, so leave my kids alone’, or worse, ‘In the last fifteen years, no other teacher has made any effort to attend school, so don’t start now’,” reminisces Mahalakshmi. It took time to convince them but she believes that it was her tenacity that earned people’s trust.
“I always use stories to teach and I think that’s what got the children interested in learning. I grew so attached to my students that I went out of my way to take care of them, like feeding those who refused to eat or using motivational techniques, like small gifts, when they spelt right,” smiles Mahalakshmi, who points out that these children couldn’t even be put into different classes according to their age, because they had to be taught the basics, right from personal hygiene to moral values.
Though such an initiative is far-fetched for most of us, we can at least do our bit to protect the flame of an existing lamp and maintain its glow.
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