YOUNG WORLD

The sing and learn way

George Jacob

KOTTAYAM

At a time when modern education was just getting familiar, an English woman experimented with a new concept of education for the pre-primary children at Kottayam.

Recently, Ms. M.E. East or simply "Miss East" for hundreds of her students, was remembered with gratitude by the community for her initiative in starting the first "kindergarten" in Kerala years ago.

K. Suresh Kurup, Member of Parliament, inaugurated the function. Bishop Thomas Samuel presided. Almost everyone who participated, including the two dignitaries, were alumni.

It was when "ezhuthassans" ruled the roost with their "ezhutholaas" and their painful practice of writing with fingers on the sand, that the Church Missionary Society (CMS) thought of introducing a system of education through "song and dance" as part of its missionary work. It started a school exclusively for the girls in 1820.

It was 110 years later that Miss East, a teacher attached to the school, thought of starting a kindergarten at the same premises.

Before starting a school for the pre-primary children, she went back to England and underwent nursery training. She got in touch with all her friends and well-wishers, and mobilised enough funds. And when she came back, she brought enough toys and other equipment.

The kindergarten was started on July 15, 1930. The initial days were not happy. She had to go from house to house, scouting for students. And when she had a good number to begin a school, their mothers insisted that they too be with them.

Miss East had to maintain not only the 15 students she had mobilised, but also their mothers.

At a time when parents sent their children for "serious" studies to "ezhuthassans", it was no mean success that Miss East could persuade 15 parents to send their children to sing and dance their way to education.

Thousands have "played" their way to higher echelons of life through the old buildings of Miss East's kindergarten during the past 75 years. Among them are evangelists, businessmen, scientists, judges, political leaders, and even homemakers who have brought up their children telling them stories of the legendary "Miss East".

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