It’s been 2 months since I set foot in my ancestral home – Majuli, Assam. It was an unplanned move although I was closely associated with the Mising community here that lives by the banks of Mahababu Brahmaputra.
With the excitement to learn, unlearn and relearn, I took the decision to stay here with the Hummingbird School Family… the Ayang Family. After starting out with getting to know the community and the school better, I began exploring my scope of work with them. One morning, during the second month of my stay at the Kulamua Village, I received a phone call from Bipin Dhane, Founder Principal, The Hummingbird School, who asked me if I wanted to work with a group of teachers on a year-long spoken English program.
Being a product of an Assamese Medium School, I was obviously skeptical to take up the role, introspecting on my own skills and ability to facilitate such a program. But there was something about this proposal that made me reply seconds later, with a “Yes.”
Learning is a journey for the learner and the facilitator. I was ready to embark on my journey to learn with 20 other teachers from 4 English Medium Private Schools of the Majuli River Island, where Ayang works to improve the academic outcomes of the schools.
We began our 5-day residential workshop on December 11, 2018. When I started working on designing the program, I was constantly reminded that the teachers have difficulty in speaking English and hence the medium of instruction has become Assamese despite these being English Medium Schools.
The first day focused on team building, creating a safe space, sharing stories and understanding the challenges of teachers faced while speaking English.
To my surprise, there were two participants I was not expecting. Both of them were standing in a corner and were trying to figure out where they could sit. The red saador mekhela (A traditional dress for Assamese women) was so bright, it could catch the attention of anyone and her smile was brighter than the color of the outfit. Another lady was with a pink saador and a black mekhela: she was smiling in a nervous way and was trying to interact with other participants.
Introductions began and soon it was the turn of the lady in red sari to talk about herself. After being still for about 2-3 minutes, she lifted her necklace to show us – her name was Jwel (indicated Jewel) – a homemaker from Jengraimukh. The lady accompanying Jwel was Labanya, also a homemaker, living in Garamur.
After digging a little deeper, because of my own curiosity, I found out that Jwel’s husband worked at the Hummingbird School and that’s how she got to know about the workshop which until her arrival was only meant for teachers.
Labanya’s story was different – she dropped out of school 15 years ago because of her marriage. Now, after hearing about the workshop, she thought of it as an opportunity, a gate to re-enter the arena!
Jwel and Labanya were by far the most energetic participants of the 5-day workshop. Labanya, a mother, would have to leave every day after the workshop to attend to her family. But she was always 15 minutes early. When I asked her about her ability to maintain regularity, she said, “Moi xikibo bisaru” (I want to learn).
On the fourth day of the workshop, I announced the activity – everyone would have to speak about themselves for 3 minutes in English. The excitement and nervousness together were very evident on each of their faces. Both Labanya and Jwel’s short speeches left me hearted! Speaking, making a mistake, pausing and then resuming it – they promised to keep the learning going!
Written by Rituporna Neog, Member, Ayang