Kulthum LAOUFI, a French student shares her experience with underprivileged children in Assam
My name is Kulthum Laoufi and I am a student from France. I am writing to share my experience in India at Parijat Academy. As a Master student in International Organizations at the Institute of Political Studies in Grenoble (France), I would like to specialize in international development and I am particularly interested in participatory development and grassroots projects, that is why I decided to apply for an internship at Parijat Academy.
Parijat Academy is a school for underprivileged children in Pamohi village near Guwahati, Assam. It is a non-religious, non-political and non-profitable school providing free education. Parijat (meaning “heavenly flower”) Academy is a school for children of families with low income,living in Pamohi and the school covers nine tribal villages, namely Pamohi, Mahguapra, Deosutal, Garchuk, Mainakhorong, Dhalbama, Nowagaon, Garoghuli and Garbhanga. Established in 2003, Parijat started with just four children in a small room with a pair of desks and benches, it has now grown to a school of over 500 students from kinder garden to class X (17 years old). The founder, Uttam Teron believes that education is the birth right of every child and no child – rich or poor should be left behind. As Uttam Teron, I also believe that education is crucial to improve population’s standards of living and to develop a country.
I learned about Parijat Academy when I was an exchange student in Australia last semester. I was studying at Flinders University in Adelaide and I heard about wonderful experiences of some Australian students who volunteered at Parijat. I contacted Uttam Teron to apply for an internship. I am the first volunteer coming from France at Parijat Academy and this is my first time in India. Since I got accepted to Parijat Academy I prepared myself to teach English, French and sports. I also wanted to introduce my country, France, to the kids. I brought two DVDs about French landscapes and French culture.
My first week at Parijat was intense; I discovered Parijat Academy school days, the children and the Indian way of life. I also taught my first classes with the kids. Besides, I was really moved when I saw the first morning assembly: all the kids reciting poems, reading newspapers, praying and singing together. I teach every day from 9 am to 2 pm at school. Each time is different because I never have the same class. I taught English, computing, mathematics, some French and games. On Sunday, I do a gymnastics class from 8am to 9am with the kids in the field near to the school. According to the spirit of the school, I am teaching gymnastics in a “joyful learning” way. My first goal is to make them love sport.
During my stay at Parijat Academy, I am living at the guest house close to the school. I share the house with two lovely volunteers from America. We are building art projects together for the kids. Every day, I eat in the big kitchen with Uttam Teron’s family and the boys and girls from the boarding school, who stay at Parijat because their families live in remote villages that are too far away from school. Living with Uttam’s family allows me to discover Indian and Karbi culture.
I was afraid before coming to India to see a lot of poverty but when I am at Parijat Academy I tend to forget that according to the World Bank, India has more than 400 millions of poor people and that North East India is one of the poorest parts of India. Parijat Academy is a very hopeful long term project focusing on younger generations to build brighter future.