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By Rasana Atreya
Published in The Times of India, Pune Edition

Geography lessons from textbooks? That is so passé! Articles from in-flight magazines, a piece from a travel book – those are what might go into a “subject file” for the students of Sanskriti School.

Principal of Sanskriti, Devyani Mungale used to be part of the conventional school system; in fact she taught at the Delhi Public School, NOIDA for 10 years. But something was missing. Mrs. Mungale says, “I got an opportunity to attend many wonderful workshops. You came back recharged, but once you came back to your classroom, it was so difficult to implement them with large numbers; you were always racing against time because you needed to finish things just because the other section had done that.” Disillusioned, Mrs. Mungale decided to start her own school, and Sanskriti School was born.

Mrs. Mungale realized that in conventional schools, only the brightest or the most mischievous students got noticed in class. Often times, the kids that really needed help the most fell through the cracks. This is what she has set out to remedy in her school. The soft-spoken principal insists, “There is nothing wrong with the children as such.” Nothing that some loving, individualized attention won’t remedy. Towards that end, she has 8 teachers for the 32 students in her school, a ratio of teacher to student which would be unimaginable in a conventional school.

Sanskriti differentiates between kids by assigning them to different “learning groups”. For example, a child could be in class 5, but if her Maths skills are not up to par, she would work on lower-level Maths until she was able to catch up.

In Sanskriti if a child is distracted, he might be sent off to tend to the 2-3 plants he is assigned; he could work on a puzzle, or play a board game. To learn a poem, the child might choose to sit on a bench in the front yard. And vocabulary building isn’t by memorization, he’d play Scrabble instead.

Presently located in a bungalow in Baner, the school hopes to move to a 7 acre plot near Chandi Chowk by June. Mrs. Mungale says, “I intend to have farming patches for them where they can actually see the rabi and kharif crops rather than reading in the books about them.”

For examinations, the school follows the National Open School system which is based on CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education). Mrs. Mungale says except for English, all other subjects in NOS are on par with CBSE. But, says Mrs. Mungale, this should not matter, because the English her kids are exposed to exceeds even CBSE’s specifications.

As to what the kids can expect to get out of this school, Mrs. Mungale just hopes to inculcate a love of learning in a stress-free environment.

sanskritischoolpune.com
dmungali@rediffmail.com

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By Rasana Atreya

Published in The Times of India, Pune Edition

Sini recoils in horror at the idea of sex education for kindergarteners. “They’re too young!” she exclaims. Mother of a 4 1/2 year old boy, she is fuming at the recent decision by the Central Board of Secondary Education to introduce sex education for children as young as 3 years.

Psychotherapist Niloufer Ebrahim says, “The problem is, the moment people hear the word “sex”, they think of two people doing something. They do not realize that this is more about self-awareness.” About Sini’s response, Ebrahim says, “She is frightened, because she thinks her 4 1/2 year old is going to be taught how to do it! He is not.”

According to Ebrahim, ideally sex education would be imparted to kids in very small increments, in an age-appropriate manner, taking into account the levels of understanding of the children.

Ebrahim says, “Done right, it would start with making children sensitive to the differences between men and women, an awareness of hygiene. Gradually, as the children got older, they would be more aware of their bodies, and bodily changes, which should be normal and not something to be ashamed of.” She says, “There would have to be awareness of so many things before we even touch what we call “sex”.”

Sex education would help children recognize sexual abuse, by teaching them to distinguish between “good” touch or “bad”. Ebrahim says, “Kids need to be taught that if anybody touches them in areas that are covered by clothes, it is not acceptable. That if such a thing were to happen, they should tell.” Unfortunately though, there is a common perception that such things do not happen in “good” families.

About the general disbelief that boys can be molested too, Ebrahim says, “Yes,boys do get molested, by other males, by females. Mostly, the molester is known to the family; it is person who you probably care for very much, or consider part of your family.”

Ebrahim says emphatically, “One thing we must remember, just because you teach a person what sex is, doesn’t mean they will run out and have sex. You know that if you take a knife and stab somebody; you can kill that person, does not mean you go get a knife and stab somebody.”

India Today recently did a survey about children today being sexually active from a very early age. With AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases becoming a hard reality, to not make these kids aware of responsible sexual behaviour, and the use of condoms, is an epidemic waiting to happen. Ebrahim says grimly. “They are likely to get diseases, they are likely to get pregnant. People are using plastic bags, can you imagine? Milk bags instead of condoms?”

Published in The Times of India, Pune Edition
Friday, Nov 10, 2006

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