When a child smiles after getting something, it’s like the sun coming out – it brightens everything. But this sunshine is brighter when the smile is caused by the child giving something instead of getting something.
When I was in school – in fact, when my children were in school – ‘learning’ was not something they did only in class. They learnt on the playground, on stage, while playing with their cousins and friends, from their grandparents and sundry other relatives, in the mandir… Schooling today, however, is mostly about competition, primarily academic competition. Children have to get good marks so that they can have their pick of academic stream, college, university and profession. From a very young age, education in school and even at home is geared towards the ‘good salary’ that the child should be earning years later, as an adult. In chasing that objective, parents and teachers sometimes do not impart what modern lifestyle gurus call ‘value education’. That creates adults who’ve neither understood what good values are, nor why they’re important.
Realizing that lacuna, a parent whom I know, Madhuri Mehta, has used her management experience to create a curriculum for value education. Called Poornata, it is a programme that schools can adopt and implement throughout the academic year, just like the academic curriculum. It complements the academic curriculum and aims to teach children some lessons that sound very basic – kindness, inclusivity, integrity, humility, courage and love. Madhuri says that this is done in a fun, interactive way, through activities and other creative means, making this learning ‘forever’, as opposed to rote classroom learning, which children often forget after the exam is done. The module focuses on body, mind and soul by showing schoolkids how to develop their character, personality, skills and fellow feeling.
Madhuri also started something called #100DaysOfKindness, which encourages a child to do one act of kindness every day for 100 days. It began simply as a summer holidays project for her school-going son, but soon became popular on Facebook, with other children signing up. As part of this project, her son has fed the needy in nearby slums, fed cows, installed bird feeders and planted saplings. Soon, his friends joined in, and as their numbers grew, the kids visited an old-age home, a fire station, taught underprivileged kids at a nearby shelter and played football with them. Eventually, they all managed to collect 1400kg of food, enough to feed 45 needy children at a shelter for 4 months.
Parents and educators have received these initiatives with great enthusiasm. Two schools in NCR have adopted the Poornata module for the academic year, and () children have completed #100DaysOfKindness. Madhuri, an HR professional, hopes to take this to more schools and fill the gap between education and learning. I asked her a little more about the module and the programme.
How did Poornata come about?
Madhuri: The gaps in the current education system were a cause of concern for me. The questions that were bothering me were ‘Where has the curiosity, learning, exploration, community spirit gone? How can we broaden the minds of our children?’ I didn’t want my child to just be an information gatherer?
The fact that the system mostly only focused on the IQ of a child urged me to think beyond what’s written in the books and to try and build a system which leads to the development of the EQ and SQ of a child. And so we built Poornata, a value-based education module for schools. The module imparts value education to children through a creative and specialized methodology which includes drama, role play, art, music etc, making learning impactful, simple and unforgettable.
How are projects chosen for 100DaysOfKindness?
The goal of #100Deeds of Kindness is to involve children in small and simple acts of kindness in our homes, neighbourhood and communities. These deeds can be done by the child themselves, along with his/her parents.
Apart from that, we provide the children one platform a month to be involved in a bigger kindness activity such as organizing sports day for shelter home kids, food drive for an orphanage etc. These projects are usually chosen keeping the UN’s 17 Sustainability Development Goals in mind.
How have children responded to these programmes? Any memorable reactions?
Children have responded beautifully to all our projects. Some have been very big hits, like the visit to the fire station to thank the firemen. Other projects have invoked deep questions in them, like ‘why are some people in the shelter home saving half a roti?’ (as most of our children were not used to saving the leftover food on their plate). One child, when visiting an old age home, commented, “I hope a miracle happens and the children take their parents back home.”
What have you observed about the children who complete these programmes – any change or growth in their personalities?
Most mothers have come back to us saying that their children have become more sensitive to the needs of the people serving them. They are saving some pocket money to do charity. Some have started doing a kind act daily, such as feeding the birds. Some children, who were afraid of animals, have become less afraid of animals after our visit to an animal shelter, and have started feeding street dogs. Words such as ‘thank you’ have started coming very naturally to them. In some projects, they had to go door to door to ask for food staples, so they have got to know the neighbours well. This activity also enhanced their confidence and communication skills.