I am a full-time volunteer at Thamarai. In addition to facilitating homework support and classes in the after-schools, I help with coordination and project management. I’m also involved with sports activities – particularly football. And more recently, I’m beginning to support other after-school projects run by youth in the villages of Kottakarai and Rayapettai. Chitra, a regular student shared “I’m really very happy to have English classes at Thamarai. Previously I learned grammar in school but it wasn’t very clear to me. Now I am learning and understanding grammar and having a very good experience in the class. In the past, I didn’t email suppliers because I had doubts whether my English was correct or not. Now I am happy to email all suppliers because of my English class. I feel lucky to have this opportunity to learn English.”
I teach English to students in both Thamarai centres. I find it very rewarding to see the children’s enthusiasm for learning and to see their English language and their self-confidence improving. In Edayanchavadi, the English class has children ranging between 9 and 13 years old, so the challenge is to find lessons which are not too difficult for the younger children and not too boring for the older ones. But somehow it seems to work. Games and singing are included to keep things interesting and fun. Attendance is not always consistent, so it’s not easy to teach a program when some children miss classes and can fall behind. In Annai Nagar the challenges are different.
I give separate classes for 12 and 13 year old students in Annai Nagar. The lessons mainly focus on the English curriculum. This is not easy, as the level of English in their school curriculum is far more advanced than their current English ability.
About a year ago, in response to a request from young adult men in Annai Nagar, I started teaching classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights from 8pm to 9pm. Classes were initially well-attended, but over time the attendance gradually declined, due to a combination of work demands and competition from evening sports activities. I can understand this very well. I started attending Tamil classes two afternoons a week and was full of beginner’s enthusiasm. However my commitment declined after a couple of months and I have temporarily stopped learning Tamil. I know I need to regularly attend Tamil classes but other things seem to compete for my time and win out.
Some women from the village approached Thamarai in May 2022 and asked for English classes. I tried to include the women into my existing class for a few weeks but the women preferred their own class.
So on Mondays and Wednesdays we had men’s classes and women’s classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The women’s class is continuing twice weekly and seems to be very well received. We have quite a bit of fun, interesting conversations and some intercultural learning. And the improvement in English ability for those who attend regularly is very evident. Recently a French Auroville volunteer has joined the class and this has added to the cultural mix. Attendance is mixed. Some women come and go irregularly. Some come for a while and drop out. New women come from time to time. But there is a core of three women who attend nearly all classes.
Through giving English classes I got to know some of the women from Edayanchavadi working at Auroville Visitor Centre. They asked me a few times if I could give classes in Edayanchavadi village. Although I didn’t like to spend another evening working until 9pm I couldn’t refuse them. So we now have English classes on Wednesday nights. We have four women from the Visitors Centre, one local facilitator and three mothers of Thamarai students. The women have requested an additional class. I told them that if they attend regularly, then I will look into offering more classes.
Here’s what Gunavathi says about the class:
“In the past, before joining this class, I learned English as a subject that has many rules. Now, in this class, I am learning English as a language. There are still rules, but I’m not shy to ask questions, or to say that I don’t know or understand, and I can speak confidently without fear.
Previously, I was afraid to speak English and I avoided speaking. Now I speak without any fear. Even non-educated people are with me in the class. We have a friendly teacher. Day by day my English is improving and I can speak confidently without fear.“
“ My name is Chithra. I have worked at Auroville Papers Bookshop for the past 11 years. I knew very little English when I started working here. And slowly I learned a bit more.
I’m really very happy to have English classes at Thamarai. Previously I learned grammar in school but it wasn’t very clear to me. Now I am learning and understanding grammar and having a very good experience in the class.
In the past I didn’t email suppliers because I had doubts whether my English was correct or not. Now I am happy to email all suppliers because of my English class. I feel lucky to have this opportunity to learn English.”