Delhi: Lessons on gender sensitivity, life skills, sign language to be imparted in North body’s schools
New Delhi: From training teachers in dispelling myths related to transgender persons and include trans-children in classrooms to making students ready for life challenges, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation is gearing up for reforming the methods of imparting education in the over 700 schools run by it.
At least 35 life and survival skills, such as reading maps, how to strike a conversation, road rules, how to be safe while using social media, seek help from strangers or respond to disasters, among others, will be made part of the curriculum taught in municipal schools, civic officials said.
“The reforms are part of a larger initiative to make classrooms inclusive. So far, the course curriculum is literacy-based only and does not prepare students for the challenges of life. These skill sets are crucial for the holistic development of students that will help them become successful adults,” said Ira Singhal, deputy commissioner of the North body, who is leading the initiative.
She added that it is an extensive exercise for which 75 ‘mentor teachers’ have been tasked with preparing lesson plans for tagging the skills with corresponding subjects.
“We are preparing classroom plans on how to teach a particular skill and what chapter of a subject it could be tagged along with. Teachers will be given guidebooks for imparting these lessons as part of the course. Besides, we will also prepare short videos for the same, for which we have roped in a private player to provide technical support. The idea is to subtly introduce these skill sets in the course,” she said.
Teachers are being trained virtually through webinars in the exercise. The skills will vary from learning how to manage time, money, visit a bank, know about helpline numbers in times of emergencies, such as police, fire and ambulance services, read maps for navigation, gender sensitisation, personal hygiene and how to cope with failure, and the like.
The plan will be implemented in various stages and will take about a year to be introduced to all classes, while being evaluated in every phase.
The North corporation has 714 primary schools under it where nearly 2.5 lakh children are imparted basic education from nursery up to class 5. Most of the children enrolled in these schools come from low-income groups.
TRAINING OF TEACHERS, PRINCIPALS
Apart from this, about 7,500 teachers and heads of the north body’s schools will also be trained on transgender sensitivity under the project titled ‘Purple Board’, to be launched Monday. The focus of the programme will be on dispelling myths around transpersons and sensitising teachers on how to make schools inclusive of trans and gender non-conforming students by addressing trans-phobia and dealing with trans-bullying.
For this, the civic body has tied up with SPACE (Society for People’s Awareness, Care and Empowerment), an NGO working in the field of gender issues.
“We will be training around 500 teachers and principals per day in two to three different batches for a month-and-a-half. We are glad that the civic body has engaged us in this programme, as this will be the first such initiative for municipal schools, where children are young and need to be dealt with sensitively from early on,” said Anjan Joshi, executive director, SPACE.
He added that it is important to introduce schools to trans-identities, the terminologies associated with them and the needs and rights of such persons.
“It is a matter of education and awareness. There have been many cases when transpersons have shared their experiences of being bullied, abused or mocked when they were merely class 2 or 3 students, not just at the hands of peers but even teachers at times. At such a young age, such experiences can deeply impact a child’s mind and how they begin to identify with their own selves. These are the issues that will be addressed through these training sessions,” he said.
For instance, he added, there are many children who do not confirm to the gender identity they are assigned at birth, due to which they start having identity issues as they grow, which calls on the need for a gender-neutral atmosphere in schools such as in the case of gender-specific washrooms and uniforms, which must not be meant solely for the conventional gender identities.
The NGO will conduct a refresher course for teachers once the schools reopen. Also, a session on gender issues will be organised for children, in which parents will also be engaged.
Singhal said that so far, trans-children have been facing social boycott and have been deprived of an education. Even those who attend school for some years drop out at some point. Training is required to bring trans-children on the same platform as other students, she said.
The Delhi government had last year launched a training curriculum for teachers to handle concerns of trans-students.
TEACHERS, STUDENTS TO LEARN BASICS OF SIGN LANGUAGE
In another reform towards inclusive education, the civic body has been training teachers in the different aspects of disabilities and how to make children with special needs part of the same classroom.
“It has been made compulsory for all teachers to learn the basics of sign language, after which they will help all students of classes 4 and 5 learn the same. This is crucial because children who have hearing disabilities are not able to communicate even with their peers, friends or parents, as nobody understands sign language except for them, which isolates them and affects their overall development. It will be a fun exercise for all regular students as well to learn sign language and be able to have a basic conversation with their peers when they are assimilated in the same classroom,” said Singhal.
So far, there are around 1,000 children with special needs enrolled in the North body’s schools.
The civic body, with the help of special educators, will also conduct an assessment of all students to identify undiagnosed disabilities, including learning disabilities, which are often left unidentified, so that early intervention could be made.