I love Utpal’s new school. It is a school after my heart, the kind I would like every child born in India to go to. The first time I visited the school I felt an immediate empathy as you see the Principal is a daughter fulfilling her parent’s dream! But that is far from being the only reason.
When things became out of control in his old school, I had to do something. I suddenly felt transposed to the terrible night way back in 2006 when I scoured the Internet in search of a boarding school for 4 year Utpal. Not easy but I did find one and he spent 8 years in that school. It worked well in initial days when he was still what many would call a baby, younger than what Agastya today. Bu then things did not turn right as grew and understood his reality in bits and pieces and poor child, coped as best he could. He had to deal with the disappearance of his mom, the constant bullying about his scars and a very depleted emotional bank that could only be filled when he was home with us. Things got from bad to worse and the once enabling environment became a depleting one. When all our interventions failed, Utpal auto mutilated himself, thankfully with a blunt metal ruler. It was time to move on.
Another search on the Internet, undoubtedly guided by Utpal’s Angel, helped me find a new school immediately. Utpal, the eternal survivor, took to his new school like a fish to water and once again was to the manor born. The credit goes to his school as much as to him.
There are some very special and probably invisible and intangible elements in his new school. First and foremost in my opinion is the fact that all the children of the school staff from the lowest to the highest have to study in the school as the Founder felt that if anyone thought the school not to be ‘good enough’ for her/his kids then s/he could not give it their best. So the one who cooks, cleans, watches, drives, supervises and teaches ultimately cooks, cleans, watches, drives, supervises and teaches his/her own child and you always do your best for your child. But that is not all, this non negotiable rule also ensures that children from all walks of life learn together and is thus as close as one can get to my dream school which is the neighbourhood school where children from all walks of life learn under the same roof and bond ties they never would have otherwise. This is a true case of my driver’s kid sharing a bench with my kid, something that is still anathema to many.
The other aspect of this school is that there are kids from across India and some from other countries too! This is a true celebration of diversity.
But the real litmus test of any school, is its ability to highlight the plus points of each child and work on the weaker ones without demeaning the child in anyway. The stunning proof of this is the fact that though Utpal was barely two months in the school which has almost 2000 children, he was part of the Annual Day celebrations where he showcased his skating skills. Need I say more! I am sure that in days to come he will improve in his studies and gain fluency in English. It is only a matter of time.
I have attended two PTMs in this school. The first was barely a few days after Utpal joined. I was overwhelmed to hear his class teacher say that he was an intelligent child, very creative and very polite. In the next PTM, his grades were not bad and again his teacher was full of positive comments. In a short time the school was able to understand the child and work towards boosting his self esteem. The school also has a lovely counsellor who has understood Utpal’s problems.
There are many other things that I have found very impressive in this school: staff quarters are interspersed across the campus so children are always close to adults; the meals that I have share twice are well balanced and varied; children have many sports and physical activities and thus are out in the open for extended period of times.
I hope and pray that Utpal blooms in this school and fulfils both his and my dreams.