The Big Little Heroes
This week's English workshop with my teacher team, started with teachers reading the story of Allyson Felix - the Power of One. The Nike sportswoman who resisted the 70% cut in her sponsorship (because of her pregnancy) by starting a sportswear brand of her own. She won 11 medals in the 2021 Olympics wearing her own brand of shoes named Saysh.
Inspired by this story, I introduced it into my weekly English training sessions with my team in Gubbachi Transform (where we work in Grades 1-2-3 of Govt. schools).
These critical discussions led to another story closer home – that of Saalu Marada Thimmakka – the power packed woman activist who came from rural Karnataka and did a lot more than society might have ‘allowed’ her to. She planted 385 trees on the Hulikal- Kadooru Highway. With her husband's support she ensured that the saplings grew into strong, healthy trees.
And then of Dashrath Manjhi, the man who moved the mountain, literally. He single handedly chiseled away at a rock every day for 22 years to make a road to the nearest district hospital.
Teachers shared instances of people in their village who have achieved much against all odds.
The conclusion was not only that can we achieve anything with conviction but also that heroes need not be big political figures.
Above all, the session opened up the basic premise of Patriotism for debate - that conventionally resides in the Big Politically Endorsed stories. Idolised award winners and famous personalities. Or faceless soldiers who die for the cause of the Motherland. History from the Top. Patriotism fueled by Nationalism.
We challenged the notion of what could count as true acts of Patriotism. Can heroes live amongst us? Can people who make a difference to local communities but don’t make national headlines still be patriots?
By next week teachers will identify similar stories. They will write the story in Kannada and translate it into English. They will present them with a plan on how to convert the stories into skits that can be performed on next Independence Day or similar nationalistic event.
Critical thinking woven into training – we made a good start.
About the Author - Manimakalai Raja is one of Gubbachi's founding members and Program Lead of Gubbachi Transform – that works with Grades 1-2-3 of Govt. schools. Her reflections on a recent teacher trainings session with her team of teachers.