Three members of staff, four pupils and one ex-pupil were lucky enough to visit our link school in Dornakal this February. After more than 24 hours of travelling via plane, taxi and train, we were greeted by students and teachers of the Dornakal Diocesan English Medium School. Several were familiar to us already, having journeyed to England in November. Over the following week, we had the opportunity to participate in lessons, compete in various sports and attend numerous cultural events.
The differences in teaching between our schools were very noticeable. In India, resources are sparse and so lessons usually consist of the teacher reading from the textbook. The pupils listen and periodically will repeat key words. If an individual is asked to answer a question, they would always stand and fold their arms across their chest as a sign of respect. The members of the DDEM school are fortunate in that they benefit from small class sizes (even smaller than at King's in some cases) and their access to better-paid jobs is improved through learning English. The cultural tradition of separating males and females extends in to the classroom, where they would always sit on different sides of the room. Another common practice was to remove your shoes before entering the room.
Every morning the students would line up in the school yard, according to their year group. A prefect would recite the National Pledge line by line and the students would chant it back. This was followed by the National Anthem, the Lord's Prayer and a Bible reading. Each pupil had the privilege of wearing casual clothes, rather than their uniform, on their birthday and they would distribute sweets or cakes to all the teachers.
Our presence in India was invariably met with great interest and we would often be surrounded by people enquiring as to our names and the purpose of our trip. Everyone was very keen to shake our hands too, which would be seen as an unusual request of a stranger in the UK! This was particularly evident during the sporting competitions in the afternoon. Huge crowds from all the nearby hostels assembled to watch us take part in volleyball, cricket, hockey and badminton. No doubt part of their motivation to attend was due to the Bishop Devamani's involvement. He is met with great respect and affection wherever he goes, as can be seen from the banners bearing his name when he arrives at any event. However, he is also very approachable and made every effort to involve us in the games.
Jyothsna (one of the Indian teachers who visited us) got engaged and coincidentally her marriage ceremony fell within the dates of our trip. We were greatly honoured to be invited to this special occasion in Khammam, which also allowed us to visit the Polio home there. Much of the symbolism of a Christian wedding in the UK was recognisable in the Indian ceremony: the bride's white dress, the exchanging of rings, the vows and showering the couple with rice (not confetti) as they left the church.
It was an incredible experience and the King's pupils conducted themselves superbly. Both schools seem to benefit in different ways to the partnership, so we have high hopes for future developments.