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MAKKALA HABBA

 It was a day that made everything about it festive and brought a smile on your face, right from the confetti-coloured dhurries lacing the floor to the waving greens and gorgeous sun. Yes. It was the perfect day to celebrate the happy shrieks and riot of expressions exploding all around – the kids that revolve around our life and work.
The pre-school field team at Akshara Foundation recently organised a Makkala Habba, which literally means Children’s Festival. It was held at the Haragadde Anganwadi Centre, part of the Anekal ICDS project.
Children, their mothers and workers from three anganwadi centres formed the core of this celebration. In addition, we were joined by the Panchayat president, CDPO , health workers and the Head Master of the nearby government school, taking it to a whole new level.
The day-long festivities included sports activities for teachers and mothers & a cultural programme for the kids. This was followed by a Lego bricks competition for mother-children duo teams that brought out the best of the creativity.
It was the perfect occasion to bring community mothers, local leaders and the education department together and stress on the importance of pre-school education.
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Coverage by Vijaya Vani
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The winning mother-daughter duo
- Bhagya Kumar

At these anganwadis, mothers are in-charge.

As part of the Malur, Dharwad and Bengaluru ICDS project spearheaded by our pre-school team, as many as 251 women now have a new role – that of Wellness Moms. In this role, these women as mothers, raise community involvement and conduct authentic assessment that captures the learning and growing process and social and emotional well being of pre-schoolers in anganwadis, as it happens.
 
We at Akshara Foundation have put them – the mothers, at the helm of assessing their child’s development and also rally for more community involvement in monitoring and assessing the working of anganwadis. To do this more effectively, our preschool resource team has equipped the mothers with a 62- indicator development tool. 
 
A comprehensive tool – the 62 indicators span from general awareness, cognitive development, language, fine motor to social, creative and emotional domains.
 
A series of trainings and workshops and tiding over resistence by the anganwadi teachers, these mothers are already out visiting various anganwadis to determine the wellness of their children and if the anganwadis are performing satisfactorily. 
 
To a great extent they have been able to accomplish the stated intent.  The mothers are now being accompanied and assisted by young girls and SHG members, clearly indicating that more members from the community are getting involved. Not only do they feel that this idea makes a ton of sense but is also being executed and delivered in a way that’s both compelling and result oriented.
 
The highly motivated mothers are making full use of our teaching and learning material (TLM) for assessment and are warming up to the idea of adopting such accountability measures based on the scores gathered from the 62 –indicator development tool.
 
An initiative worth pursuing, though not simple – is what most mothers feel are and they want to show what such support interventions that ensure accountability and improvement mean to them and their children in anganwadis.
 
Cheers to the mommy power/wellness mommy!
 
Download the 62-indicator development tool here
- Authored by writer@educationjams
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VARDAPURA LOVES ITS GOVERNMENT SCHOOL!

A visit to the GLPS school in Vardapura and I was happy that I did not turn my back on Government schools. At a time when most of us have succumbed to the onslaught of private school education with little or no resistance citing various reasons, this school makes a case in point.


Almost a year ago over 30 students, left GLPS to join its better placed counterpart – an English medium private school. To the parents of these kids the new school seemed well poised to deliver. After all, the government school had failed them and their children on many counts, is what they felt. A 25 percent reservation in private schools as per the RTE act, it seems only strengthened their belief further.

However, within few months of joining the private school, there seemed to be a trend reversal. The same parents wanted to enrol their kids back at the government school. In the days to follow, over 30 children who had joined the private school, were back at GLPS.


This piqued my curiosity and like how a typical human mind works in cases like this, there were more questions and doubts rather than belief and answers. Does this mean that government schools work and that the teachers are doing their job or is it the low fee structure, free food that has lured the parents in bringing their kids back to government school. Many such questions clouded my mind and a visit to the school and finding out for myself seemed to be the most right and logical thing to do.

The time spent at GLPS, speaking to teachers, parents and children reinforced my faith in the public/government school system. Quality of teaching – is what brought these kids back to GLPS, a common sentiment shared by the kids, parents and the teachers too. I decided to experience that myself apart from speaking to various stakeholders.


It did not take me long to figure that out. There was clear evidence of strong pedagogic knowledge and effective use of teaching and learning material to aid activity based learning – all of it tied together by the strong leadership of the school Head Master.

The teachers held sound understanding of the theory behind pedagogic practice. Use of TLM in the form of a Math Kit provided by Akshara Foundation enabled joyful learning. They loved the little extra help in the form of this well designed and scientific Math kit that helped them better explain Math concepts to children. 

These kids loved to create their own groups (leading to effective peer learning) around the kit to come up with problems and solutions. All this facilitated by the class teacher who demonstrated great endurance to quality learning and openness unlearn and then learn the changing pedagogic practice irrespective of all challenges.

After spending many hours in the school I could say that despite the given constraints a Government School Does Work and that we should be honouring the government school teachers with a little extra help and the recognition that they deserve.

Someone rightly said – Education ought to be about lifting up, not weeding out. Government schools are for every child in the community. They are for providing every child a chance at an education. Cherry picking only the bright and brilliant is not the norm here. It’s therefore time that we as community render all support and initiative to make government schools the best they can be. 

The story of GLPS xxx may just be one of dozens of other inspiring stories coming from government school. We can know those only when we get involved as an individual, a group, a community and nation as whole. After all, any society is only as good as its education system.

N.B. In no way through the views expressed in the write-up, I intend to talk or influence anyone out of attending private school. But I do want to talk you out of believing that government schools don’t work. 
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THERE’S SOMETHING MORE BREWING AT THIS CHAI SHOP.

It wasn’t a regular Sunday for Shiva Kumar or for the nearly 40 children who crammed his shop – a little chai-cum-kirana shop in an unpretentious low-income area, Satyam Nagar in east Bangalore, home to a straitened community.

His rickety, almost tattered awning shop today has a big patch of color beside and a gathering of children. A small book library had found a place in his shop. The books hung from a long vertical blue cloth rack like a kangaroo pouch and in whose warm pockets live books.

These colourful, shiny bright books with their beautiful illustrations invited energetic young minds, aroused curiosity and promised to nurture it.


And the children came. Their faces carried expressions of wonder and amazement. All these books for them to read? What an extraordinary gift! They leafed through the pages, took in the pictures, the stories, the extravaganza before them.

Hardly sated, they now come every day to their neighbourhood mini library – they come back to Shiva Kumar’s tea shop and in doing so are being accompanied by adults too.

To focus on the literacy needs and find ways to build bridges between words and young and adult minds alike, we at Akshara Foundation launched Cutting Tea Tales on International Literacy Day.


We go local and tap the chai cum kirana shops with our cutting tea tales. Portions of these shops are converted into mini libraries which provide access to our carefully categorized books in English, Kannada, Urdu and Tamil.

On why we love and pick these small tea cum kirana shops and convert them into mini libraries – we feel that these places often serve as a meeting ground where people drive conversations. It is these places that we think are the starting points for shared aspirations for a community.

The community setting approach not only helps connect but also provides for a reading environment that is not intimidating. In doing this we also share the common belief of stepping forward, engaging and making people willing to join others in something that will require collective impact efforts.


We are not overtly worried if the books are stained, marked or falling apart with use, since there is no better death for a book than it having been read too much and by too many. Those present will have access to books in Kannada, English, Urdu and Tamil.

In days to follow Cutting Tea Tales will reach the rural blocks of Kushtagi and Mundargi. What’s more – Pratham Books ( a non-profit trust that publishes high quality books for children at affordable prices and in multiple Indian languages) is happy to join hands with us and will provide books for our libraries.

 As Roald Dahl said, the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. So, next time you if you spot one of these libraries, dive in, take the good parts, skip the bad , get what you can get out of it, go on to something else.

Until then…stay curious, stay booked.
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R.I.P. HUMANITY

They are school children for heaven’s sake…
How does one even express or articulate the horror of what happened at Peshawar. 
Taliban ‘kill over 130′ school children in Peshawar. 
Is it just about Pakistan as a failed state or have we failed as humans. 

Do we really need religion of this kind. 
Is this the way to make the other feel the pain? Difficult to wrap one’s head around it.

Even though this has happened in a neighboring country we do want to think about the kids 
who lost their lives, their parents and the burden of terrorism.

Like they say – of all of the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny of religion is the worst. 
And this time it has hit hard… 

Let us all take a few moments to remember those who lost their lives 
and keep their families in our prayers. 

- TEAM AKSHARA
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Meet Shreyanka Mally

Spotted this piece on women who work at Mu Sigma and were thrilled to see Shreyanka featured:
“Akshara Foundation was her first client. She assessed their pre-school program for Anganwadis (kindergarten) in terms of sustainability and consistency. They had huge bundles of sheets of data consisting of community feedback from parents of government school children in the urban poor regions. Field workers had immense amounts of data that they brought back from their investigations. Akshara wanted to build a dashboard to highlight the problems. Shreyanka created a feedback excel template and committee feedback template for the field staff with questions for them, but first translating all the notes from Kannada (the local dialect) to English. This template was in addition to the ones created for school teachers and parents…”
Read the full piece here.  
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Thank You, Teachers


Thank You cards created by the volunteers

Teachers play many important roles in the life of a child – that of an educator, mentor and a friend. They inspire, discipline, and inculcate values of thinking, reasoning, self-learning and exploration. They are one of the strong influences in developing the child into a responsible adult. And to recognize these efforts of the teachers, this year Target employees decided to do their bit.

As part of the Teachers Day celebrations, over 150 employees from the Marketing, HR, Merchandising, BI and Finance Team of Target and their families, made personalized ‘Thank You’ greeting cards to be distributed to Government school teachers in 360 schools across Bangalore, Hoskote and Mundargi. The whole activity was driven by a core group of volunteers who not only handled distributing and collecting back the cards; they also promoted the activity within their team and encouraged their team members to participate. The whole activity took one week. The end result was 1800 beautifully handcrafted cards.

For some volunteers, this activity was a good break from their desk job and showcases their creative skills, while for others it was a great activity to engage their families. But for most, it was just a small way of showing their gratitude to teachers who work selflessly for the cause of education. This was rightly echoed by one of the volunteers who said, “In this busy world, it was like this wonderful moment which took us back to our childhood and gave us an opportunity to express our feeling for our respected teachers. Irrespective of whom it would go to in person, the feeling of addressing it to a ‘Teacher’ was above all and delightful. The four hours I spent on those cards, though less compare to what my teachers have given me in terms of knowledge and wisdom.  It allowed me to give my respect to the teachers who help us reach where we are, professionally and as a person.

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The teachers were overwhelmed by this token of appreciation. Some even went on to say that in their many years of service as a Government school teacher, never have they been recognized for their effort. Mamatha C, a teacher from GKMPS Nagashettyhalli said, “I thank the volunteers for creating greeting cards for us. We are humbled!

Teacher feedback

Such small gestures from the civil society does go a long way in encouraging Government school teachers to do their job well and deliver quality education to children.

A for Anthem

Did you know 9 out of 10 people in our country do not know the meaning of our National Anthem? Yes.. Shocking, but true!

To celebrate India’s 67th Independence Day, Akanksha has made a beautiful video in which children from schools run by them, teach us the true meaning of our Jana Gana Mana. The meaning is adapted from Shri Rabindranath Tagore’s English translation.

Click here to view the amazing work by children.




Happy Independence Day to all!