The school year is fast coming to a close, and the students are becoming more and more excited each week we come. The discipline that the school has nurtured in the students is still present and the students and teachers continue their lessons as they do throughout the year. And still there is the buzz of excitement, the low volume gay chatter of children ready for the holidays, and later we experience the delight of these children, eyes shining, mouths laughing, and stomachs full, as they rush out the gate when the final bell rings.
Today is Saturday 6th of May and again it is very hot in Varanasi. May is one of the hottest months in the year in Varanasi with an average temperature of 43C/110F – and it often feels much higher because of the humidity. When the Just One team arrive at the Shiva Ji Mission School we immediately notice it is surprisingly cooler in the classrooms. Then we see that each room has its single fan switched to maximum – giving the children somewhat more comfort to focus on their studies
Today, 29th April the Just One team are distributing mandarins to the approximately 300 students of Shiva Ji Mission School. Each student receives 2 mandarins, and there are huge grins all round. The students here love both the treat of receiving the fruit, and the attention they receive during the Just One teams’ visits.
The school is now almost full for the next year, with all the rooms except for the outdoor classroom now in use. Even half of the principal’s office is now reconfigured to be classroom and office combined. Looking around, there are still many students without uniforms (compulsory for all students in government recognised schools in India) and many looking unfamiliar in their surroundings, but this will have changed by the time the new school year begins in July.
Just One arrived at the Shiva Ji Mission School today Saturday 22nd April and again there were parents in the principal’s office discussing enrolment of their children in the school. The formal start of the next school year will not be until after summer break, in July. However these preparatory months of April and May not only serve to prepare the children for the rigours of the formal upcoming school year, but also allow parents to discuss their children’s education with the schools. Often this is about deciding on a school, but often for those families at Shiva Ji Mission School it is about understanding the value of education for all children.
The weekend of Easter is like in any other weekend in Varanasi. The Christian community here is very small, and so most businesses open as normal including government and schools. Shiva Ji Mission school is no exception, and the Just One team arrive at 10am on the 15th April for their fruit distribution program.
The school is still very quiet, with all the 200 students engrossed in their classes. The teacher of the youngest class is seated with the children and they are all listening intently to her. In other room the teacher walks around the room as the students each read a short piece from their books. In yet another classroom the teacher is sitting at the back of the room and each student is bringing him their homework for checking and if needed correction.
Today is just 5 days since our last visit, but already the number of children at the school has increased significantly to about 200. Today the Just One team is here for the first hot meal of this new school year. It’s only April 8th, but the hot sun is already blazing down and the school hours have been moved earlier in the day so the children are not walking home in the hottest part of the day.
hen the Just One team arrives at the Shiva Ji Mission School today there is an unusual quietness. We can see the children in their classrooms and the teachers walking around the room, but it is much quieter today, Monday 3rd April.
We find out that today is essentially the first formal day of a new school year. The school did open on the previous Saturday but today is the first day of classes. Most of the classrooms are only partially filled except for the kindergarten and pre-Kindergarten rooms. These are full by our standards, but we recognise more students will be accommodated as new students join the school. Many of the 3 and 4 year olds in these rooms look a little stunned and look around at everything, including the Just One team and the oranges they receive - with their big round eyes staring and mouths open.
All the students are completing their final exams and so there is an uncanny silence throughout the whole Shiva Ji Mission School today when the Just One team arrives. Exams are a time for serious concentration, from the smallest children to the oldest who will soon be completing their schooling. It is such a contrast to the joyous cacophony of delighted children’s voices that so often precedes our entry in the schoolyard.
However, this silence doesn't last long. Very soon the exams are over and we are greeted with the customary cheers.Almost all the 340 students are here today and each room is full.
The exam period for all classes at the Shiva Ji Mission School finished yesterday, and today, 11th March 2017, is the day before the Hindu festival of Holi begins. The result is a palpable exuberance and excitement amongst all the students and the teachers. Holi is the festival of color, and traditionally it is celebrated with ecstatic and enthusiastic throwing of many brightly colored powders. When the Just One team arrive at the school to provide a hot meal, many of the children already have bright red powder dusting their clothes, in their hair, on their face, arms and legs however when we arrive they are sitting quietly in their classrooms, absorbing their lessons.
Today is Saturday 4th March, and it is the day before the formal end of year exam period at Shiva Ji Mission School, Lakshmanpur, Varanasi.
The Just One team have arrived to distribute oranges to the 320 students enrolled at the school and we find a subdued air that is quite different to the usual experience when we arrive. This is especially noticeable amongst the older students, but common across the classes - even the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classes. The students are paying close attention to their books, and to their teachers. They seem focussed on making the best possible last minute use of these resources to make sure they have everything they need to know for their exams next week.
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