Mitraniketan is a Good Place to Work

Veerabhadran [Madhu], India

A bowl of bananas

Veerabhadran [Madhu] is an administrator and teacher at Mitraniketan, which is an NGO tending to integrated education and rural development. Mitraniketan is situated near Trivandrum in Kerala in Southern India. We talked in his office.

I live in a house at Mitraniketan together with my wife. I wake up around five thirty and read books. Then I help with the housework. After that I have tuition with the older students in the tenth standard. It is my job to assist them with their homework and to understand things, while they are at Mitraniketan. Some of them live far away and see their parents only once a year.

My wife and I eat breakfast together, actually we eat all our meals at home and not at Mitraniketan, because we are pure vegetarians. South India is famous for good vegetarian food. We do not eat meat, fish or eggs, but many Hindus do. I like to go to the assembly with all the students of Mitraniketan in the morning. There is a theme every day, and the students prepare things, they want to say about it. This is a very pleasant and quiet way to begin the day.

After that I start my work at the school office, we take care of the administration of exams and of reports for the government. We also think of the student's standards, if some of them have problems, we discuss with the teachers how we can help them, so that there is a common plan. We never ask any of them to leave the school, but always try to help. So I work as a teacher as well as an administrator, and I like the teaching part a lot.

Late in the afternoon I take care of my own personal needs, go to Vellanad and things like that. After dinner I help the tenth standard students again, I do that until ten thirty.

On Sundays the students have a holiday, and my wife and I spend the day doing housekeeping and washing our clothes together.

I did social work

I have two sisters, and in my childhood my parents ran a small teashop near Mitraniketan. Actually I knew this place from the time I was born in 1966. Some of the foreigners at Mitraniketan came to visit our teashop, and they thought, that I was I nice boy, with black hair. So already at that time, I interacted with foreign people.

While I went to school I did social work together with some friends in our spare time. We prepared memoranda for the government of Kerala to tell them about the needs of the community. We were in need of roads, bus-service and other things. When we found this work difficult we talked to Mr. Viswanathan, who is the director of Mitraniketan, about it. What we did was not really political, as it was only about our local community.

I went to a primary school near my home; it was a government school. After fourth grade I went to School in Vellanad. I was a good student so the teachers did not spank me, but the teachers did spank some students in the school. When I was 18 I went for a three years course to get a bachelor degree in history.

I got a job at Mitraniketan

At the age of 21 I got a job at Mitraniketan. I didn't apply for it, Mr. Viswanathan asked me to come and do some work in the fields. After four years I joined the hostel, where the boys live. I looked after them and helped them. And now I am an administrator and teacher, as you know. I learnt the jobs by doing them, and I attend workshops and seminars about social subjects at Mitraniketan.

I have also participated in an international summer-camp at a Danish folk high school near Copenhagen for three weeks. I saw parts of the country and met people from other countries. We also visited Danish schools.

When new teachers come to Mitraniketan, we introduce them to our way of teaching. And every week we have a meeting, where we discuss our work and our problems with the children. Everything can be discussed at these meetings.

I have a very good job. I would get more money if I worked for the government, but here we have freedom. Some of the teachers in the government schools are dedicated and try to introduce new things, but others are indifferent.

In 2001 I married my wife, who also works here as a teacher. We found each other and then talked to our parents about it, and there were no problems, they agreed to the marriage.

I think this is the history of my life from the beginning and up to the point, where I sit at this desk.

I like to exchange ideas

I hope that I can go on working at Mitraniketan. But I would like to do more teaching, and I would also like to do some gardening. I hope to have children some day, it doesn't matter if it boys or girls. If I have children they will go to school at Mitraniketan.

I like to exchange ideas with the foreign student teachers, who come to our school. Their way of teaching is very good; it is more oriented towards activities and towards the needs of the children. I saw the same difference when we visited schools in Denmark, and I try to learn from that.

India is developing very fast because of globalization. Now we can buy everything at low prices and of good quality right in Trivandrum. This means that traditional trades in this country are having a hard time. The government should at the same time focus on industry and on traditional sectors like crafts and farming. It is important that the farmers develop their methods and are able to compete well in the future.

A bowl of bananas

February 2005

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