Our trip to Ahmedabad was a remarkable experience.  For the first time, in India, I saw a city that was planning for the future. Through programs started over 10 years ago, Ahmedabad has developed parks, and recreation areas for families.  The most impressive initiative is a 24 km riverfront development project that has cleaned up a major part of the city.  In addition, they have developed a plant that recycles waste from the city and turns it into energy.

The schools we visited were progressive in the same way as the city.  Students at the Mahatma Gandhi International School are confident and curious.  The learning is all project based and students learn through activities instead of textbooks.  For example, students learned math and logic concepts through innovative lessons on chess.  They have also learned problem solving by making videos that have won awards at film festivals all over the world.

The school was noisy and alive with students.  The teachers gave guidance, but let the students discover on their own.  The students were familiar and comfortable with technology and with learning methods that did not involve technology, such as painting on the floor to illustrate concepts.  Once the lesson was taught and understood, the paint would be wiped off and the same method would be used the next day.

The founders of the school have an incredible vision for the students.  When talking to both of them, they had interesting stories about the beginning and the resistance that they faced in opening the school. People in the community were uncomfortable with the fact that traditional ideas about gender and caste were going to be broken and the founders fought every step of the way for what they believed.  The result is a very successful International School that plays on the strengths of students and gives them the confidence to be citizens of the world.

The next day that we were in Ahmedabad, we went to the Blind People’s Association.  The Blind People’s Association (BPA) is a school, a vocational training center, a dorm, a center for betterment and healing, and a place where people are helping those who are very capable, reach their potential while working around their disabilities.

There are 9 campuses that are part of BPA India. Their mission as stated on the website is,  “Promoting comprehensive rehabilitation of persons with all categories of disabilities through education, training, employment, community based rehabilitation, integrated education, research, publications, human resource development and other innovative means.”

When we were there, we met blind students who were training to become physical therapists.  The students had a sense of accomplishment and dignity in the services they were offering to the community.  They studied for two years to become certified in Physical Therapy.  They logged onto a computer with the diagnosis of a medical doctor and administered the required therapy.

In addition to Physical Therapy, they had a Beauty School and an IT Training center among other specialties. Learning a vocation is for the older students, but even the younger ones learn how to make gift bags and, decorate them.  The end result is sold in markets and people can order them and support the school.

The volunteer program is absolutely wonderful at BPA.  They have students from all over the world to come and help at the school.  They take care of room and board and encourage people to come in pairs or groups so that they can share the experience with someone from home.

While our classroom experience was limited since school started at noon, we got a sense from the Director of the school, and from touring one part of the campus.  School starts at noon and is mostly conducted in Gujarati.  They have some volunteers come and teach English.   The school is K-12 and the students have an opportunity for higher learning and job placement.  The place is truly one of a kind and I look forward to working with BPA in the future.  The school and the students are exceptionally inspiring.

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