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Posted at: Jun 16, 2019, 2:29 AM; last updated: Jun 16, 2019, 2:29 AM (IST)

A vacation to remember

This summer was very special for students of government schools in Punjab. Nearly six lakh students from pre-primary and upper primary schools enrolled themselves at free workshops and camps held in the state

Sanjeev Singh Bariana

“I learnt how to make a doll at a workshop in our school last week. I have christened her Ruby. Ruby is now part of my family,” says 11-year-old Nikita Kalsi, a student of Class VI at Government Girls Senior Secondary School Railway Mandi, Hoshiarpur district, in a WhatsApp video. Speaking in flawless English in this video, Nikita tells how she learnt to make the doll with help of her teacher Monika Sharma. 

This is one among the scores of videos uploaded by many government schools on different WhatsApp groups. In these clippings, children and teachers can be seen talking about their motivation during summer school workshops that were held in government schools this year.

Parents of these children are happy as the workshops have brought out different facets of personalities of these children. According to Kuldeep Kaur, mother of Amarinder Singh, a student of Elementary School Rattoke in Tarn Taran, “It is not just about improvement in his English-speaking skills. The workshop has given him immense confidence. Earlier, he would always be shy of talking to visitors at home. I am surprised at the confidence he exudes now when we have guests at our place.”

Amarinder, too, adds: “My father is a truck driver in Dubai. He was very excited when I spoke to him last night in English. We both spoke broken sentences but daddy was very happy. I told him that I spoke better English than him. I often suggest my classmates that we should speak in English with each other. Most of my friends make fun of me but I’m happy that at least two among them are trying to do so.”

Lecturer Sonia Singh of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Rajpura,  has compiled a collection of paintings by her students during the workshop. 

Gobind Singh, brother of Neetu Kaur, student of a government school in Patiala district, says, “For my sister, these have been the most exciting summer holidays ever. Every day she comes back home excited after learning new facts, songs and dance steps, etc.”

According to Principal Lalita Arora, GGSSS Railway Mandi, Hoshiarpur, “The most striking feature of the workshops has been the student response to teachers’ attempt at mixing fun with learning. It seems as if in their excitement while painting, dancing and playing, the children didn’t even feel the summer heat.”

Colours of the workshop

Managing with limited financial resources at their end, a majority of schools chose fun activities. The workshops had interactive  sessions of art, dance, music, theatre, kickboxing, etc., for the children. 

Students of Government Senior Secondary School, Punjgrain, near Kotkapura, had a great experience of personality development through interaction with Brahma Kumaris. In the session,  they learnt and talked about the value of about peaceful life, wisdom, bliss and happiness.

Students of GMSSS, Gharuan, Mohali district, had sessions in Vedic maths, which uses the traditional Indian learning to solve mathematical problems. “Children of my class are excited to see how this ancient technique can be used to solve problems in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, conics”, says their class teacher.

Students of Government Primary School, Chananwala, Fazilka, have had summer classes in bhangra and giddha. Students were also introduced to the Sikh martial art form of gatka.

Many schools like GMSSS, Ghudami Kalan (Ludhiana) organised special classes in subjects like mathematics and English. Many schools also held cooking classes. Coinciding with the World Environment Day, a number of schools organised special plantation drives in their schools. These included GSSS Jagraon (Ludhiana), GSSS Hambran (Ludhiana), GSSS Rampur Jhanjowal (Hoshiarpur), GSSS Bhogpur (Hoshiarpur) and GSSS PAU Campus, Ludhiana.

Some schools like GGSSS, Rajpura town even organised competitions after the workshops concluded.  

How the concept caught on

Nearly 1,000 schools had organised summer workshops last year, on their own. This was done after informal discussions at the department level with the Secretary Krishan Kumar. According to Department PRO Rajinder Channi, “Organisers of these workshops were given special commendation certificates by the department. Teachers were told that organising such workshops would add advantage points  in   their ACRs”.

This year nearly 6,000 schools opted to organise summer workshops. While many young teachers managed these workshops, there were senior teachers like Varinderjit Kaur, posted at Government (co-ed) SSS High branch, Rajpura, who participated in these workshops with  equal enthusiasm.

The workshops also gave an opportunity  to motivate teachers to show their unique talents. “The workshops helped to realise many talents that the teachers had. In all this, children were the ultimate gainers,” says English teacher Mandeep Chahal.

From their own pockets

Since officially no funds were sanctioned for these workshops, heads of many schools  and teachers collaborated to organise the camps from their own pockets. Village panchayats, too, made a significant contribution in planning these camps all over the state.

According to Principal Surinder Singh of Government Elementary School, Rattoke,  “We cannot compete with private schools that charge large amounts of money.  Majority of children in our schools come from simple families. We are all making small contributions to make these activities as interesting as possible”.

Another added feature of these camps has been that many good Samaritans came forward voluntarily to make financial contributions. NRIs too were not left behind in conttributing to the cause. Dhada Fateh Singh in Hoshiarpur district saw contribution by Col Jaswant Singh from Canada. Local residents came forward to partially or even fully fund workshops at Government Middle School, Ajnali, Fatehgarh Sahib district, Government Elementary School, Chooharpur in Ludhiana, Government Primary School Chananwala in Fazilka, Government Primary  School, Moosa in Mansa, Government Elementary School, Liddran (Sangrur), GHS Thuhi (Patiala), GSSS, Majatri (Mohali), GPS, Baje Chak (Gurdaspur).

On the flip side

The summer workshops in government schools started with much enthusiasm but due to lack in clarity of action plan, it failed to give a unified picture on their relevance and future plan of action.

Some teachers and principals, requesting anonymity, gave a glance into the loopholes and weak links in the workshops which needed to be plugged for future:

  • There was no common cohesive action plan. In some schools, the workshops were held for only five days while it lasted for 10 days or more at many schools.
  • There was lack of commitment from teachers. While many teachers participated voluntarily, a large number refrained from any participation.
  • Inadequate funds was a dampner. Effective teaching learning material could have been purchased if there was enough financial support from the state.
  • The schools, largely, did not have any arrangement for food and refreshments for the children.

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