By C.M. Paul
Bilaspur, Oct. 29, 2018: Two year old Reshmi (name changed) tried every trick she knew not to go to her neighborhood school.
Prakash (name changed) her father, an advocate in the district court had heard about Didaskaleinophobia – kid’s fear of going to school. He consulted Sabina (name changed), a child specialist who told him that it is normal for some 2 to 5 percent of pre-school children to be inflicted with such phobia.
“The fear of going to school is something tiny tots are often unable to express, and very few parents are aware of their kid’s plight,” said Dr. Sabina. “This condition can have an adverse impact on the education and career of a child,” she added.
Dr Sabina suggested that Reshmi be admitted to St Francis Higher Secondary School – a child friendly school at Ameri in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh.
The word Didaskaleinophobia is derived from Greek ‘didaskalein’ meaning to teach, and ‘phobos’ meaning aversion or fear.
“Our concept of school is based on `second home, a home away from home’ where every child would love to come to,” says principal, Sister Rosilin Augustine, in a free-wheeling interaction with “Matters India” sharing her dreams, ideas and the future of her school.
“Many students, especially the tender ones, have a fear of going to school,” says Sr Rosilin.
She insists, “A school campus must be one in which all children should look forward to attend with interest.”
“The positive impact of a small dedicated area within the school campus where we have kept rabbits, cows, ducks, hens and birds for children is an instant eye-opener for kids to relate to nature,” she reveals.
She does not hesitate to say, “The children simply love it.”
Sr Rosilin further explains with a glint in her eyes, “This also helps to inculcate a feeling of compassion towards animal species.”
“Respect for creatures is an important aspect towards the harmonious development of a child’s personality,” said Sr Rosilin who gained much knowledge and experience about running schools and handling kids with special needs.
The St. Francis Kid’s World is the pre-primary section at St Francis School which has an innovative play-school for children between 2 to 5 years where classrooms are marked in different colours which the tender minds can immediately register.
“The themes in these classrooms are changed frequently and aimed at developing cognitive skills, arouse curiosity, inculcate good habits, discipline, team spirit, interactivity and the flair to ask questions,” Sr Rosilin affirms.
In the playrooms, we use play items of different shape, size, color and textures, miniature basketball court, models of animals, birds and so on to create student’s interest in learning.
“We have introduced the concept of ‘Zero Period’ which is an extra period during which teacher and students could have a one-on-one interactive session during which personal attention is paid to the student. It is also the time for any particular issues are ironed out on the spot. The parents are apprised of their child’s progress or lack of it later.”
Another concept adopted by the school is that of ‘Smart Classroom’ which is a network of closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) which not only brings the school under a security scanner but also enables to monitor and record each and every classroom.
“We can play back the recording to consult a class teacher on how to make a certain subject more interesting and informative. We call it our ‘Teach Next’ program. It is a continuous evaluation-based evolution of teaching methods that we have successfully improvised making education interesting, fun-filled and effective,” Sr Rosilin informs.
Besides physics, chemistry and biology, the school has also come up with a `Maths Lab’ to promote, popularize and to remove the fear of mathematics among the students and to make learning of maths more purposeful, interesting and pragmatic. It helps to create aptitude in mathematics.
“When I reflected back on my school days it struck me that much of the classroom teaching lacked creativity. A teacher would draw a cylinder on the blackboard and try to explain its dimensions which failed to seep into our young minds and we lost interest in Maths. Now, I realize that a simple act of folding a paper into a cylinder could have done the trick. Our Maths Lab takes care of all this and makes teaching and learning of Maths interesting and not intimidating to the students,” Sister Rosilin said.
She applies the same approach for sports, fine arts, moral science education and other extracurricular activities.
St Francis Higher Secondary School is highly concerned about the environmental degradation in the present society. To preserve and conserve the environmental assets and to spread the message “Make the earth smile again”, the school has extensively planted trees covering with a green blanket all over the campus. The school is eco-friendly so uses rainwater and groundwater harvesting to fight ground water depletion. The children are taught to collect and sort out all the organic waste to convert it into waste-compost to make the campus greener and fertile.
The school caters not only to the well heeled, but also runs a Hindi medium section in the same campus where children, whose parents cannot afford to send them to schools, attend classes using the state-of-the-art smart class infrastructure till class V. These students are then sent to another school where their fees are waived and they can continue with their education.
“I could never imagine my child going to such a school but for the Sisters. As I see my child grow, I cannot thank them enough,” says one of the parents who is a rickshaw puller barely able to eke out a living. There are many such beneficiaries.
The school which started in 1993 with 38 students is entering its silver jubilee with a total strength of 5,133 children. The coming of age as one of the most prestigious educational centres of excellence in Chhattisgarh, St Francis Higher Secondary School owes much to the hard work by a dedicated band of Franciscan Sisters who, inspired by the life, works and teachings of St Francis of Assisi, set up a tiny base in 1979 near Nehru Nagar area of Bilaspur. They with their deep spiritual commitment and whole-hearted service to the society ignited the fire of knowledge in the young minds. To impart quality education and holistic development of the children these sisters along with skilful, competent and versatile teachers pledged to serve as beacons of light.
The scene began to change rapidly from 1998 when Sr Rosilin Augustine took charge as the Principal. The Franciscan Sisters from Germany operates out of India, Brazil, Germany and USA. In India, there are over 110 sisters working in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Chhattisgarh.
The 7.5 acre campus of St Francis School, is a tribute to its humble roots with reliefs and motifs depicting St Francis of Assisi with poor children.
“This St Francis of Assisi relief reminds us of our humble roots and the vision and life of St Francis from whom we draw our inspiration,” reminded Sr Rosilin thanking Mr Subrata Ganguly of Church Art – a Kolkata-based pioneering artwork firm which strictly follows canonical laws and liturgical norms.