December 2009. The end of the OGEF SOLE Project was just around the corner. The Granny Cloud was just 6 months old and its continued existence was already uncertain. Sugata had conceived the idea because of the need to enable children to learn English – so that they could then use the internet and its vast resources to engage in SOLE sessions. The need was still there. After all we did not really expect English fluency to have exponentially increased in 6 months. Especially when one considered that most of the children in the SOLE Labs in Hyderabad and Shirgaon had access to Granny sessions one or two times (and if they were really lucky – three) a week.
Diane with the girls at the MAIM SOLE lab, Hyderabad. 16 Dec. 2009 [Photo: Suneeta]
The best case scenario for an individual child over these 6 months was 60 to 70 sessions. That is about 45 odd hours given that each session lasted about 35 to 40 minutes. A far cry from the recommendations of most linguists. And of course, the rest of the school environment had remained much the same as before the Granny sessions began.
It was my last visit to the Hyderabad SOLE labs. With the project coming to an end I would not be able to physically visit them. Couldn’t afford it. But the Grannies were all volunteers and I was more than happy to shift to volunteer status too. Because it was just such a delightfully simple idea and we could continue to connect from our own homes. It seemed a shame to give it up. Just as we were getting into the flow.
Liz Henderson at the JIYM SOLE lab, Hyderabad 15thDec. 2009 [Photo: Suneeta]
We had communicated our willingness to continue with this activity to the schools and several had agreed to keep it going. Yet, given the overall apathy to taking initiative even during the active project, I did not hold out much hope.
Even though all of us were determined to give it our best shot, my heart sank each time the children asked when I was coming next. I sounded unconvincing to myself as I explained each time that though I would not be visiting in person, I would see them on Skype once in a while to hear about the Granny sessions they had had, and that we could send each other messages over the SOLE kids Wiki.
I could see that the children were not entirely convinced either. Yet, as we said our “goodbyes”, my hopes for the future (whether I met them again or not, whether they connected with the Grannies or not, whether they had a SOLE session or not) were renewed. All because of a picture in Paint that Atiya and Jabeen had made for me. Through their picture of the lab they shared with me what their time in the lab had meant. It was a place that welcomed them and was open.
Atiya & Jabeen’s portrayal of the lab – The Open door was important to them. 15th Dec. 2009 [Photo: Suneeta]
Somewhere, deep down, we had entered their hearts and opened a window to the world….