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Pondicherry Assembly

Well, what an informative assembly today...all about INDIA!
As pupils, staff, parents/carers and Governors entered the hall they were faced with a selection of photographs of the recent professional visit to India by Mrs MacLauchlan, Mrs Leeson and Mrs Fox.
Mrs Leeson started the assembly with an interactive approach, asking pupils questions to see if they could refer back to the knowledge they'd acquired during Sister Rose and Santhi's visit back in September and drawing on what they know to be familiar to them here in Hinckley.  Mrs Leeson was amazed that pupils could recall that Tamil was the language that was spoken in the Tamil Nadu region where Pondicherry is situated. She was equally impressed as pupils recalled how to say 'Welcome/Hello' – Vanakkom and taught pupils that Nandri means 'Thank you.'
It is really important that pupils understand that there are similarities not just differences between Hinckley and India. Pupils were able to make links between the similarities of their school and home life but were shocked at some of the differences that ran along side them. Here are a few that Mrs Leeson shared:
Weather – Whilst you were wrapping scarves round your necks to keep warm at the beginning of December, we were trying to keep cool in the heat which followed the end of the monsoon season in India. The sun shone every day and we had to apply our sun cream and spray plenty of insect repellent to keep the mosquitos away!
Traffic – The roads in India are incredibly busy with cars, motorbikes, cycles and autos (the yellow 3 wheeled taxi cars). Unlike England, where traffic lights signal the order traffic moves, we didn't see many traffic lights at all; traffic could travel where it liked – in any direction! The noise was almost tuneful at times as horns beeped as a warning to those vehicles, pedestrians, animals that were in the way! We saw a whole family of 5 travelling on the back of a motorbike, and they weren't wearing helmets either. The speed of vehicles was also very fast!
Animals – Cows are considered to a be an important and sacred animal in India and they are free to roam anywhere! We often saw them walking along the streets and across main roads which we would call dual carriageways. Everyone gave way to a cow. Dogs are wild in India and can be seen without a collar or lead. Again, they just walk across roads along with goats. Mr Nevett later reminded us of the 'cheeky' monkeys that often hang out in India and told us a funny story of his encounter with a monkey whilst in India!
School – Pupils attend School, as they do in England, but from the age of 3. Photographs showed the style of uniform worn by the girls and it was explained that different coloured uniform was dependent upon the Year pupils were in, or sometimes the day. Some children in haven't got mummies and daddies and they are called orphans. They are looked after at School which means they sleep at School, on the floor. The few belongings that they own fit neatly into a cubbyhole on a shelf. The pupils wake at 4am each morning and wash and dress themselves before standing in a long line to plait each other’s hair. Plaited hair is part of the uniform – every child has the same hairstyle (different coloured ribbons show the Year the girls are in). Assemblies in India are held outside in the courtyard and pupils sing, pray and chant the Constitution of India in unison. Pupils work at desks and benches which are arranged in rows (a lot like our Victorian School role play afternoon). Subjects taught are similar and include Maths and Science. Pupils learn about ICT and use computers but not iPads and laptops, in fact their computers are quite bulky and old. There are no IWB only blackboards with chalk. English is taught as an additional language like Year 2 learn French. Pupils learn the letter names rather than the sounds and learn by repeating what the teacher tells them. Pupils take exams at a young age and work hard to achieve the highest grades possible. If there are not enough seats in classrooms, pupils work on the floor without complaining. All pupils have a real respect for adults around them and stand whenever they appear. School dinners are provided and play an important part in keeping pupils healthy (they have no breakfast!). The daily curry dishes are delivered late morning in huge pots on the back of a truck.
Dancing – Every School we visited welcomed us with outstanding dancing where traditional brightly coloured dress and jingly bells on their ankles and wrists added to the whole experience. The dances were long which goes to show how much practise they put into learning the routines. Dancing sticks are also used to keep the rhythm of the music. We could definitely see some of the dance moves that Bollywood Dance Club use at WIS!
Christmas – Christmas trees tinsel and 3D stars decorated many, Catholic Places of Worship, shop fronts in Pondicherry because people celebrate Christmas, but on 23rd December compared to 25th December in England. Santa is also recognised in India and was a visitor at the crèche Christmas show when we presented the children with scooters, tricycles, cars and a rocking horse.
There were many, many more similarities and differences but this was just to give pupils a snapshot. Pupils loved seeing the photos of our students past and present – Gowri and Shilpa and instantly recognised Sister Rose and Santhi receiving their photobooks of their visit to England. They were also happy to see Kira and Cole meet their new class at St. Mathias Primary School and recognised the books about Westfield Infant School, Golden Rules and resources that we promised would be shared with our partner school.
Mrs MacLauchlan thanked EVERYONE for the time they'd taken to blog us. This was a great encouragement especially as we were 5000 miles away from home. We really enjoyed reading your comments are so pleased you were able to keep up to date with our adventures as we experienced them. Two pupils received prizes for their efforts in blogging and received a t-shirt with features of India and an embellished notebook and pen, respectively.
Miss Hussey was then presented with a drum and acknowledged photos which showed how different the music shops looked compared to England. Mrs Leeson presented each class with a percussion instrument as a souvenir and Mrs Fox explained her choice of gift for Mr Short – a sweeper, for all those leaves!
Finally, if you can cast your minds back to the Christmas Plays, it was explained that the donations received would be used to support the work of the Nevett Fund – Pondylink. The School Council presented a staggering £630 to our special guest Mr Phil Nevett, who greatly appreciated this gift and thanked all involved for the continued interest shown in this project that improves people’s lives in Pondicherry.
The assembly was long but this valuable learning tool undoubtedly linked two cultures. The pupils were gripped by what they saw and heard (you could hear a pin drop!)