Development means more than knowledge transfer
At the learning center in the rural surroundings of Coimbatore the tribal women of the villages around join in large groups. Today there is a workshop on hygiene. I noticed it already some months ago. There is a huge interest in education. The interest in getting to know, in learning and understanding is enormous. But there is more behind, it goes beyond. One woman tells me: “We come here because it matters to us. And because it is a special event. We like it. “
There might be about 60 women of all ages in the room. Some of them have brought their young children. They play in the background. No toys, but they play among themselves and it is rarely that you can hear them because of crying or anger. Their games are ‘silent’ games – compared to European children in a kindergarten – whatever might be the reason for that: are they tired, weak, still shy, used to be more quiet? I cannot find out exactly. It comes to my mind that the simple, basic surroundings in the villages and the absence of the modern “what is the next appointment today” makes life more quiet and the children more ‘balanced’. Maybe.
Today’s workshop is on hygiene. Private hygiene, but environmental hygiene as well and how it is linked.
The doctor lady is fantastic. She interacts with the women, asks single women and discusses with them, understands how to make individual topics intereststing to the group, as well. She involves them, gives them the feeling of being important. She explains with words, mimics and gestics. On the point. Motivating, encouraging, involving. And decisively. When a one year old child sitting on the ground takes a flip flop from one of the women and put it into the mouth she intervenes and explains the risks.
She must be a good teacher. The women listen to her, trust her. When she asks questions,the women answer – often many react at the same moment. They are emotionally involved, discuss even on how to practice it once they go back to the villages.
Besides getting information on hygiene the women learn to stand in front of the group and speak, speak via a microphone, taking notes… The teacher’s secret? Empathy as a driver – combined with relevant content that matters to whom is in the room.
What I learnt today: it is not just about transferring the missing knowledge nor the quantity of events that count. Development starts where relationships are built and trust builds the ground.
I wish we had more teachers like her on the world.