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Divine grace of kindergarten

A carefree childhood without worries of exams is every child’s dream. But the changing system of education has only put burden on young shoulders leading to stress. A childhood withers under stress and pressure from all quarters, says Samita Chakraborty, who believes in giving students their space to breathe.
Chakraborty runs a small school, Divine Grace Nursery, with not more than 100 students and eight teachers. The school, says the veteran teacher, uses love and not intimidation to teach children. In fact, the teachers have been strictly directed not to scold or criticise any child, especially in front of friends and parents.
“Chiding a child is a wrong thing to do and it always has adverse impact. The first thing I told my teachers when I started the school in 2007 was that our profession is a noble one and teachers are responsible for building the future of the nation. By highlighting a child’s weaknesses we will only nip his or her potential in the bud,” observes Chakraborty.
This is the reason why Divine Grace does not have conventional home-works and examinations. Children have colourful worksheets and they have all the liberty to play, sleep, run or daydream in class. Their annual report cards come with words of encouragement and teachers insist that parents do not put their wards under pressure.
While many are of the opinion that too much leniency might spoil a child making the task difficult later, the principal emphatically rebuts the view saying it is not a “big deal”. “You just have to love the job,” she smiles.
But what about bullying children? Chakraborty says the tendency to bully peers comes from stress. So the school has introduced yoga and meditation as part of the curriculum. It is mandatory for all students to attend the session after assembly. There are regular events too and all students are engaged in extra-curricular activities.
Chakraborty, who was a teacher in a reputed city school, says she could not give her best in the earlier school because of several restrictions. This prompted her to start Divine Grace where, says the owner, she can apply her innovations to nurture young minds.
All the eight teachers, who are associated with Divine Grace since its inception, were trained by Chakraborty. “No one works for money here. They love the engagement with children and it is my teachers who run the show because I have to travel frequently,” she says.
Though small, the school has a comfortable ambience. Even a stranger at the door is greeted with a warm smile. The toddlers too are welcoming and can be at ease with anyone. For Chakraborty, Divine Grace is not a business venture but the result of her love for the profession. “A child is like wet cement. Whatever impression is made on it stays for life. So we at Divine Grace take care of each child.”
Parents are never rushed for fees and if someone is unable to pay, the child is allowed to continue in the school and is given equal importance as others. “We are not professionals. We are simple teachers trying to change these children’s lives. Can money be as important as a child’s future,” says Chakraborty.
The school has till Class IV but Chakraborty says sometimes they allow students to stay beyond Class IV in case they do not get admission in other schools.
However, dejection rings amid enthusiasm. Chakraborty points out that a kindergarten teacher plays a crucial role in a child’s life and helps in developing his or her psychology. “So these teachers deserve respect and should be paid more than what they get now. Every established school should realise this.”
She also feels that the existing education system needs to be overhauled and rejuvenated with fresh ideas and innovations. It should be inclusive and no child should be left out.
Chakraborty says Divine Grace is making an effort to introduce an unconventional method of teaching and “burn the inner light of love for learning with joy”.
“It is a friendly school. In fact, it is more than a school. It is a place where children have their colourful world of fun and frolicking. My students are not scared of books. On the contrary, they enjoy every moment of learning here,” says Chakraborty proudly.
~ NM

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