Ravi’s and Stefan’s teaching experience at Brahmanand Vidya School

June 2004


Stefan on the left,
Ravi on the right with
school children

In June 2004, we went to the school in Chaparda to teach English and sport to the students. After a long journey, we were greeted at Rajkot airport by 2 of Bapu’s disciples, who accompanied us on the final leg of the journey – a three hour drive through small villages and unkempt roads – to the Ashram at Chaparda, which was to be our home for the next 3 weeks. Having both grown up in London, our first impression of Chaparda was one of amazement, as we tried to take in our surroundings. Chaparda is a remote rural village, with the closest city being 30km away. The people lead a very simple way of life; surviving predominantly on the crops they grow themselves. The visitors’ residence at the Ashram was fully westernised, with running hot water, western toilets, electricity and air conditioning. Everyone who lived at the Ashram was extremely friendly and made us feel extremely welcome.

The first two days were spent being shown around the school and retirement home. Bapu explained to us his vision of creating a village, in which all children were given the opportunity of an education, whatever their background. Since we had arrived a couple of days before the start of term, we were kept busy preparing for the arrival of the students. We also met the headmaster and discussed how the students would benefit the most from us. We agreed that, since we only had limited time, we would focus our attention on the more senior students, whose ability in English was of a higher standard. As a whole, the students’ level of English was very poor; however, the headmaster’s objective is to use English as the teaching medium within a few years. As such, they willingly welcome any help from volunteers from overseas. We were also asked to observe teaching standards, and produce a report at the end of the three weeks, in which we would outline our observations and recommendations. The aim of this was to use our knowledge and experience of the English teaching system and think of ways in which it could be implemented at the school.

We drew up a timetable for the three weeks. A typical day involved us teaching English to the students between 9am and 1pm, before returning to the Ashram for lunch and rest. At 4pm, we would return to the school to teach for an hour before playing sports with the students for a couple of hours. Teaching consisted of a variety of games and exercises that focused on the students’ spoken English, since this was the area, which, we thought that they lacked. This included roleplays, word games, and oral and reading comprehensions. The aim was to include participation from all the students. We found them to be enthusiastic, motivated and willing to learn. They particularly enjoyed asking us questions about our background and culture. The afternoons are usually dedicated to sport, and we introduced the children to new games, including football and rounders.


Stefan on the left,
A cricket match in progress

We would usually spend the evenings at the Ashram. We were well looked after by Bapu and his disciples. After dinner we would often sit outside with Bapu. The Ashram is very remote and extremely peaceful – a perfect place to meditate. Bapu is very well known and respected throughout India, and during our stay, many people came to visit to seek advice from Bapu, or just to get away from busy city life for a peaceful break. At weekends, Bapu’s disciples would take us on trips – these included a visit to a safari park, and a weekend at the coast.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and felt we had really made some progress with the students, who were extremely grateful to us. The teachers certainly appreciated our efforts and valued our suggestions. Although we were sad to leave, it felt good to have contributed our knowledge and experience to the school, and we both wished that we could have stayed there longer. We made some good friends whilst we were there, and would love to go back in the future to see what changes have taken place in our absence. Although we were there for only a short period of time, we saw a huge improvement in the students’ level of English. However, in order for them to build upon and improve what they have learnt, they rely on volunteers like us visiting the school and contributing what we can. We found it to be an amazing experience and would certainly recommend other students to go out there and see for themselves what an improvement they can make.

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