Lectures/Training at Other Organizations

An Oasis in the Desert

On 9 and 10 Dec 12, Dr Ali Khwaja and Asha Sidd conducted an orientation programme in guidance and counselling for the staff of MES Indian School, Doha (Qatar).
Ali and Asha with MES Administration, Doha, Qatar
Ali (2nd from left) and Asha (3rd from left) with MES Indian School Administration, Doha, Qatar
Ali addressing MES staff, Doha, Qatar
Ali addressing MES Indian School teachers in Doha, Qatar

I was facing a sea of faces with different expressions – some curious, quite a few skeptical, some disinterested, and many of them eager to learn. I was facing over 400 teachers of MES Indian School at Doha, Qatar, drawn from all parts of India, other South Asian countries, Africa etc. Initially I was apprehensive, unsure whether they would accept a Resource Person trying to tell them how to be better teachers. A two day intensive Orientation program had been organized, and that too in their holidays (and I know how possessive teachers are about their holidays!)

Ali addressing MES staff, Doha, Qatar
Ali addressing MES Indian School teachers in Doha, Qatar

We began on a light note. The Principal Mr. Sashidharan was brutally frank when in his introductory talk he said that sometimes teachers believe that they know everything, and are not very happy to be taught. But I was very happy that his own teachers proved in the next two days that they do not belong to that category. It was amazing how fast and how smoothly sessions proceeded and rolled into one another. We broke up into groups of high school and primary school teachers, dealt with issues of children of different ages, and then reassembled to discuss issues faced by teachers – balancing their personal and professional lives, handling stress, motivating themselves and nurturing creativity.

Asha addressing MES staff, Doha, Qatar
Asha addressing MES Indian School teachers in Doha, Qatar

At every stage there was a barrage of questions, some excellent suggestions, many doubts to be cleared, and as we went deeper into each issue, the excitement was visible on almost every face. Committed and sincere teachers, majority of them having left their near and dear to live a life of comparative isolation in a desert country, found their enthusiasm and motivation rising to a fascinating level. They participated with total involvement and out of genuine interest to be better teachers and even better human beings. This attitude and adaptability will ensure that tens of thousands of children of expatriates, themselves living away from their homeland and loved ones, will find true friends, philosophers and guides among their teachers, and MES will become an oasis of knowledge and holistic development for its students.

Asha with MES Indian School staff, Doha, Qatar
Asha with MES Indian School staff in Doha, Qatar

My hearty salutations to the entire team of teachers who participated in the program, and more so to Principal Mr. Sashidharan, Administrator Mr. Manoharan, Vice-Principals, and the very young, dynamic and committed trio of counselors – Ajin, Srikanth and Sheena. May you all be the instruments of positive change and a brighter future for the coming generation.

Ali and Asha with MES Administration, Doha, Qatar
Ali (2nd from right in 1st row) and Asha (3rd from right in 2nd row) with MES Indian School Administration, Doha, Qatar

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Leading Banjara Academy's online email counselling team of volunteer-counsellors, I realize it is not an easy task reaching out to a person one has never met, never seen, without the added advantage of gestures, eye contact, a gentle reassuring touch, tone of voice and yet providing empathy, positive strokes, making the person feel heard and understood.

With the aid of only written words, it is quite a task building trust, making people open up and share and helping them cope and feel better. So when in many instances they write back saying thank you and that they feel so much better, the feeling one gets is priceless and incomparable - knowing one has done something right, something good!

Hats off to all the volunteeer-counsellors of Banjara Academy who have been carrying on this work silently, anonymously for the last couple of years. Truly commendable! - Ali Khwaja

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