An experience of a lifetime for Goa girl

An experience of a lifetime for Goa girl

Young men and women at her age usually prefer the comfort and luxury of a city life to start their career and training. But Ninoshka D’Silva is different. When an opportunity knocked at her door, she opted for a tribal village in a backward south Odisha district to hone her skill as a teacher.

She has just finished her one-year stint at Koinpur in Gajapati district under a fellowship programme. The assignment provided her a chance to live among villagers belonging to Soura tribal community besides teaching their children in a residential school run by a non-governmental organisation. “One year I spent in the village was an experience of a lifetime,” said the 23-year-old from south Goa.

A graduate from Sophia college in Mumbai, Ninoshka developed interest in teaching after she landed up a teacher’s job in her home state after completion of her graduation course.

  However, it was the fellowship given by a leading nationalised bank that opened the door for her to sharpen her teaching ability in the backward tribal village in Odisha.

“The Youth for India Fellowship gives its fellows an opportunity to be associated with some of the leading NGOs in the country working in the space of development which include teaching and education. As I had already decided to work in the education sector I felt very happy getting the fellowship. Moreover, I also saw it as a platform to understand a part of India and  a very few of us ever get an opportunity to know,” she said with a smile.

According to Ninoshka, it was an entirely new experience for her when she arrived in the village.

“When I landed in Koinpur in December last year, I was amazed by the beauty of the place and surroundings. I was really excited but I was not sure where to start and how to start. I spent a lot of days going around the village as well as to nearby places. I lived with the community for long hours even after sunset. I felt their warmth and an instinctive sense of security and acceptance. I participated in their rituals and festivals. I danced with them and moved my feet to rhythms I did not know existed. It was during these days that I learnt about the people and the place I am going to call home for the next one year till the completion of my fellowship,” she maintained as she was preparing to return home.

Language, however, was a problem at the beginning. She, in fact, thought that it would be impossible for her to learn the Odia language. But she managed not only learn Odia but also Soura, the original language of the local tribals. “Necessity drives you to learn many things in life. Anyone can master a new language,” she observed. Once settled, she began teaching by taking classes daily at the local residential school set up by Gram Vikas, the NGO she had been assigned to be associated with.

Apart from regular classes she also thought of introducing alternative methods of teaching to make learning easy and interesting for children in the age group of 10 to 14.
She conducted storytelling sessions, creative workshops, organised dramas and games to make the students understand a subject with ease. She also used music, songs and video shows for the purpose.
“The basic aim was to make learning easy and interesting for the young minds. Our sessions were able to maintain high interest levels and they worked wonders,” she said.
During her stay, she did not confine herself to teaching children alone. She took the initiative to make village elders literate as many were keen to read, write and learn more about everything in life.

When she wanted to know why they were interested in learning how to write and read, they said they were keen on becoming more independent and to be aware of what was happening around them and above all not being taken for a ride. Her basic aim was to increase the literacy level of the community elders and make them functionally literate.

In this context, she mentioned that the children of the village - her students - also extended a helping hand in the exercise, volunteering to help her in teaching elders.

 “The children enthusiastically participated in teaching with me,” she said. It had become a daily routine for Ninoshka to teach village elders one and half hours from 6.30 pm.

The bright and hardworking young girl from Goa intends to pursue higher studies in future but said Koinpur will always remain close to her heart.

 “I have finished my fellowship and will be returning to Goa. It pains me to leave. The year I spent in Koinpur was filled with invaluable learning experiences that will live within me for a lifetime,” said the 23-year-old insisting that she will definitely be coming back to the Odisha village as she was sure it will provide her peace, comfort and love. “People here are really wonderful”, she concluded.

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