Source: Wide Angle: "Back to School"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
While most children in industrialized countries return to school in the fall, many children in underdeveloped countries, especially girls, do not because of the economic and social conditions that exist there. Neeraj from Rajasthan, India faces many hardships to attend school. During the day she, unlike the boys in her family, is responsible for the household chores. While they play during the day, Neeraj must work. At night she goes to school and often returns so late that everyone has gone to bed. In this video segment from Wide Angle, Neeraj passionately wants to attend school to gain an education.
Education, culture, women's studies, economics
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for elementary or middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) When we read or view stories, we are given relevant (important to know) and irrelevant (not necessarily important to know) details. For example, in “Little Red Riding Hood” is it relevant or irrelevant that the little girl meets a wolf? Is it relevant or irrelevant that she carries a basket and not a backpack? What other details are relevant or irrelevant in the story?
Focus (ELA) Watch and determine the main idea of the video segment you are about to see. Relevant details will support the main idea. As you watch determine which details are relevant to the main idea and which are irrelevant.
Follow Up (ELA) Identify the relevant and irrelevant details in the video about Neeraj’s life and education. By analyzing the relevant details, determine what the main idea is. What ideas support the main idea? Describe how you were able to weed out the irrelevant details to focus on the construction of the main idea statement.
Frame (SS) Do girls and boys around the world have the same opportunities for education?
Focus (SS) What are some of the differences between how you attend school and how Neeraj attends school?
Follow Up (SS) Would you be able to pursue your education under the conditions Neeraj has to learn? Would you change anything about how you attend school now? What do you think is an ideal way for students to gain an education in your country? For example, should it be free, should school be everyday, year-round or at night? Should you be told what to study or should you and your family decide your course of study? What impact does educating you have on your country?
NEERAJ: I’m nice and I wear clean clothes. I don’t fight with anybody. I speak nicely to people and I’m sincere.
NARRATION: Three years ago, in a tiny desert village in Rajasthan, we met Neeraj living with 15 members of her herding family, and their goats and water buffalo.
NEERAJ: I’m about nine or 10. I’ve been studying for the past year. If they teach us, we get knowledge and that’s good. I study and I learn a lot: math, multiplication, addition. So, I’m learning.
NARRATION: Neeraj’s mother was not as convinced of the need for education.
DEVKI: What’s so great about being educated? Even if you study, these educated people have nothing to do. Look at them just sitting there. You may as well graze cattle and have fun. We educated our sons and what good has it done? Anyway, the everyday chores will take over.
NARRATION: Neeraj was intended to marry a boy in another village, and while early marriage is common in her area, Neeraj had convinced her parents to send her to night school.
NEERAJ: I work during the day and so I go to night school. I do so much. I have to sweep, I have to bring water, I have to make dung cakes, I have to graze the cows. But these boys do no work, so they go to the day school.
INTERVIEWER: Why can’t you send Neeraj to the day school?
KANARAM: If there’s someone to do the household chores, I have no objection. But who’s going to do the household chores?
NARRATION: After a long day of chores, Neeraj and her friend would set out for night school—and enjoy a few moments of play before the teacher arrived. While there are states in India where every child goes to school, Rajasthan has one of the lowest enrollment rates in the country. And thousands of children like Neeraj, who work during the day, go to night school.
SURAJ SINGH: If I keep four this side and four this side, it’ll equal up to eight. How much will four plus four be?
NARRATION: While night school offers the basics, it is only a marginal solution to an overwhelming problem.
NEERAJ: When I come back, I eat, and everyone’s asleep. When I grow up, I want to go to a big school to study. By then, I’ll know more.
NARRATION: When we went to find Neeraj three years later, she was not home. She had been taken out of school two months earlier to help her brother, uncle, and cousin graze the family’s livestock.
DEVKI: We won’t send her out again. We weren’t going to send her this year but we were having trouble with the drought and all. We didn’t have any choice.
NARRATION: In an extended drought, these trips can take months. And this was the second time Neeraj’s schooling had been interrupted for grazing. We went looking for her among the herding families in the desert—and traveled hundreds of miles.
NORAT: Have you seen her around here?
PRABHLEEN AHUJA: Come here everybody. This is a picture of the girl’s mom.
WOMEN: We saw her grazing the cattle over by the watering hole.
WOMAN: Just check over there behind the mountains.
NARRATION: We were unable to find her on this trip. But three months later, Neeraj returned home.
NEERAJ: I was taking care of the really young cattle, feeding them, and protecting them. And cooking food for my brother. He’d come and eat it. I missed school and my brothers and sisters.
NARRATION: Neeraj is back in night school—for the moment. Her school is designed to work around constant interruptions, but the impact on her education is inescapable. Night school rarely takes students above the first or second grade level, and Neeraj has had to repeat much of the curriculum.
SURAJ SINGH: What’s between the one and the two here?
STUDENTS: A plus sign!
NEERAJ: I can write my name and write numbers and I can do my multiplication tables. I used to know more, but I’ve forgotten because I went with the cattle. Now that I’m back, he’ll teach me and I’ll learn quickly. I’ll learn and be able to teach children.
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