Monday, July 5, 2010

Bookworms in Goa

The rain stopped. The sun emerged. I looked down the slope. And there was the school. A little yellow thing.

We were late but the red earth and green trees were so charming, our steps took a while to cover the distance to the classroom. There was complete silence. A little anxious, Sujata, Tejas and I removed our footwear and stepped in.

“Good morning teacher!” came the chorus of lovely voices, followed by fits and bursts of giggles. We were at the government primary school in Salvador do Mundo in Bardez, North Goa. With a total strength of 22, two teachers and children coming from families speaking Marathi, Konkani, Hindi, Kannada and maybe more, the group comprised children from classes one to four. All excited and eager and primed by their special English teacher, paediatrician Nandita D’Souza.

I was in Goa for a week at the invitation of Bookworm library’s Sujata Noronha and Elaine Mendonsa to hold writing workshops for children and adults, release Water Stories, have a discussion on children’s books with like-minded individuals and of course, visit schools. This little school was the first stop, Monday morning, June 21. And we had great fun with Thumb Thumb Thangi and Thumb Thumb Thambi in my uncertain Marathi with a great deal of prompting from children and teachers alike! Then, from their own special reading corner, the children pulled out My Mother’s Sari. Little Sree Krishna was quickly draped in a yellow….dhoti! And Nazia carried off her sari with aplomb. She couldn’t stop smiling either!

On Thursday, June 24, we travelled south, to Margao, to the Vidya Vikas Academy where a bunch of over 100 children waited impatiently. In deference to the rain again – it is monsoon time along the West Coast, remember – I read aloud And Land Was Born kamishibai-style, and followed it up with Deepa Balsavar’s ‘Who Owns the Water?’ from Water Stories. This led to an engaging discussion which the children carried away with them. Bookworm regularly supplies boxes of books to VVA as part of their ongoing and admirable effort to get children to read through their library outreach programme. That’s how the children of Salvador do Mundo get books too.

On the way back to Panjim for the release of Water Stories at Bookworm in St Inez, we stopped at Saxtii Foundation where Savia Viegas runs a 60-strong school for little ones and which also receives the Bookworm bonanza. School was out for the day, but Savia took us on a tour of her fabulous home in Carmona, the delightful little school and topped it with stories about her caravanhound dogs and a fabulous lunch!

The release was an intimate but very lively affair, with Elaine having provided a brilliant backdrop. We went through Grandma’s Eyes, Ekki Dokki, Busy Busy Grand-Ant and finally read and talked about Alexander the Great’s unfulfilled attempt to conquer the seas from Water Stories.

 Incidentally, I caught sight of a bright yellow bus on the way, called Indira Balrath. Sujata tells me this is part of the central government’s effort to make it easy for children to get to government schools and has only this academic year been extended to cover all of Goa. That’s amazing. I read later that there are apparently still some unresolved issues. However, it seems like a good first step to get all children to government and aided schools comfortably and safely. What are other states doing about this?
There’s more to share about the discussion and the workshops… I shall save it for the next time.
- Sandhya Rao

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