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LOVING TOUCH - Grandfathers clock in at schools now

Career Counsellors To Storytellers, Elders Are Playing Different Roles In Children's Education

Chennai, January 18, 2015

With both mom and dad preoccupied with working stressful days, educationists believe that what children need now more than ever for their mental and emotional well-being is a little ‘paati' time.

Schools have begun tapping into grandparents as a resource in several ways. At the Mahindra World School (MWS) in Chengalpet, grandparents are brought in for career counselling sessions as teachers feel that having had careers of their own, they would be able to guide children better. A couple of years ago, the school sent out forms to grandparents of students asking for their interests, specialisations, and job history, and then called them to run sessions on subjects of their choice. “Many grandmothers and fathers in our school are retired corporate professionals, servicemen and IAS officers, so rather than bringing in people who are not connected with the children, we bring in grandparents”, says Nirmala Krishnan, head of the institute.

Recently, Jayaraman Balasubramanian, retired marketing professional and grandpa to a primary school student at Mahindra, spoke to students about how he switched from a career in accounting to one in marketing. “I wanted to tell children making career decisions that sometimes there is no fixed career path”, he says.

The counsellors at MWS also include grandparents who live with their grandchildren in sessions relating to a child's academic performance or behavioural patterns. “Sometimes it is the grandparent who notices a change in behaviour and brings it to our notice. We counsel grandparents as they find it difficult to discipline their grandchildren, which is counterproductive in a set-up where they are the primary caregivers as the parents are working”, says Ramani Mathew, counsellor.

According to child psychologist Sangeetha Madhu, research has shown that a child needs the involvement of three non-parent adults in their lives for “robust mental health“. “Grandparents provide nurturing and loving, they are surrogate parents”, says Madhu.

Several schools in Chennai now conduct annual grandparents' day programmes to narrow the generation gap. At Madurai's Mahatma Group of Schools, senior principal Premalata Paneerselvam ropes in grand parents to conduct reading and storytelling sessions. “We have a weekend reading programme where children are given stories to read with their grandparents”, she says.

A couple of years ago, Professor Sugatu Mitra, famous for his hole in-the-wall computer scheme which put basic personal computers into the poorest parts of India as an experiment in learning, began a `virtual granny' programme where retired people in the UK were hired to `teach' children in India over Skype. The grannies do not teach lessons, but read stories to the children and encourage and support them.

Similarly, Krishnan says that her school researched `grandparents as a resource in education' as part of a British Council project last year, where they studied the impact of the involvement in a child's life through interactions with grandparents in India, Jordan and Italy.

Source: The Times of India

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