“He doesn’t understand anything – neither at home nor at school,” explains Monish’s sister, both concerned and resigned at the same time. She watches as her brother, a student of Grade 6 at the Government Higher Primary School in Thindlu village struggles to comprehend teachers’ instructions and prefers to stay out of classroom discussions. Often, Monish is found sitting by himself in the classroom, away from his mates, who make fun of him for being unable to answer the teachers’ questions.

Nobody understands why Monish is so different from everyone else, or why he is so uninterested and uninvolved in the classroom. Many people believe he suffers from a learning disability.

Monish’s family had high hopes for him and even enrolled him in a private English school to help him achieve his goals. They lost faith and withdrew his admission after years of continuous complaints from teachers about how “unresponsive” their child is in the classroom. Monish now attends the local government school, that has helped cut down on school expenses. His sister attends the same school as him. She frequently skips her own Grade 5 courses to sit with Monish and carefully repeat teachings, take notes for him, and even assist him with assignments.

When Kavitha from CARE India met Monish for the first time, she found it difficult to engage him in classroom discussions. “Monish wouldn’t participate in hands-on activities and would sometimes walk out of the classroom without notice,” recalls Kavitha. “He did not even follow simple instructions like closing his eyes during meditation. That is when I decided to seek advice from my team members at CARE.”

Her colleague, Chetan advised her to draw Monish into discussion by being extra polite, friendly, and welcoming. In addition to that, Kavitha started to gently push Monish to answer simple questions, while also asking him to perform small tasks, like holding the beaker during a scientific demonstration. Knowing that he did not like to close his eyes during meditation, she put him in charge as class monitor, to ensure that everyone else does.  

Over the course of the next few weeks, Monish began to look forward to activities and tasks assigned by Kavitha. Today, he volunteers to participate in select hands-on activities. “The other day, we were doing an activity where numbers need to be arranged in descending order. Monish was the first child to volunteer for that activity,” shares Kavitha, relieved and pleased. 

Witnessing the improvement that her brother has shown, the little girl who stood steadfast by her brother, no longer comes to his classes. Now she attends her classes, focusing on her own education. Monish’s classmates also do not laugh at him any more for making mistakes.  

There is, however, still a long way to go. While Monish enjoys hands-on activities, he is still reluctant to participate in classroom discussions and complete individual assignments. In the coming months, Kavitha and the CARE team backing her will discuss Monish’s progress with his parents. They also plan to work with the schoolteachers to help them understand the progress made with the boy, and the strategies adopted to achieve that progress. These strategies could perhaps be used for other children like Monish, who struggle in the classroom. 

About the program: The Innovators Laboratory for Rural Schools (ILRS) project aims to address the learning needs of children who have been disengaged from education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, because of school closure. While a focus on functional digital education is maintained, the project is preparing children for the future, with an education based on thinking skills. The proposed model will use learning tools like games, simulations, hands-on activities, projects, and more, to establish a strong connection between three thinking skills – computational thinking, design thinking and research, in addition to the existing school curricula. These skills are essential for utilizing different technological tools and platforms today and will facilitate the development, use of and contributions to technological innovations tomorrow. 

Posted by:  

Priyanka Saxena – Technical specialist, CARE India 

Kavitha PN – Community Educator, Consultant at CARE India 

Location: Thindlu Village, Anekal Block , Rural Bengaluru