CHENNAI: She’s 9. And she teaches Mandarin. And get this — she charges Rs 200 a class! But for Ananthi Vivek, in class 5 at Kids Central, Kotturpuram — this is not a summer job that will pay for Barbie dolls or tickets for upcoming Angry Birds movie. Instead, she shares, “My friends and I are trying to raise `20,000 to educate two children with visual disabilities (6 and 9 years) at The Little Flower Convent School.” Now if you’re imagining some boring session of read-and-repeat, boy are you in for a surprise.
First, there’s noodles for lunch. Later, we hit the computer room for a taste for Chinese-style gymnastics and ballet. By the time this gets done, we are so ready to say Ni hao (hello) to the characters of the Mandarin alphabet.
En route to the grand double digit age of 10, Ananthi has proven extra responsible by actually taking print outs of her entire ‘curriculum’ for each kid in class. Stapled and neatly placed in cardboard folders, this is quickly passed around as everyone pulls out their pencils.
This reporter who came completely unprepared, having neither pencil nor pencil box had to shamefully borrow one. You can’t use a ball point pen to fill in the blanks, you see. Especially when one has to slowly copy Ananthi ma’am as she draws out the first Chinese character on the list. Don’t ask how to pronounce it.
Between Chinese words for colours, numbers, shapes and even vehicles on the syllabus, we finally manage to squeeze in a quiet moment with our ‘teacher’ to ask her the obvious: ‘How does a nine-year-old from Chennai know Mandarin?’ “I was raised in Beijing and then Singapore before we moved here (Chennai), so I started learning Mandarin even before English,”she responds with a laugh.
This is why she is quick to add, “It took me only a week to put together my curriculum!” With only a handful of classes so far, Ananthi’s classroom is now dominated by six and seven-year-olds. But she does tell us that she is open to expanding her horizons to include adults as well. “I was initially thinking of upping the age group to 12, but if 20-year-olds are interested, why not?” she smiles.
Plus, she adds thoughtfully, “I want to make it a point to teach more people I don’t know, that way there will be less talking in class.”
No stranger to helping out with causes, Ananthi Vivek has already raised funds for other projects in the past, including a whopping `18,000 for flood victims. Believe or not, the entire amount was raised through a single art piece made of yarn. “My mother actually auctioned it off using WhatsApp,” the nine-year-old tells us. Putting her stationery to good use this summer, along with friends Samiha and Miraya, the girls have formed a group, the ‘Kaleidoscope Collage Club.’ They whip up everything from butterfly inspired art pieces to wallets made of duct tape. The idea is to sell them via Facebook to raise funds to educate two children with visual disabilities. “Unfortunately we can’t start sales until my mommy sets up the Facebook page!” sighs 10-year-old Samiha
(FYI. With each class on rotation at a different student’s house for fun, the next could be yours.
That is of course, if her mommy approves. Contact 9840076532 for a goodwill Mandarin lesson)