The “Wigglers”

I will never forget when my 2nd Year teacher (the equivalent of first grade in the US) told my mother and me that her son was a “wiggler” after knowing her for many years. Growing up in the British education system my peers and I were expected to act with courtesy and intention. Children are expected to be on their best behavior in all classroom settings, yet there always seems to be a few children that struggled with this concept. They are not bad children but their personalities leed them to be a little more “loosey goosey” if you will. Their slightly smaller attention span sometimes leeds them to fall behind in classroom discussions and direction following, however with support and a little extra structure they can perform to the same standard as any other student.

Today we visited a government school in Mumbai that works with the NGO Akanksha. Akanksha is an NGO the mainly does support programs for children afterschool were they can continue to enhance what they have learned in school. Akanksha basically runs this particular government school and it is part of Akanksha’s broadening plan for the future. Many of the students, which sums up to about 10,000, who are under Akanksha’s wing become excellent students discovering further academic and leaning opportunities throughout their life.

During my visit to the school I sat in on a 6th Standard science class to learn more about the daily education process in an Indian school. It was  in an English medium, so the entire lesson was taught in English. Students were excited to have a visitor in their class but not distracted. They were there to learn and the smiles on their faces clearly showed that they had a genuine interest in what they were learning.

Like most classes, this one had a wiggler. The little boy, who’s name I will not attempt to spell, but was pronounce as if you were saying “I am,” was seated in the back left corner of the classroom next to me. His gaze was focused out the window as he played with his blue plastic pen. His mesmerized state was slowly interrupted as the teacher repeatedly yelled his name puncturing his seemingly block eardrums. Once the student’s attention was attained the teacher asked him where plants get their nutrients. The student stared at the teacher blankly with little expression. You could feel his embarrassment radiating around the room as he sifted through his thoughts trying to answer the question. The teacher wasted no time and asked another student as the “wiggler’s” gaze went to the ground with disappointment. After the other student’s explanation the teacher came back to the “wiggler” and asked if he could repeat what his fellow classmate had just said. He couldn’t. As the teacher gave him a short spiel on his lack of attention his resilient child’s smile drooped. It was clear he felt disappointed in himself.

He looked at me with sorrow almost as if he was apologizing that he felt he didn’t impress me as a visitor. I smiled gently back and motioned towards the teacher hoping he would engage himself in the rest of the classroom discussions. He did not. He sat in his chair, still, looking at his desk with a heavy heart. Similar interactions between him and the teacher ensued throughout the class period. It almost seemed like the teacher was trying to embarrass his student into learning.

As a fellow student I have similarly experienced this embarrassment throughout my academic life.  However it was clear that this was a daily experience for this particular child.

It was very sad to see a child with such a brilliant mind slip through the cracks whilst his classmates stood surely. It is essential that NGO’s and other organizations like Akanksha provide the support needed to get the “wigglers” in the right academic environment where they feel confident in the classroom and as an intellectual. In India it is the law for every child 6-14 to have the right to an education, however do they have the access of an excellent education?