A day in the life of ... Ruchika Hanswani

20th September 2013 at 01:00
This teacher in Delhi sees the impact of domestic violence on many of her students, but finds them bright and full of energy. She makes them jump and stretch before settling down to study

I get up at 6am. My mother has already cooked breakfast, so I eat and then walk 10 minutes to the Janta Modern Public School, where I teach. After signing the register in the office, I go to my classroom. When the children arrive it is noisy chaos - students everywhere, putting down their bags.

Assembly starts at 7.30am. We sing Vande Mataram, the national song, and say a prayer. Then there are exercises: a basic warm-up, stretching and jumping. My students are aged 8-10 and are really energetic in the morning. We make them jump so that they settle better in class.

After taking attendance, I ask the children to get out their homework from the previous day. I check who has done it and grade it there and then. If they haven't done it, I ask why. Sometimes they say they had a headache, or that their parents were fighting and they were distracted. This area has a lot of domestic violence issues and because the children know that, some use it as an excuse not to do their homework. I write a note in their diaries and ask the parents if it is a genuine reason.

We have an English lesson, followed by Hindi. Then it's lunchtime. One boy hasn't brought lunch with him for a few days. I ask why not and he says his mother isn't feeling well - his father gets up in the morning and tries to cook, but he's not very good at it. I find that funny. I make the boy sit with three other students and tell them to share their lunch every day until the boy's mother is better. They love helping each other.

After lunch, we have environmental studies and maths. I am trying to teach units - tens and hundreds - but can't make the children understand it. When they go home at 1pm, I discuss the problem with a senior teacher. She suggests using coloured beads: orange for tens, purple for hundreds and so on.

I have lunch at home, then from 2pm to 5pm children arrive for private tuition. They come every day, apart from Sundays. I charge 500 rupees (#163;4.70) a month, but many parents can't afford even that so sometimes I tutor for free. I focus on the students whose parents can't pay. If they could, they would have sent their children to better schools, and since I love teaching I think my focus should be on these students. I earn enough from my salary.

Sometimes parents say: "I can't send my kids to your home." Maybe the father drinks so much that the mother can't rely on him to take them anywhere. And mothers round here don't like to leave their homes; instead, they arrange a room in their house with five or 10 children and ask me to come there. So, from 5pm to 6.30pm, I do that. These parents pay at most 300 rupees a month, but often I take no money. The students, even the youngest ones, are really intelligent - that's my motivation.

After I've finished teaching, I relax a little, either helping my mother in the kitchen or watching soap operas - I love television. By 10.30pm I'm exhausted. I don't mind, though. I like keeping myself busy and involved in work.

Your day

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