Father Dominic kindly provided transport to Pondicherry from his schools. It took just under 2 hours and Brumas was getting very excited as we got closer to Pondicherry. It is 5 years since Brumas and Mrs MacLauchlan were last in Pondicherry and they noticed a few changes. A lot of the buildings have been improved or are being improved and it seems to have become a very popular tourist attraction.
There is an ideal place to walk along the beach (which is mainly rocks). Swimming is not allowed but many people go for a healthy walk day or night. Father Dominic explained that in India there is a big problem with a lot of people being diagnosed with diabetes so the Government are encouraging everyone to eat healthily and to exercise. We certainly saw a lot of people walking and running along the sea front at all times of the day and night!
Sister Rose now lives in The Rock House which is very close to the sea. When we last visited it had only just been opened but now Sister Rose and another Sister live there with 17 girls who attend her secondary school and 1 former pupil who attends Pondicherry University and is studying art. She does not have a family living close by so she has decided to stay at The Rock House. Because Sister Rose lives a distance from both schools she now has an Auto to get her around and she sent her Auto to pick us up. Brumas was very excited to be going in an Auto again!
When we arrived at the St Mathias Junior School all the children were sitting in the Courtyard waiting to greet us. It is called a Junior School but the children are from 3 years old to 10 years old and they had all been told they could wear their best clothes instead of school uniform. It was a very colourful sight.
We were given fresh flowers, a scarf and a flower garland. The most exciting thing to see were the smiling faces of the children. After a formal greeting from one of the teachers, Sanjana we watched a dance performance from each class.
All the children were smiling and a lot of the girls had beautiful dresses on and were obviously enjoying wearing them. The youngest children (the 3 year olds) sang and danced to Baby Shark which the Westfield Children also know very well.
It was then time for the children to have a drink of milk. This arrived on an urn by bicycle and the children all had a cup or a plate from home that they drank their milk from. This is different to the children at Westfield Infant School who have a carton and a straw. Mr Short would be delighted if we did not have the plastic packets containing the straws as they blow all over the playground!
Sister Rose explained that the Government in India provide milk every morning and a hot school dinner every day for all the school children. The children certainly enjoyed a drink of milk and we appreciated a cool refreshing lemon drink.
St Mathias Junior School is in central Pondicherry so they do not have a lot of land. The courtyard we were greeted in was very different to 5 years ago in that it now has a lovely all weather surface. Sister Rose was keen to remind Mrs MacLauchlan that Westfield Infant School along with other schools in Hinckley had raised the money for this wonderful new surface. The children can now play outside whatever the weather. When we were last there Brumas, like the children was coughing all the time he was on the playground because it was so dusty. When it rained there were huge puddles so the children could not go outside at all. It was wonderful to see this improvement and to see the children enjoying the use of it.
Like the other schools St Mathias has some very big trees in the courtyard that provide shade. They have a Neen Tree that we now know all about, a Gulmahar Tree and the children were also keen to show us a Christmas Tree that Sister Rose explained gets decorated at Christmas which is why the children like it so much.
After a short break we started to visit the classrooms. Mrs MacLauchlan's bag was very heavy as we had whiteboards and pens for every child so we counted them out and took the right number to each classroom. We also left spare boards and pens for the children who were away ill. Once again the instant camera was a great hit! As we went to each class Lucy took a photograph on it and we were able to leave it with the teacher. After 5 minutes the children could see a photograph of the whole class with Brumas. They were very excited!
At 12.45 p.m. it was time for dinner. This was delivered from a main kitchen in Pondicherry where the meals are cooked for all children in Pondicherry who go to all the different schools. When we were travelling around Pondicherry Sister Rose pointed out one of the very biggest secondary schools where 7,000 pupils attend!
The meals are dishes like Rice and Vegetable Samba, potatoes with skins on, Tomato Rice and various vegetables. The children had their own plates or dish and washed it after they had eaten their meal. the youngest children sat together with the staff and some of them needed some help. You will notice that the children did not have knives and forks to eat their dinner with. They all used their hands and just scooped the food up with their fingers.
The older children could sit where they like in the Courtyard and again Sister Rose reminded us that before they had the new surface the children had to eat their meal in the classes as it was too dusty and dirty to sit outside. Everyone who contributed to support the new surface should feel very proud of the difference it has made to all the children and future pupils at the school!
After they had eaten the children had time to play and some of them danced and ran around but most of them sat and chatted or got a book out. Brumas sat in the shade with the older children as it was very hot.
Sister Rose told us she had arranged for the cook at Rock House to prepare a special meal for her visitors and the staff ate with us. Sister Rose kindly found a knife and fork for Mrs MacLauchlan to use! There was so much food! One of the dishes was a really tasty vegetable Samba. Mrs Leeson had asked us to get a new recipe for the Family Learning Cooking sessions so we asked the teachers and they kindly wrote the recipe out and how to prepare it. They wrote it all in English in Mrs MacLauchlan's notebook. Guess what children the recipe includes MANGO! Hopefully Mrs Dickins will be able to make it taste just like the one prepared by the cook at Rock House.
After the lunch hour was over it was time to visit the rest of the classes. St Mathias Junior School has 7 classes and this includes the new classroom that Mrs MacLauchlan and Brumas were very excited to see. There is also an office for the Headteacher where we saw Kira and Cole the persona dolls we took to the school in December 2013 and a staffroom.
There are 3 floors to the school and we continued to go into each class and give out a whiteboard and a pen to the children who were very excited and keen to show us the writing and pictures they can do. At last we got to the third floor and it was time to see the new classroom. It was so special to be able to see it and the builders have done a really great job. The floor is tiled and the windows look very smart. There are two doors so there is a lovely breeze and outside there is a covered patio area. It really is a the best classroom in the school. You will notice that they are currently using plastic chairs and tables but they are managing well on those and the children in that class are very proud of their classroom.
Mrs MacLauchlan hopes that all those who supported the fund raising to build the classroom can see from the photographs just how lovely it is. Special thanks of course to everyone at Westfield Infant School as we used our Christmas Play donations for at least two years, Westfield Junior School, Burbage Infant School and Ashfield School. At the time we were supporting this project the currency was fluctuating and at one point we thought we had reached the target but then needed more money! However we persevered and the end result was certainly worth the effort! Special thanks to Phil Nevett who supported the project and organised for The Nevett Fund to sort out all the transactions.
Having visited all the classrooms and given out the boards and pens the rest of the school day was spent with the 10 year old pupils. They were keen to practice their English and the time went very quickly looking at the Information Folder we have left with them and teaching them the song 'If you're happy and you know it clap your hands'
Mrs MacLauchlan explained how happy she was to be back at the school and how happy it had made her to see all the improvements in the school since the last visit. She then asked the children what makes them happy and this is what they said;
'Dancing with my friends'
'Reading my books'
'Playing the keyboard'
'Playing computer games'
'Cleaning for my family'
'Playing my football game' this game had to be translated and we think it is called plo carvcom
'Playing with my friends'
'Making my family proud'
'Honesty makes me happy'
The most popular thing in this class for making the children happy was again dancing. They are certainly all very good at dancing and they also impressed us with their skills in English.
At 4.00 p.m. most of the children were collected by their parents. They were either walking home or getting onto motorbikes, there were also a few autos that arrived to pick children up. The children who live in an orphanage were collected by one of the Sisters. Again the Instant Camera was a big hit but this time with the adults!
The Rock House auto took us to Sister Rose who was back at her office at the Secondary School. After another lovely lemon drink we went shopping with Sister Rose. It was very busy and crowded but she knows just the shops to go to and before she knew it Mrs MacLauchlan had purchased a new outfit to wear!
After a walk along the sea front and a quick shower Mrs MacLauchlan and Sister Rose met for a meal. It was useful to have a good chat about the trips Sister Rose had made to visit Westfield Infant School and all the things we have learnt as Headteachers from each other over the last 6 years.