In July 2014 students and faculty of Seva Sadan College of Education, Mumbai University, India embraced the opportunity to participate in TPRF’s Peace Education program (PEP). In a ceremony before the first PEP class, Dr. Sunita Magare,Associate Professor and Member of Senate, Department of Education, University of Mumbai, proudly introduced the program and welcomed the participants. Sixty-five of the 71 students at the college, which prepares students to become teachers, had enrolled in the class along with 14 faculty members.
Rakhi Dhingra a research scholar doing PhD on Peace Education under the guidance of Dr. Magre Sunita was continuously studying and analyzing the program by taking notes and participating in the discussion of the themes giving her feedback. The program, which is usually presented in 10 sessions one week apart, ran for 10 consecutive days at Seva Sadan, with enthusiasm building each day. There was so much excitement and participation from students that the expression and reflection periods of the PEP Class were especially lively as participants took the opportunity to share the wisdom they felt they were gaining and relate it to their lives.
Students and faculty alike expressed that they were gaining more clarity on the topics day by day, and their appreciation became obvious as the class remained full in spite of heavy rain and traffic. Many came early and continued their conversations afterwards.
At the end of the 10 sessions, an additional class gave students a chance to express their views about peace in writing and by sharing their thoughts. They wrote at great length about how peace can come into people’s lives as well as how people lose their sense of peace. The day before the ceremony, everyone had a chance to paint a picture of peace to present at the graduation.
One of the faculty members who participated in the PEP class reported, “It was amazing to see that all the students had come together to celebrate the moment of peace.” Another one said, “Never in over 16 years of teaching experience, have I ever seen so much enthusiasm in students that they would sit for hours without getting tired, engaging with a subject like peace.”
Many of the students expressed that they were looking forward to initiating PEP programs in their schools once they become teachers. They felt it was important to stimulate a culture of peace so that when the young people grow up, they can cope with even the most difficult circumstances.
Dr. Beena Khemchandani, Chairman of the Board of Education Studies of Seva Sadan, has recommended the program for other colleges of Mumbai University. Founded in 1966, Seva Sadan College of Education is considered a pioneer college of teacher education and has been named Best College of the University of Mumbai.
It’s checkup day in Bantoli. As the children giggle and squirm under Dr. K. Sandhya’s cold stethoscope, it’s clear that, today, the doctor is also taking the pulse of TPRF’s first Food for People (FFP) facility to see how effectively it’s meeting the nutrition and health needs of the villagers it serves.
Malnutrition is a pervasive problem in rural areas such as this,” explains Sandhya, a pediatric specialist and Associate Professor of Anatomy at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi. “Poor nutrition weakens the immune system. And when immunity is low, disease takes over.” Dr. Sandhya has been affiliated with FFP in Bantoli since before the facility opened in 2006, helping to determine which foods to serve and even the optimal height of the children’s washbasins.
“Before FFP, and when we first started, many of the children I saw were regularly suffering from respiratory infections,”the doctor remembers. “Skin problems were prevalent. Energy levels were low, which affected the children’s ability to focus and learn.”
And today, after performing her general checkup of the children, including an examination of their nails and teeth, the doctor is encouraged. “Today, I saw two small girls, sisters, new to the facility. They had never been here before. One was coughing badly and they both had dermatitis.” The doctor reflects for a moment. “After examining them, along with the others who had been coming to the FFP facility for a while, I realized that I very rarely see those symptoms any more. So, yes, FFP is definitely making a difference—even in the children’s ability to socialize. When we first started, most of the children were shy and had problems even talking. Seeing these two new students today made me remember that many of the children here had those same issues before the Food for People program started in Bantoli. And now they don’t. Good hygiene and proper nutrition has made a real difference in their lives.”
As she discusses the positive changes she’s seen, a child runs up toshow her his mastery of the 11 times table. Dr. Sandhya smiles and ponders the future. “The children’s health checkups are good and our screening has been effective. But follow-up is important. These children do very well when they’re here between the ages of 8 and 12. But what about when they’re adults? Having an empirical record of what happens after these children leave our facility will better tell us where and how we can improve what we offer in these formative years.”
If today’s health checkup is any indication, the prognosis for tomorrow is very encouraging. “The children here are more open, less shy, healthier and practice better hygiene than ever before,” says the doctor looking around the FFP facility. “A lot of positive change has happened.”