US First Lady Melania Trump being welcomed during her visit to a Government school to witness various activities as part of the ‘happinesscurriculum’. (R) US Melania hugs a school girl as she witnesses a ‘happiness class’ in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)
NEW DELHI :
US First Lady Melania Trump virtually turned into a student herself on Tuesday in the “Happiness Class” at a Delhi Government school here, joining the children in meditating, storytelling and other relaxing activities, and noted that the unique curriculum has set a “healthy and positive” example for educators. Excited students dressed in traditional attire welcomed Melania as she arrived at the Sarvodaya Co-Educational Senior Secondary School at Moti Bagh in south Delhi.
The school was decked up with floral garlands and motifs to welcome the US First Lady, while student bagpipers added to the festive mood. A smiling Melania joined the students in three classrooms, where she was briefed by the teachers, and interacted with the children, before enjoying boisterous dance performances by the youngsters. After lighting the ceremonial lamp, the First Lady took a tour of the school, heading to a reading room for class 4 students where she attended a storytelling session. The First Lady, who donned a white embroidered shirt-dress paired with a red belt, visited an activity classroom for kindergarten students where she sat among the children who were engaged in drawing, clay modelling and playing with building blocks.
‘How big is America’, ‘Is it very far’, ‘What do you do as the First Lady’, ‘What is your favourite cartoon” were among the few questions asked by the curious kindergarten students. Melania then headed to the playground to observe a yoga session where students were performing ‘surya namaskar’ (Sun salutation). The First Lady also meditated with class 4 students in their “happiness class”. “I am feeling very relaxed,” she said after the brief meditation as part of “mindfulness” activity of the ‘Happiness Class’.
The ‘Happiness Class’ was started by the Aam Aadmi Party Government in Delhi Government schools in 2018. As part of the programme, students are taught various activities, including meditation, street plays, basic obedience and aims to reduce anxiety and stress levels among children. Following the school tour, Melania was welcomed by students with garlands at an outdoor event and treated to performances of Rajasthani dance “Padharo Mahre Des” (welcome to our country) and Punjabi folk dance ‘gidda’. While Melania enjoyed the foot tapping number, a student in the audience became the show-stealer with his impromptu jig as everyone including the First Lady cheered for him.
When the child suddenly scooted up to perform ‘bhangra’ moves, the security men were taken by surprise and one of them stepped forward but did not interfere. Addressing the students, Melania praised the concept of happiness class and spoke of her similar ‘Be Best’ initiative to promote well-being. “It is my first visit to India and I am grateful to have received such a warm welcome today.” The name of this school ‘sarvodya’ means prosperity for all. “I was able to see how the concept exists in the curriculum -in the leadership of teachers, and in the spirit of enthusiasm in students.
I visited happiness class, it was very nice to see students practice mindfulness. “From mindful breathing to telling a story to a friend or simply connecting with nature, I cannot think of a better way for all of us to start our day,” she said. “I am totally impressed with the teachers and the efforts of the school towards its students,” she said. Melania said that it is good to see the happy faces of the students and the school exemplifies that promoting values of kindness, compassion and respect can bring about positive change within the communities. “I want to thank all the educators here who are setting positive examples for young people to ensure a promising future,” she said. The First Lady also talked about her “Be Best” initiative among children. “In the US, I work with children like you to promote similar ideas of well-being through my ‘Be Best’ initiative. 3 pillars of ‘Be Best’ include dangers of drug abuse, importance of online safety and overall well-being of children,” she said.
Melania was cheered by students who waved Indian and American flags and was presented four handmade Madhubani paintings before she left. The First Lady reached out to shake hands with many children and hugged one of them. Earlier, when she arrived at the school, the children welcomed the First Lady by applying ‘teeka’ on her forehead. She was also handed over a bouquet, while lensmen scurried to get a perfect shot. Before her arrival, children were seen rehearsing outside the school gate. Massive security was also put in place for her visit. Melania is accompanying US President Donald Trump on a whirlwind 36-hour tour of India which will conclude on Tuesday night Ahead of her arrival, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted to welcome her.
“@FLOTUS will attend happiness class in our school today. Great day for our teachers, students and Delhiites. For centuries, India has taught spirituality to the world. Am happy that she will take back the msg of happiness from our school,” Kejriwal said. The children were dressed in bright-coloured sarees and traditional attire like ‘ghagra-choli’ to welcome Melania Trump. Some of them were carrying bagpipes and other musical instruments.
“Welcome to our school @FLOTUS! We hope you would have a great time here in #HappinessClass It’s just 18 months old initiative but early results have made us confident that @HappinessDelhi is the ultimate solution to all violence & hate in mindsets that we are facing worldwide,” tweeted Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio. In another tweet, he said, “Its a proud moment for my Team Education of Delhi today. All are excited to see @FLOTUS in one of our school. She just visited ‘room to read’ now she would move for #HappinessClass and then address the kids in assembly.” Kejriwal and Sisodia were to welcome Melania at the school and brief her about rationale behind introduction of the ‘Happiness Classes’ as well as the Delhi Government’s overall reform initiatives in the education sector but the US embassy had later communicated to the city administration that their names do not figure in the list of invitees for the event.