Teacher training student interns in India during the summer

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During the summer of 2018, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to complete a teaching internship with ANKURI in a small village just outside of Dehradun, India. ANKURI is a non-profit organisation set up by Rachna Dushyant Singh. ANKURI’s aim is to empower local rural women, alleviate poverty and promote full participation of women in their society. To support this vision, ANKURI now runs an internship program, with many students joining them every year from universities such as the University of Michigan, the University of Princeton, and the University of Harvard. These programs include internships in Education, Media, Agriculture and Design.

I am fortunate to have known Rachna for fifteen years, and have therefore watched as ANKURI has grown and flourished along with the women and children that they support. When Rachna discovered that I had embarked on my degree in Primary Education, she asked me if I would like to join an internship program, specifically supporting the education of local children. Of course, I jumped at the chance and booked my flights immediately.

On 23rd June, I flew to New Delhi, where I stayed for two nights before flying further north to Dehradun, in the foothills of the Himalayas. There, I was met by a driver who took me to Thikana, the base of ANKURI and my home for the following six weeks. Thikana is a beautiful development with views out onto the Himalayan mountain range from one side, and the valley of Dehradun from the other. As well as accommodation for the Singh family, Thikana has beautiful rooms that have been built specifically for the interns that come to volunteer every year. There is also the Knitting Centre, Literacy Centre and a small plot that grows many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs and houses the cow which produces the milk for all of the dairy products that are used in the meals that are freshly cooked every day.

During our time with ANKURI, we were fortunate to spend Monday to Friday teaching locally, and had weekends free. This meant that we could go on trips and explore some of India, and we were lucky enough to visit Rishikesh, Dehradun City, Musoorie and Landour. We also had opportunities to visit and stay at Rikholi, a tiny village further up into the mountains. Other interns also participated in various treks, including one to the Valley of Flowers which took them as far north as the last village in India before Tibet. Unfortunately I had to leave India before the rest of the interns in my group, however they all enjoyed a trip to the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) at the end of the program, visiting sights such as the Taj Mahal and Fatepur Sikri. Not only this, but we had many seminars with Rachna covering many aspects of Indian culture, including religion, politics and spirituality.

The Education Internship Program started the day after I arrived in Dehradun. My normal day consisted of four hours at one of the local primary schools (Galaxy School), followed by an hour teaching at a local secondary school (InterCollege). After some time to relax and complete lesson planning in the afternoon, we would spend two hours in the evening at the Literacy Centre, where local children would come for extra tuition to support them with their school work and English knowledge and skills.

At first, I felt anxious about the prospect of teaching children with such a vast age and ability range. However, with the support of the other Education interns, we soon began to get to know each child individually, and understand what they needed in order to progress and develop. This understanding meant that we could tailor our lesson planning to ensure that every child got the most out of their lesson. At Galaxy School, we worked with children aged 2-11. None of the other interns had any previous experience working in schools or creating lesson plans, and I found that I was able to put a lot of what I had learnt during first year and on placements in English schools into practice. Working at Galaxy School gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of play and explorative learning – particularly for the younger children.

At InterCollege, we would spend an hour giving tailored English lessons to groups of around twenty children and young adults. It is interesting to note that teaching a language is incredibly difficult when the only method of communicating with the person you are teaching is through body language and gesture – their English was basic and my Hindi even more so! It was therefore so important that we started from the beginning to support their development of the language and progress to more difficult vocabulary and sentence structures once they had a firm grasp of the basics.

The classes at the Literacy Centre were often small, with only five or six of the local children joining us every evening to take advantage of the extra tuition. Most of the children that joined us were girls, which was a pleasure to see as empowering women is such as important part of ANKURI. These evenings would often be spent doing a range of different activities, from drawing around one of the children on a big piece of paper and naming body parts, to singing songs and playing games to support their language development. The girls seemed to thoroughly enjoy the lessons, and we loved having conversations with them and watching them grow and flourish.

The children that I met were so determined and hard working. They truly understood how fortunate they were to have many educational opportunities, and most of them took advantage of whatever they could in order to grow and to achieve more. They were loving and kind, and so grateful to Rachna, ANKURI and all of the interns for the help and support that we gave them. But the thing I noticed the most was how humble they were. I feel so fortunate to have left Dehradun having formed beautiful connections with all of the children I have had the pleasure of teaching, and feel that they have taught me so much more than I could ever have taught them. ANKURI and the children I met whilst interning with them, taught me what it means to be strong, resilient, courageous, bright and kind.

ANKURI is hoping to build a strong relationship with the University of Gloucestershire over the coming months in order to regularly offer opportunities for students to intern with them – keep an eye out for further details!

If you’d like to see what Jess’s experience meant to her, view her Internship Focus video.

For more information on ANKURI, what they do and how you can support them, please visit www.ankuri.org

Jess is a second year BEd Primary Teacher Training student at the University of Gloucestershire.