The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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What’s Sachin doing in class' In class with Mom and Dad
- Enter, new-age pre-school where presence of parent is a must

“The best breakfast of my life,” scribbled a proud father, left-handed, in the Khar school notebook. In a white chef’s hat and a yellow-and-green apron, he had just rustled up a meal and served his son, two-year-old Arjun. At Eden Gardens on Sunday morning, in trademark blue helmet and all-white, he was feasting on the West Indies bowlers with relish.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar may be the toast of the cricketing world, but back in his son’s pre-school, he is just another father whose attendance is compulsory on Breakfast with Dad day. And it’s not Sachin alone. The same goes for Shah Rukh Khan and Sridevi. Everyone has to do duty at Gymbaroo, Mumbai’s new-age pre-school inspired by the Australian model, where a parent’s presence is a must.

Now, the good news for parents and kids here — Gymbaroo, along with its elder counterpart, Kangaroo Kids, is coming to Calcutta this December. Initially, the pre-school’s city branch will admit 36 kids, with six teachers to take care of them. Calcutta will be the 24th centre in the country for the pre-school started by Lina Ashar, an Australian national, in 1992 in Mumbai, where the curriculum is upgraded every month.

Says administrator Mallika Verma: “Gymbaroo is an activity centre for kids aged above 10 months. In the Toddler’s Club section, we insist that the mothers accompany the child. When the tots graduate to the Toddler’s Transitional Programme after a year-and-a-half, it becomes optional.” The facilitator explains the activities to mother and child together. Then it is the mother who takes the child through the paces under the supervision of the facilitator.

While the mother is the key figure, the centre that will travel to Dubai and Bahrain next year makes it a point to involve the child’s entire family into his/her learning environment.

If Breakfast with Dad calls for the father’s services, other days on the school calendar, like Grandparent’s Tea Party and the Messy Play Day, held close to Holi, involve the others. On ‘field trips’, too, a guardian has to volunteer to be the class representative (Shah Rukh often takes up duty for son Aryan’s batch when they go to neighbourhood parks). A parent is often invited over as ‘guest lecturer’.

There are three workstations among which the activities are divided — motor development, drama and language. In the first, through rhythmic movements to music beats and climbing of frames, a child’s listening, sequencing and balancing skills are developed.

At the drama station, they play out their fantasies and ape the professionals who visit them. “If a doctor is the month’s guest lecturer, the kids will be playing out a hospital scene... Live demonstration is the best way to teach at this level,” Verma explains. Slides, movies, books and reciting of rhymes make up the language station roster. A theme is specified every month on which all activities in the workstations are based.

The mother’s presence in class, says Verma, is vital. “This way she gets to know what exactly is being taught to the child and how. So if she wants to supplement the coaching at home, she does not confuse the child by following other methods.”

But not every parent is keen to go back to class. Skipper Sourav Ganguly’s wife Dona, for instance. The Odissi dancer is looking forward to daughter Sana — who turned one on Sunday — going to school, so that she can have time to spare for her dance practice and classes. “If I have to go with her, what’s the point of sending her to school'” exclaimed Dona, before being cut short by her daughter’s wail.

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