The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

2019 Scotch India Tour

In the early hours of a warm summer morning on 7 December 2019, six Scotch boys and three staff departed Perth airport for New Delhi, India. The aim of the tour was to provide Scotch boys with an opportunity to appreciate the quality of education they have received at the College over the years; to assist in their understanding that they possess the expertise to educate and bless their global brothers and sisters who are less fortunate, and to grow in their understanding of the social and cultural complexities that exist in a developing nation, India.

The boys travelled to New Delhi where they visited iconic, historical sites such as Humayun's Tomb, India's largest mosque Jama Masjid and took a rickshaw ride through the ancient bazaar Chandni Chowk. But the greatest joy the boys experienced was working in the Sikh Shrine Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, where they spent hours making chapatis in its holy community kitchen and serving food to hundreds of pilgrims and the homeless. They were also emotionally moved when they interacted with the children from the slums at the Mother Teresa Charity Home for the destitute. The experience generated a range of questions and discussions about the caste system and the Indian political system which was of special interest to a couple of the boys who had studied Global Politics in the Diploma Programme.

The tour travelled to Agra by bus, which provided the boys with further insights into the challenges facing the Indian farmers and their exploitation by local and foreign investors. These insights were further enhanced at Mukti when they had an opportunity to speak to Mukti farmers and an Australian farming consultant, John Butler, who was offering his services as a consultant to improve the efficiency of the Mukti farming programme.

In Agra, they attended a play which dramatised the story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, which contextualised the historical events and the Emperor's deep love for his wife that led to the building of the Taj Mahal. The next day the boys visited the Taj with greater appreciation for its purpose and architectural configuration.

The boys then travelled to the  Pandita  Ramabai  Mukti Mission School at Boripardhi, eighty kilometers east of Pune.  Here they spent seven days living and working on the school campus and interacting with the students. The boys taught classes in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and English. Together with Dr Spadaccini, they also worked tirelessly to establish Mukti's IT laboratories which had sat idle for over eighteen months because no staff member knew how to set up these machines. The boys set an example for the educators at Mukti as they revealed the importance of being able to use technology and problem-solve which is not encouraged by an education system that privileges rote-learning and absolute obedience to the teacher; the teacher's work is never questioned. The boys worked to introduce a different mind-set and formulated a series of recommendations of how to improve their education through Scotch connections and shared these ideas with the Mukti Leadership at a briefing at the end of the tour.

Additionally, Mawson Barr- Willans  spent hours instructing Mukti teachers and technical assistants about how to engineer their media productions; he was instrumental in digitally organising the music required for their Christmas Production which involved more than a hundred students from both the  Marahati  and English Medium Schools and performed for the entire community of several hundred people. At the end of the theatrical performances, Mawson received public acknowledgement from the Headmistress for his significant contribution.

But it was not all work; after school had ended each day, the boys returned to the Mukti playgrounds where they were taught Indian games by the Mukti children: Kofi and Logori. The games soon evolved into an international competition between India and Australia; all played in good fun with plenty of teasing from both sides. Sebastian Barrett had also taken four chess sets and taught some of the girls how to play. So, whilst his peers were running around the barren, stony fields, Sebastian was seated nearby, on the ground, playing chess with several Mukti children. Thereafter, he left the chess sets with the children to continue to enjoy the game and to hone their skills. This was a special bonding experience for the boys and the Mukti children who are generally ignored by their wider community because of their status and yet, here were six Australian boys who valued them and believed that they were special and enjoyed spending time with them. Our boys showed sincere friendship that was a blessing to the children and their sense of self-worth. Likewise, the boys were also emotionally edified when they understood the impact they were having on the lives of others.

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The support and generosity of the Scotch Community was further demonstrated through the benevolent heart of Year 3 student (2019), Emerson McNally. After investigating the  marginalisation  of the disadvantaged in India, he chose to  organise  a stationery drive in the Junior School. Within a couple of weeks, Emerson had procured an overwhelming supply of pens, pencils, exercise books, rulers, glue sticks and pencil cases for the tour group to take to India. It gave us great joy to gift the stationery to the Mukti children and share with them Emerson's heart-felt desire to assist them with their education.

Upon their return to Australia and after the Christmas holidays had concluded, Sebastian Barrett generously hosted a luncheon at his family home for the group. All attended and outlined an on-going plan to support Mukti's educational  programmes , which has been submitted to the Director of Community Service,  Mr  Kyle, for consideration; it is an ambitious but worthwhile course of action involving Scotch Junior, Middle and Senior Schools, with implementation to commence in 2020.

Mr Michael Scaife

IB Diploma Coordinator | English Teacher