Bridges to confidence:
"These are all children of domestic helps, labourers, hawkers, municipal workers, flowers seller and artisanal fishermen. They grow up pretty much by themselves and are street smart. What they lack is social poise," says Lakshmi. Learning to read, write, calculate and passing examinations is a very small set in the learning process. Her first reforms were centered on teaching social skills to children. Playing together, communicating ideas, creating with hands, expression through song and dance, discussing civic and world issues and speaking up without fear of being stopped have all become a part of OMHS culture in 6 years.
Discipline comes by promoting positive peer pressure: a child that embodies responsible behaviour is encouraged, not so much praised, while a rowdy one is mildly rebuffed without any scolding. Caning and coprporal punishment are banned. Silent disapproval is the extent of punishment.
"There are two gaps these children must close. One is the English language gap and the other the computer gap." The school has a computer centre where children get exposure and gain familiarity. Although the medium of instruction is Tamil with English as only a language subject, OMHS adopts novel methods to expose children to English. The daily assembly is conducted entirely in English. Then they have teachers and volunteers reading from English books with children learning by immersion.
Lakshmi is a good networker. In addition to her day job at OMHS she puts in 4 hours a day as a volunteer of Asha for Education. There's a buzz of ideas about her. She wants to add to crafts and vocations being taught at the school. She is looking out for people to sponsor them.