How I learned English in Goshi School-II

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The learning curve
santi-ram-150x1502Reading the story was a real challenge to us. For sure, we did not know how to pronounce most of the words without someone’s guidance. We were not familiar on how the letters would combine to give the specific sound and practice the words pronunciation. We lacked the phonological serenity or other acquired knowledge of language regulations. There were two important aspects: the embarrassment of incompetency on one side and certainty of corporal punishment from the educator on the other. Even though we were quite amateur in decision making, many of the students started talking of not coming to the class on the following day so that we could avoid that uncomfortable class situation. We swore many inappropriate things, mostly of hopelessness but worthy of paying attention. The encouragements would be a healthier approach but sometimes the things askew from the normal curve.

For many of us there was no one to provide the extra help at home. For some, schooling was a rare opportunity or the only lucky person from the family would attend the school while other siblings were barred, snubbed or forbidden from the schooling. I was little blessed as I had elder uncles and aunts who would render me extra support during the need. I practiced the reading for the whole night. I got some scolding from my guardians for overusing the scarce kerosene that night. On the next morning I still struggled to read the story and still required some help for certain vocabularies. I had to spell most words to pronounce. I thought the overnight time was not enough to be able to read a whole story in English. In the morning I pretended as if I had some abdominal dysfunction but my uncle understood my play and took me to the school.

The time didn’t wait and we thought that very next day came too quickly. We prayed or wished for some kind of illness to the teacher but that didn’t happen. The teacher was there. The English period came, the teacher entered our classroom. All the students were nervous. The teacher asked us whether we read the story or not. He too said that whether we tried reading or not. We told him that we tried our best but it was too tough for us. He encouraged us and promised us that he would help us wherever we would be struck. After hearing such kind words we were little bit relieved from the stress. He ordered to start the reading from the last bench at the left corner. So the first person to read on that day was Som Ahley.

Ahley was probably the tallest boy in our class. He used to come from lower Sallayree, near Amphee Khola (river). He had to walk at least three hours to reach the school. He had straight upright hair and some students used to call him a ‘porcupine’ (in Nepali). So it was Ahley’s turn to read first. He stood up, hold his book at his hand and kept standing. He didn’t utter a single word for five minutes and Mr. Nair (teacher) told him to read and say at least a word. He couldn’t read or pronounce a word. The teacher asked him whether he practiced his reading at home. Ahley was honest and told that he didn’t have time to read. He also said that after reaching home he helped his mother in grinding the corn. Mr. Nair once again instructed him to give priority to study and help parents only after finishing the school works. The teacher asked him to practice reading again and he had to read the same story the following day. Once his case was resolved, the other students reading followed. Only the last row did their reading as the time allocated for that period was insufficient for every students to finish the reading. Some read a sentence only, some read two to three sentences and two of the students read a paragraph. Some got light blows on their head, some got ear pulled and luckily my turn did not come on that fateful first day as I used to sit on the first row.

As a time rule, which never waits for anyone, our next day school also began. We were at the English period. The teacher entered to our classroom, looked around and leaned by taking the support of my desk. Then he asked for Ahley to stand and read the story. Like the previous day he (Ahley) stood up and hold his book. He began spelling the first word of the story. He spelled the letters ‘o, n, c, e’ aloud but pronounced it ‘tortoise’. May be he thought that spelling ‘once’ was pronounced as ‘tortoise’. The whole class laughed. He turned pale and bit embarrassed also. The teacher told us to stop laughing and respect him. He couldn’t read further. He kept standing. Then the teacher asked him to spell ‘once’ and say ‘once’. He did it. He kept on spelling other words and the teacher gave the pronunciation and he also repeated the words pronunciation. He finished the first sentence. The teacher asked him to take his seat but told him that he must practice reading. He was asked to be able to read the first sentence without spelling on the next day. We didn’t know how he would do his reading practice and be fluent on the next day. I read the first paragraph on that day but got my pigtail (shika- commonly called as tuppe) pulled up as I didn’t pronounce ‘race’ correctly. Our topknot, the tuppee, was very essential part of the culture those days. We were strictly supervised for keeping our values alive regardless of place and authority.

Now we were at the third day of the lesson, Hare and Tortoise. The teacher asked for Ahley to do his reading. He repeated exactly in same manner as he did on the previous day: he spelled ‘o,n,c,e’ and pronounced as ‘ tortoise’. The teacher got furious which he expressed clearly by the body language but he didn’t utter a word. He left the class and went to his office. Now he came determined: a cane in his hand. The teacher asked him to show his right palm and struck him three times quite severely. While beating, he was cursing him and kept emptying his dissatisfaction. He too said that only the pain of cane would make him (Ahley) competent to read. Whether the fear of punishment would ever make a person perform better in academics or some improved instruction method would support better, we can leave the discussion open. After he finished canning the right palm, he also asked him to show the left fist, then asked to open the palm. He beat him quite hardly once on the left hand. With that strike, poor Ahley broke down and began crying loudly. The loud cry forced the teacher to stop beating him further. Then in a very commanding and threatening voice the teacher told him that if he could not read the first sentence on the next day, the punishment would be doubled. He also said that you already know the taste of cane, and the choice would be his. Ahley kept on weeping for rest of the period while other students were asked to continue reading.

Ahley dropped the school
On the fourth day of the lesson, we did not see Ahley. I do not know whether we became proficient reader, but the teacher stopped the reading session and continued with the comprehension exercises. That was a fatigue week, everyone worked really hard, and we were evaluated on our reading proficiency and rewarded with different degree of punishment. Although the very lesson was over, Ahley stopped coming to school. The week, the month passed and Ahley dropped the school.

We learned our lessons out of fear of getting similar punishment. There were no extra scaffolding of any level that would facilitate learning. We didn’t see extra books or valuable sources like library. Neither students practiced speaking English outside of classroom premises nor heard people’s interaction in English medium. There was no formal interaction with any native speaker.

Even after the British colonial rule ended in India, the region was still influenced by the British life. When someone talks of a white person, they mean British. I had met a British teacher. He was our neighbor’s son-in-law. People used to scare us by saying that white person would kidnap the young children. And our superstitious or illiterate community folk believed that the British people would have tail. One day I encountered that gentleman by himself on the waterspout as we fetched water from same source. Out of innocence I asked him regarding his tail. He knew some basic Nepali words. He understood my question and became too furious as if he would swallow me. I escaped the scene. I never committed the same mistake again. Apart from that, we rarely had the chance to interact with foreigners, especially the native English speakers. So how much could a child learn a second language under such circumstances? Reading needs longer time. No one ever tried to listen and understand the ‘hue and cry’ of students and their problem. Was there an attempt to know either? Students were blamed for not knowing the lessons and they were given all sorts of harassment. Some young children reached to a level of dropping the school. Parents were uneducated and they didn’t understand instructional methods. They rarely differentiate any system practiced in the learning process and would consider the teacher as noble and the sole giver. So all the blame on innocent victim, the poor students. Instead of giving sympathy or help, if we ever happened to complain of any misconduct or other unsatisfactory performances, there was a fear of getting extra punishment from the parents too. Weren’t we the yam between the mighty rocks?

As I grew up to know education better, I am never convinced of Ahley incident. With the fear of punishment he had to quit his education. We were too young to understand the problems but at least the other stakeholders should try to understand the situation. Ahley could have some learning disabilities, but who was there to understand that?

3 COMMENTS

  1. गोशी स्कुलमा मैले इङ्लिश कसरी पढेँ भन्ने तपाईको पडाई को थालनी भएको, पडाइ बिषय र टाडा टाडा बाट पडन आउने नानीहरुले जेल्नु परेको समस्या घाम पानी आंधी बेरी केराको पात ओडेर स्कुल जानु पर्ने इत्यादि बिषयको तपाइको लेखले मेरो मन छोयो सायद दागापेलियन भाइ बहिनीहरुको पनि मन छोयो होला, म चौध बर्षको उमेरमा गोशी स्कुल मा फर्के , त्यो भन्दा पहिलाका स्कुलमा पडने पुराना साथी र गोशी स्कुलमा सर्ब प्रथम पडने मेरा साथीहरु र त्यस पछी पढ्ने भाई बहिनीहरुको पनि आलो याद आयो हिर्दय कता कता के के सम्झेर बिदिर्ण भयो । जस्ताको तस्तै बर्णन गरेर आलई भनाउनु भयो बर्षा याममा प्राय सबैले पलस्टिक र केराको पात ओडेर आउने जाने गर्दथे ।
    बित्लुंग खोला , गोशी खोला, पाना खोला, अम्फी खोला र ससाना भल बाडिका खोल्छा समझदा डर लाग्छ अहिले , धन्न थ्यांक्स गड भगवानले बचाएछन् , बैदार बा को घर माथि बाट गोशी खोला तर्ने ठाउँमा नानीहरुको निम्ति एउटा काठ को फड्के पुल बनाउन लाउनु भएको थियो माताजीले सम्झना आयो . स्कुलका शिक्षक पनि भद्र भलाद्मी थिए , के जी नायर सर को कुरा सम्झाउनु भयो , उहाको देन भनि सक्नु छैन , भुटान पुत्र दागापेलियन हुनु हुन्थ्यो भन्दा फरक पर्दैन , सामाजिक काममै भए पनि आफुलाई उहाको ठुलो सहयोग थियो , भुल्न नसक्ने कुरा मध्य पनि हामीले पाव गाउँमा बनाएको मन्दिरको भब्य उद्घाटन गर्दा स्कुलका माइकिङ शेट लगिएको थियो, तेती टाढा पैदल हिनेर स्वयम उपस्थित भएर अरु धेरै चिरस्मरनिय यादगार छोडेर अन्तमा दागापेला भूमी बाटै सदाको निम्ती बिदा लिनु भयो, उहाँको आत्माले सदा शन्ती पावस ईश्वरलाई प्रर्थना छ ।
    डोरोणा ब्लक दागापेलाको रिमोट एरियामा पर्छ, त्यहाँका मानीसहरुले जेल्नु परेको समस्या मलाई राम्रो थाहा छ ति गाउँ ठाउँ कुना कोप्चा सबै ठाउँमा पुगेर दु:ख बुझेको छु । थर्पु डाँडाको निजी सामाजिक स्कुलमा बास बसेको ,त्याहाँका शिक्षक नानीहरुलाई मिठाई खाने , हौसला दिएका ति दिन सम्झदा —–। अरु धेरै छन लेखेर सकिदैन डाशो एच के हुमागाई प्रशासनमा कडा दया माया पनि त्यतिकै थियो , स्व: डाशो लाम पेन्जोरले भन्नु हुन्थ्यो डाशो हुमागाई राम्रो जोङ्दा चिराङमा पठाको छ उसको एउटा हात्मा लट्ठी छ एउटा हातमा मिठाई छ। डाशो दुङ्पा कुन्जाङ पनि अत्यन्तै पवित्र मन भएका अशल ब्यक्ती थिए डशो जोङ्दा हुमागाई . डशो दुङ्पा, हामी ब्लोक टुर मा जाँदा तपाईंको गाउँ धाप्पर मा बास बसेका थियौं,सर्कारी कुलाको मुहान हेर्ने हुँदा धप्पर खोलाको फड्के पुल भाँचिएर खोलमा खश्यौं लुगा जम्मै भिज्यो साना तिना चोट पटक लगेको थियो राती धुम धाम आगाको धुनी लगाएर ब्स्यौं, भाई ठग बहादुर पौडेल ईन्जिनियर पड्दै छुट्टीमा घरमै थिए, यस्तो रिमोट ठाउँबाट पनि यस्तो राम्रो पडेको भनी डशो ले प्रशम्सा गर्नु भयो , सायद तपाईं गोशी स्कुलमै पड्दै हुनुहुन्थ्यो होला, एसेम्ब्लीको रेजुलेशन सुनाउनु महत्व भन्दा पनि भबिश्यलाई बुझ्न सक्नु पर्छ, दु:ख सुख सहेर भए पनि नानीहरुलाई पढाउनु पर्छ भ्न्नेमा सबै ईष्टमित्रहरुमा मेरो अनुरोद थियो , । धेरैले त्यसलाई स्विकार गरी टाढा बाट पनि दु:ख गरी नानीहरु पडाएका थिए, उदाहरणका लागि तपाईंकै गाउँ धप्पर बाट तेजु चौहान, भुपाल, माया अरु अरु मात पिता सम्पूर्ण परिवार जो ऐले अस्ट्रेलियामा छन घर जगा लमिन छोडि गोशी स्कुलकै छेवैमा हाम्रै आसपासमा दु:ख कस्ट खपेर भए पनि पडाएका र पडेका थिए जहीँ पुगे पनि भाई बहिनीले यि बिगतलाई भुलेका छैनन होल। बिकासको निम्ती सर्ब प्रथम गाडीको बाटो हुनु पर्छ भन्नेमा जोड थियो भईसकेसकेका, उदाहरण को निम्ती चिराङ दागा रोड, स्कुल, बि ईच् युलाई उप्ग्रेडेड हस्पिटल, बज्जार जाने फिडर रोड, एस्सेम्ब्लीको कन्क्लुडिङ सेरोमनिमा राजालाई बिन्ती गरी हुकुम भई कालीखोला देखी होमा सम्म गाडीको बाटो थालेको थियो ।चिराङ दागा रोड र अरु धेरै बिषयमा कुरा राख्ता बाटो घाटो ईत्यादी बिषय राजाले लामो व्याख्या ओके गर्नु भएको थियो सर्ब प्रथम गेलेग्फुग राष्ट्रिय दिवसको औसरमा । ईतिहास सँग जोडीएको कुनै पनि बस्तु एक समयमा दागापेलियन माता पिता दाजु भाई दिदी बहिनीहरुले जनप्रतिनिधीका हैसियतमा सेवा गर्ने औसर दिनु भएकोले आभारी हुँदै निस्वार्थ भावनाले समर्पित भएर तन मन धन र बचनले सेवा गर्ने कोशीश गरेको हुँ जुन ठाउँमा जन्म्यो हुर्क्यो बड्यो खुन पसिना बगायो त्यस ठाउँको माया बर्णण गरी सक्नु छैन,दुर्भाग्यबश आफ्नो जन्म भुमी फर्कन नसके पनि ति ऐतिहासिक घटना कुरा कहानी दोहोरी रहने छन त्यसैले के बि चौहान एस्सेम्ब्ली मेम्बर थिए अरे भन्दा कोही ठुलो कोही सानो हुँदैन संकिर्ण भावना र फराकिलो भावनाको सोचाई त हो, तर त्यो भन्दा बिशेष त सम्बन्धित त्यो समयमा जनताको हितमा के के कुराकानी भएका थिए ? बिकासका के के काम भए र हुने वाला थिए ईत्यादी बिषयमा जिज्ञाशा राखी दिनुभए प्रचलित ब्रिध सम्मान को खोक्रो नारालाई मनो भावना बुझ्ने आदर्श मिल्ने थियो भन्ने बिशेष आत्मिय दागापेलियन भाई बहिनी र अरु ईश्टमित्रजनमा आग्रह गर्दै त्यस्तो रिमोट ठाउँ बाट यि कथा ब्यथा बोकेर पडाइ को क्षत्रमा यती अगाडि आएर आफ्नो काममा ब्यस्त हुँदा हुँदै पनि आफ्नो गाउँ ठाउँलाई नबिर्सी गोशी स्कुललाई सम्झनु भयो शुभकामना अगाडि बडीरहनु होला थर्पु डाँडा बाट, निजी स्कुल, प्राथमिक स्कुलहुँदै गोशी स्कुल बाट असल शिक्षा हासिल गरेका र भित्र बाहिर सबै ठाउँ बाट उच्च शिक्षा हासिल गरेका सम्पूर्ण भाई बहिनीहरुलाई सम्झ्दै हार्दिक शुभकामना दिन चाहन्छु ।
    यसै मार्फत आत्मिय विद्वान भाई श्री पदम रिजाललाई पनि आत्मा सम्मान दिन चाहन्छु किन भने उहाँले पनि दागापेलाको ऐतिहासिक कुराहरुलाई ब्रिहत खोज गरी अती राम्रो लेख लेख्नु भएको थियो हिर्दय गद् गद् हुँदै लेखेको कमेण्ट्स पनि कम्पुटरको धेर ज्ञान भएर होकी बि एन एस मा सब मिट गर्न सकिन मलाई खेद छ आफु सँग भएका यथार्थतालाई पनि भाईकोमा समाबेश गरी कलम अगी बडी रहोस् शुभकामना ।तपाईंको गोशी स्कुलको बिषयले मैले पनि यती लेख्ने मौका पाएँ धेरै धेरै धन्यवाद । सबैको मायाको प्रतिक्ष्या गरीरहने फोन नं ६०२४८७१५०७ ॐ शान्ती शान्ती शान्ती ।
    With Regards
    K. B. Chauhan

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