the very elusive english teacher

For the past few weeks we have been on a mission: find 2 good English teachers for our new focus on quality programme scheduled to begin on April 1st. To be on the safer side and ensure that all goes according to plan, we decided to begin our search way earlier and try out potential candidates so as to be ready on the given day.

Finding a teacher to teach spoken English to class 2 to 5 kids did not at first seem a very daunting task. We would soon find out how wrong we were! We first took the easy road - word to mouth - and spoke to everyone we knew. The result was negative, no one came forward. I was a little saddened as I had hoped that some one would come forward. We then decided to place an ad in the leading newspapers. We did get flooded with calls but the moment the word slum was mentioned, the potential candidate backed out. In some cases we were the ones who beat a hasty retreat as astronomical salaries were asked ( 30 and 40 K)! However we did have a tiny handful of people who accepted to come for an interview.

We finally selected two on trial: one with no teaching experience but a pleasing personality and a good command on the language, and the other with some teaching experience, a fair command on the language but a slightly reserved personality. Whereas the former worked out like a dream and now teaches at the women centre, the later was a sad reflection on the reality that is India. Both ladies belonged to the middle class, but whereas one had an open mind the other was closed and set in her ways. When she realised that her colleagues at Okhla were from an inferior social strata, she shut them out choosing to isolate herself. She did not even sit with them at lunch time. One would have looked over that aberration has she bonded with the kids, but here again she kept them at bay. She never smiled or laughed with them but chided and scolded that all the time. It was a nightmare that has to be ended and we thanked her and asked her to leave. What really shocked us all was when she said: If you expect me to take a child on my lap like the volunteers do, I will never do it! Well said ma'am, and yes we expect you to do that but we understand your reluctance but do not and cannot accept it.

So the hunt began again and we found a person who had taught for 14 years in an English speaking school in a small town in India. We called her for an interview. We asked her the usual questions and were a little perplexed when all we got as answers were one words: No, Yes, I can.. She was unable to form a single complete sentence. The poor lady was simply a reflection on the state of education in the country. We of course rejected her and as I write these words the search is still on.

It is sad but true that some realities permeate every aspect of our lives. The innocuous search for a simple teacher shows the abysmal state of our education and reflects the depth of our social stigmas making us want to scream once again: all is not well in India!

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