Ffion Evans is a Lower Key Stage 2 Phase Leader at Ark Atwood Primary Academy in north Westminster. Last year she visited primary school Ark Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi, India on our Fellows programme and describes the experience as "life changing".
I decided to join the Ark Global Teaching Fellowship programme when my headteacher mentioned a few opportunities coming up with Ark that could take us to Uganda, South Africa or India. I gravitated towards the India post which I was nervous and hesitant about because I had heard horror stories about New Delhi. I’m not a particularly big traveller, so I thought that I may not be able to handle two weeks there.
New Delhi is definitely a city of extremes. When I first arrived in Delhi, I was impressed by the big grand buildings, but immediately felt overwhelmed that just around the corner were families in slums struggling to survive; mothers and children barely clothed.
There are so many things I learnt while in New Delhi both personally and professionally. Although some of the children that attend Lajpat Nagar school have had an awful start to their lives begging, living on the streets, selling empty bottles etc, they came to school happy and ready to learn. Their parents are incredibly special people too; they live by the motto of the schools which comes from Mahatma Gandhi -‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. Some parents travelled many hundreds of miles to come to New Delhi so that their child could have a proper education. Thinking about the sacrifices these families make, really puts life in perspective.
A challenge that became our mission in Lajpat Nagar was to ensure that a handful of children stayed in the classrooms. A lot of the children who arrive at the school have no concept of what school actually is and often face difficult situations outside of school so their natural instinct is to leave. I will always remember my colleagues chasing 3 and 4 years olds and coaxing them back in to class. I am sure that the children did this in order to see us sweat more and more! Before we left the school, these particular children were in the classrooms and enjoying learning.
The teachers at Lajpat Nagar are incredibly talented and bright young ladies whose love and dedication in wanting to make a difference to the children’s lives is inspiring. If I could take just a small amount of their passion back to the UK, the teaching profession would be a better place. Headteacher Urmila Chowdhury is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. She epitomises all that Ark Lajpat Nagar is and has the passion and drive to change so many children’s lives. She oozes knowledge and determination and knows every single staff member, child and their family in the school. I hope that the ideas and strategies she and her staff develop, will continue to make a difference to the lives of the children in the school.
When applying to join the programme I thought it would be a great opportunity that would look good on my CV. I never thought that going to India and working out there for two weeks would make a difference to my life. Walking out and facing heat and stuffiness alongside torrential downpours and laughing about it are just some of the memories I carry with me.
My advice to those considering becoming an Ark Fellow would be to just do it! I have made some fantastic new friends in not only my UK colleagues but also my India colleagues. It will change not only your teaching but also your perspective on life. If you would like to make a difference to the children who need people who believe and champion them, then grab the next opportunity.