Bradon Forest School teacher Debs Shelley reports on a historic experience in April for her and colleague Kerry Beet and pupil’s Chanaley Alleyne, Maegan Bryon, Emily Bullock, James Green, Ryan Higgs, Tanisha Kalra, Charlotte Markham, Tayten Nyahwa, Emily Tidball, Jack Tyler and Oliver Webb.
This was our second visit to India in three years, part of a British Council Connecting Classrooms project with Jawahar Navodaya Vidylaya known as JNV schools, and St Laurence, Bradford on Avon.
Bradon Forest pupils were encouraged to fundraise for the trip, developing the skills of team work, self motivation and determination, and to see the visit as a journey, not a holiday.
Our link schools in India form part of a network of schools initiated by the Indian President Ranjiv Gandhi, to find and foster talented children from rural parts of India. The schools are residential and enable children from poorer backgrounds from across the country to have an excellent education, regardless of their social situation.
JNV pupils have all of the cost of their education met, in order to provide excellence, equality and social justice.
The JNV school motto is ‘Come to Learn, Go to Serve.’ Their pupils aspire to be future leaders in technology, medicine, engineering, teaching and politics, in order to serve their country as adults.
The Bradon Forest group flew from London into the city of Amritsar in the Punjab where they visited the wonderful Golden Temple, a sacred Gurdwara for millions of Sikhs worldwide. At the temple, they learned about Sikh beliefs and culture, and shared langar, a free vegetarian community meal, cooked and prepared solely by volunteers and served 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is an act of selfless service to others, central to the Sikh faith, whereby no one every leaves ‘the Guru hungry.’
Two JNV schools were visited on the trip, JNV Taran Taran and JNV Bilaspur. Both schools welcomed us as honoured guests, indeed, the welcome at Taran Taran was spectacular, everyone received garlands of flowers, students performed traditional dancing, flags were flying, and our students were overwhelmed!
During our stay we spent time in the classrooms, observing teaching and learning, and interacting with the students.
In the evenings we played volleyball and basketball, unfortunately loosing both games, and took part in a cultural evening where we watched performances of traditional Indian music and dancing. Bradon Forest pupils performed songs, one in Hindi which our hosts loved. Our pupils boarded at the schools, giving them the opportunity to really interact with their Indian peers. Our girls were lucky enough to have mehndi tattoos, giving another opportunity for them to engage with the JNV girls.
We also spent three days in Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj the spiritual home of the exiled Dalai Lama where we learnt about Tibetan history, culture, and Tibetan Buddhism. We were fortunate enough to visit the Tibetan Children’s village, a school for Tibetan refugees, and are hoping to develop further links with them through our Key Stage 3 India link.
The British Council Connecting Classrooms project with St Laurence has now come to an end. However Bradon Forest is already planning a trip for April 2014 to continue our excellent relationship with JNV schools.
Oliver Webb said: “My most exotic holidays have consisted of Cornwall, Wales and rain. So I jumped at the chance to travel almost half way round the world to a completely different culture. The first thing I noticed in India was the smiles; a sea of smiles surrounding you constantly. No matter what, if you spoke to someone, they would continue the conversation and keep it interesting. This shocked me having come from England where this is not always the case. But we were always made welcome.
“My favourite aspect of the trip was witnessing first-hand how the schools work and the students’ attitude to school and their future. To the children their future consisted of working for the good of India, not themselves; the strength of their patriotism is overwhelming
“Listening to their ideal futures made me believe India’s future will be great and successful, not only this, but I hope it works for them. The amount of effort and work these young people do is astonishing; they most definitely deserve their prosperous futures.”
“Maegan Bryon added: “‘Come to Learn, Go to Serve’ – to have such a clear life plan and goal from such a young age, when I still don’t have a clue was just astonishing. And their aims aren’t just mediocre, they all aspire to be doctors and teachers, worthy professions, that follow the ethos of serving their country and the people in it. Their aims in life reflect their work ethic and patriotism, their sense of community, pride and respect.”