The New School Year

From DAY ONE:Sabitri_4082





Bornali in School

Sabitri_5650  Today is DAY TWO of the new school year.   I’m sitting on a bench in the hallway of Sahapur Sabitri Balika Vidyalaya, on call if I am needed.  Two of our handicapped children are here.  It is all new and the school is worried about how to take care of them, but they have truly reached out to make them comfortable.   I have promised to wait, to be available.  Three months ago this was a dream, to have the government open to handicapped children.  This is a beginning.  I chose to enroll only two of the girls, Ganga and Bornali.  As yet there is no “program” here and they are content to just be present and watch, to be a part of the school.  They were admitted because of Indian law calling for education for all children.

Ganga has settled in fine. Sabitri088cr This school is where she wanted to be all along, in school with her Didis.  I used to carry Ganga in the backpack when I walked the girls to school.  Bornali is frightened of new places. She cried the first day and I was able to soothe her.  Today she screamed when we entered the classroom.  She settled down after a while and I left for the hallway.

DAY THREE and I’m back on the bench in the hallway.  Bornali only cried for a little while and then I could leave.  Today they are staying longer.  At 9 am there is a book ceremony when books for the school year are given out.  The Headmistress asked if I could attend so I asked if Ganga and Bornali could stay so I didn’t have to take them home and come back.  She agreed. I hold the post of President of the Mother-Teacher Association.  I know Ganga will be happy as yesterday she was aware that she was leaving before the others. 



Seema, our Board Secretary has been a wonderful advocate. This morning she had a chance to talk to the children seated around Ganga and explained that God had not given Ganga arms and legs and speech like the others, but she understood everything.  She had three children each say their names to Ganga and Ganga reached out with her hand.  She is so happy in school.  She wants so much to be like the others.  When she sees another child/adult with CP she immediately recognizes that they share this condition. 


There is a huge learning curve ahead for the teachers here.  But this is true everywhere.  They are afraid of the children, unsure how to talk to them, worried about saying/doing the right thing, feeling unprepared and inadequate.  The government is required to give a resource teacher but has not done this yet.  We are in the midst of elections and many things are put off.  I really am grateful just to be in the door.  The rest will follow.  For my children, I have a full teaching program at home.  This is for socialization until it can be more.



This has become my only time to write.  Yesterday’s book ceremony was a dream come true.  Ganga and Bornali stayed for it all.  This is a ceremony when books are distributed for the new year.  It is also a time when prizes are given out for the past year.  The ceremony is held in the huge meeting hall. All the classes were there today, which meant my ten girls in school were all together.  Shanti Devi came to help.  We wheeled Ganga and Bornali in, and they joined the others.  Seven of our big girls danced – unexpectedly!  So Ganga and Bornali got to see their Didi’s dancing.  Sabitri061ed

The local councilor was there and we chatted.  He too has been very supportive.  He said that after elections we would do more.    Then prizes were given out.  Our “first in class” received hers, and then another of our girls won a prize in drawing, and two others in running.  Bornali is a very quiet girl, but when applause broke out, she screamed and kicked her legs and everyone in the room heard and saw her and enjoyed her happy kicking.  Later I was also asked to present some of the prizes. Sabitri043cr

There was a moment though when I just walked over to a window on the side of the room, and truly basked in my happiness.  I  basked in my success in keeping the girls in this school.  It is a haven for them, for girls who have had few if any havens in their lives.  I did fight off pressure to put them in “better” schools.  This day I basked in having Ganga and Bornali here, what had seemed just a mad dream, and now was reality.  I imagined a big puff of air above my head, holding off all the constant problems and pressures and I had a happy time in my bubble.

We are in the midst of a major crisis with the government!  Some things have HAPPENED  in spite of our diligence about accuracy — things out of our control, but which I can’t talk about specifically.  I am  consumed with trying to straighten it out, while also attending to hair clips and socks at 5 am.  I get worn out.  

Yesterday I got home to major battles going on among the massis, and then the accountant came and then I had lunch and napped and then I tried to do a little work,but didn’t get the paprs done, and then I had emails regarding business cards I need and then we went to visit a board member and friend whose mother just died and then I came home and went to bed and then discovered the rabbits hadn’t been cared for, and when I went to check the rabbits I saw the plants were all drying up so at 11 pm one of the girls cleaned the rabbit cage, which was smelling and I watered the plants and then went to bed to get up at 4 am to start this day.  In between though, I chatted online with Cici and then talked on the phone with Heather.  We are a very small family.  We are in touch almost daily, including on Facebook.  I have been “friended” on Facebook by my daughters and son in law. This is precious.


I have had to take charge of the hairclips and school badges, as I did last year.  They are easily lost and the school only allows red clips and garters.  This is one of those areas I really try to comply — a gesture that I respect their rules  (And, I get scolded if the girls arent neat and combed, and I let it get to me, which just proves I’m still a child at heart!) Hunting for red clips in the market is not always easy and I hate having to buy them.  So, I have a lock box for the red clips and garters and school badges.  I have separate plastic bags for each girl, with her name.  I sleep with the box next to me.  In the morning I give out the clips and badges.  When I get up to go to my computer I take the box with me.  When the girls come home from school all the clips and badges go back into the plastic bags and the tin box.  In truth though, the girls love the system.  They love coming to me in the morning for their badges and clips.  It’s a ritual.   It’s their way of keeping me attentive.  I am Keeper of the Hair Clips and School Badges.  I am Mother.


It becomes a routine.  Ganga is fine and loves being in school.  Bornali cries for the first ten minutes.  She is just overwhelmed and she “dissolves” into tears.   Sabitri090I tell her she is a big girl now. Sabitri093 We are closer.  Ganga, who used to be glued to me, is more on her own.  it’s good.  I write again from the school bench, children wandering by, and I shoo them back to class.  The Headmistress just stopped by and handed me Ganga and Bornali’s diaries with their class schedules.  When we get home our teacher will go through what was covered in class.  I’m having new chair/table tops made to fit better in the classrooms.  Eventually the school will have attendants so the children can follow in class.  But what they have now is wonderful.  They get up in the morning and we all walk to school together, Ganga and Bornali in their strollers.  We reach before prayer time, so Ganga and Bornali join the line, next to their big sisters.  Bornali is solemn.  Ganga glances around to see who she can make eye contact with, who will be her next friend.  All this is normal.  They have a life.


I have a life too, a very very good one.

The Hall where I wait and blog, while the children are in class.  Sabitri064

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May 2009
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