#MissionSuvidya and Akshara Foundation to spread the joy of literacy and numeracy to tribal/Adivasi children in Odisha

The ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Department, Odisha and Akshara Foundation, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Mission Suvidya.

Launched by Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik on December 4, 2019, #MissionSuvidya aims to bring qualitative improvement in accommodation provided in 6500 hostels managed by the ST & SC Dev. Department, Govt. of Odisha with about 5.7 lakh students. The mission will provide congenial atmosphere by guaranteeing quality services in safety, health, hygiene and food.



In a move that impacts about 225,000 children in the most difficult areas of the state, the ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Department will collaborate with Akshara Foundation to ensure ‘Improvements in the Quality of Education in the Department’s Schools & Hostels across Odisha’.

Under #MissionSuvidya, along with Akshara Foundation, two other MoUs were signed with Quality Council of India (for assessment of ST & SC hostels leading to quality assurance & sustenance for ISO 9001:2015 certification) and TRIFED India (to market linkages of various products created by tribal artisans and entrepreneurs in the state.)



The MoU with Akshara Foundation recognises the organisation as a knowledge partner of the state’s ST & SC department where they will share all their know-how with the department on delivering quality education (Numeracy, Literacy and Library programmes) in government schools that have children purely from tribal/Adivasi communities.



The specific programmes that will be implemented are:
1. School Readiness Programme (SRP) for Grade 1 Students- SRP involves 8 weeks of developmentally appropriate instruction designed to bolster a child’s pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, with additional modules on motor skills and social skills.

2. Classroom/Hostel Library Programme- Classroom/Reading room set-up for promoting reading habits in children as well as training of teachers in tracking improvements in reading proficiency.

3. Ganitha Kalika Andolana(GKA) in primary schools- GKA is a classroom intervention aligned with Odisha’s state curriculum for mathematics and modalities include provisioning Mathematics Teaching Learning Materials (TLM) to schools, capacity building of teachers on activity based learning and access to online support. This programme is already being implemented in other government schools across the state.

4. Digital Learning Solutions in schools/hostels- Curriculum aligned digital learning solutions for primary grades to be made accessible in hostels for subjects viz. Mathematics & English.

5. Digital Assessments Infrastructure for students in schools/hostels- Develop and implement digital assessment infrastructure which can help teachers in conducting formative assessments and track learners’ progress.

About Akshara’ Foundation’s partnership with DSME: Akshara Foundation is an existing partner to Department of School & Mass Education (DSME), Odisha in implementing Ganitha Kalika Andolana across all government primary schools of the state for creating fear-free math classrooms and improving math learning outcomes. The primary objective of the programme is to remove the math fear from students and provide tools to the teacher for making math enjoyable and will support them in their regular classrooms; in short, to improve foundational numeracy. A pilot was started in 4000 primary schools of Balangir & Rayagada and the programme has been extended to all districts of the state in 2019.

About Akshara Foundation: Akshara Foundation was set up as a Public Charitable Trust in Karnataka in March 2000 and focuses on issues concerning Early Childhood and Primary Education. It has partnered with multiple state governments and has floated programmes at scale namely- School Readiness Programme, Library Programme, Ganitha Kalika Andolana, and digital interventions namely Easy English & Building Blocks. All of these programmes are designed to strengthen foundational literacy and numeracy in students in primary grades and supplement existing government efforts. The programmes involve provisioning of teaching inputs to government primary schools and extensive capacity building of teachers

The App that helps children Understand First, Then Learn

Srinidhi looks every inch the serious, hard-working student she is known to be in school, peering into the Akshara team’s smartphone camera with mildly questioning eyes, a gentle sandalwood dot between slightly worried brows, three horizontal lines of vibhuti – sacred ash – across her forehead. One of the best students in class 4, she is fastidious, not resting till she figures out the last frontiers of her classwork. For the Government Higher Primary School in the village of Yaragera, Kushtagi block, Karnataka, she is an asset.

But, till the other day, Mathematics was not on Srinidhi’s priority list of subjects. A suppressive load held her back. “I have a fear of Mathematics,” she confesses. “Gradually with the App I am learning to be free of fear and I’m finding it interesting.”

The Building Blocks Learning App is capturing the imagination of children like Srinidhi in villages in Hoskote, Kushtagi and Mundargi blocks where it was pilot tested for a year. Not in all the villages and for all school going children, but a selected few, the number sizeable enough for a true picture of where to peg expectations. The pilot was a small, significant prelude – a putting out into the world before wider unveilings.

Building Blocks works on the lowest end martphone that spurs the understanding and learning of Mathematics without the traditional, intermediary devices of textbook, blackboard, notebook and pencil. That for children is a great unchaining, particularly in rural government schools, where change and reformist teaching do not usually make it through, though Akshara’s programmes manage to find a way in.

Building Blocks is making Mathematics simpler, more lucid, approachable, as opposed to being only aspirational, bestowing in children’s hands a fearless experience of those dreaded numbers and their mystifying interactions.

Ask any class 3 or 4 student in Akshara’s pilot if fear was anywhere a part of the Building Blocks equation and the answer is “No.” Almost 80% of the over 1500 participants felt a liberation with Building Blocks, delivered on an Akshara-provided smartphone, for two hours, twice a week. They developed a fluency with Mathematics, a fluidity, a direct connection, and crossing boundaries to the next higher concept was mere child’s play, not a problem of choppy waters and muddy uncertainties as before.

Srinidhi says, “The App is very good. I’m learning with joy. In the App I find addition and subtraction, big and small numbers, ascending and descending order numbers, and number expansion very easy.” This is from a student who had fundamental problems with Mathematics and rock-bottom struggles with simple addition and subtraction, competencies which by class 3 entry she should have acquired. “Division was so difficult,” she says. “It has become easy. But I have to learn some more.”

Srinidhi’s father, Devappa, is a repairer of light vehicles and electrical appliances and a borewell mechanic. Her mother, Syamala, is a volunteer at a women’s self-help group. Both in non-traditional occupations, both aware of trends and changing times. Both have a smartphone each in which they have downloaded Building Blocks. An active community member, Devappa is spreading the message at the school’s parents’ meetings, and tells the Akshara team, “This App is easy. It teaches in an entertaining way. It’s useful for all children to learn Mathematics. The games have a lot of variety. This is more than what we expected.”

Introducing the Sahus to Building Blocks

   

The Sahus were on a train from Vishakhapatnam to Rayagada, out for a family function, a family of four – Pradeep Kumar Sahu is a businessman in Asansol; his wife, Padmavathi, a homemaker who also occasionally helps her husband at work; and their two sons, Durgaprasad (10) and Saiprasad (7), both students at the Delhi Public School (DPS), Asansol. Lipsa Bharati, Programme Manager, Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), Akshara Foundation Odisha, happened to be on the same train and struck up a conversation with them. Akshara was testing Building Blocks at the time.

She introduced it to the two boys, in a bid to keep them engaged. Durgaprasad was more artistically inclined while Saiprasad was the math pro. Until that moment. Durgaprasad dived straight into a division sum in the App, though math is not his favourite subject. Lipsa observed that he enjoyed Building Blocks much more than Saiprasad, was able to do the sums one by one.

By the end of the ride, Durgaprasad said, “This is a better way of doing math, without all the tension it causes us.” For the few hours they were on the train, Durgaprasad was involved, taking on division with determination. He was amazed at the Fish in a Tank game – a Grade 3 concept. He had to distribute equally the nine purple-coloured fish swimming in the big tank to the three small tanks below. With all that to stimulate him, he exclaimed, “I had never thought of division in this way before.

The concept of division has suddenly become clear after the series of six games with Fish in a Tank. It’s really just equal distribution.” At that juncture, the final form of Building Blocks was still in the crucible, being moulded, and Lipsa could not give them the link just then, though the family was keen. Once Building Blocks was available on Google Play, the Akshara team got in touch with the Sahus who were only too excited to be able to download the app.



Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

The Electoral Literacy Clubs – Workshop for CSOs

Taking forward its continuous efforts of building an active democratic citizenry in the country, the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation division of ECI has undertaken a new initiative by the name of Electoral Literacy Clubs for developing a culture of avid electoral engagement and making informed and ethical ballot decisions among citizens of the country.

The Electoral Literacy Clubs or ELCs program was officially launched on National Voters’ Day 2018 in the august presence of the Hon’ble President of India. ELCs are informal learning groups which being set up across the country as direct interventions of ECI for promoting electoral literacy among Indian citizens of all ages by engaging them in interesting and experiential hands-on learning activities in their local languages in a strictly apolitical, non-partisan and neutral manner.

Three different kinds of interventions have been designed under the ELCs program. First is ELC Future Voters which are being set up in Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools all across India to target future voters in the age-group of 14 to 17 years who are studying in Classes IX to XII. These ELCs will have all of the students from Classes IX, X, XI and XII as its members.

The overarching goal of ELCs program is to make the future and new voters of the country fully confident of how, when, where, what and why of democratic elections. They should develop an understanding of the value of their vote, significance of sanctity and secrecy of their vote, and a conviction of making mature, competent and ethical ballot decisions. They should become interested and excited for exercising their very first ballot decision in an ethical and informed fashion as soon as they become 18 years old. In quantifiable terms, the outcome of ELCs would mean increased electoral registration and enhanced voter turnout.

And for reaching out to the population left outside of the formal education structures, ELCs shall be set up at every Polling Station by the name of Chunav Pathshala. Chunav Pathshala will have members from the village or community to which the polling station belongs. While there will be significant focus on school dropouts, the Chunav Pathshala will also aim to be representative of the entire village’s demographic composition.

Election Commission of Karnataka nominated Ms.K.Vaijayanti of Akshara Foundation as a representative of Leading CSOs working in the field of Education. She was nominated to participate in the workshop organised by Election Commission of India, New Delhi during the third week of May. The workshop was called for CSOs from 30 states for State level Master Trainer. The role of the representative would be to develop/contextualise the awareness building modules, find out the master trainers and implementation agencies in Karnataka to enhance the understanding of voting process and importance of voting across the young and future voters. The workshop was participatory and activity based, as well as interactive. The resource material developed at the national level included different interesting strategies like mooch pooling booth, maze helping to understand different processes, games and discussions. The idea was to strengthen the democratic process by building the capacity of different stakeholders.



Teachers embracing EASY English

Smt. Umme Attika, is an English teacher at the Government Urdu Lower Primary School (GULPS) Chatripalya, a part of Jadigenahalli cluster, Hoskote taluk.

She regularly participates in the EASY English workshops conducted by Akshara. Our EASY English programme was started in 2016-17, and the programme focused on grade 1 students.

At the start of the programme, it was observed that the teacher was not so versed with English speaking, and was very hesitant to speak in English. But with regular practice during the workshops, especially with respect to spoken English, they have become confident and can hold a conversation with ease.



Smt. Umme Attika participates with an eagerness to learn and is very enthusiastic. After the workshop, she refers to the teacher module and prepares herself for the class.

She takes English for her students six days a week. In Karnataka, grades 1 to 3 sit together and learn with the help of songs and dance. Their class is called Nali Kali. With such a varied class, one needs to have a solid strategy when it comes to teaching Akshara’s EASY English.

Here’s how Smt. Umme Attika goes about it.
  • She starts by giving her attention to grade 3 students. She interacts with them and gives them some work, usually a writing-based activity (On black board / book)
  • She then focuses her attention on the children in grades 1 & 2. While she teaches grade 2 students using the Tab, grade 1 students observe and listen.
  • She then gives the grade 2 children an assignment. While they are writing, she teaches grade 1 students.
 


This integrated approach has proved helpful for effective class management. She uses the Tab to teach and then assigns a writing activity using the Government textbook.

She has insisted on a copy-writing book for every student, and gives them 1 sentence as practice, every day. Students are required to write the sentence and practice it.

UmmeAttika says, ‘I am happy to attend the workshop. It is a joyful workshop. We meet all the teachers of both the clusters once in a month. We share our experience with teachers and RPs about our learnings. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Akshara team. They handle the workshop in an interesting manner. All the RPs are too good. I have learnt a lot from the workshops. Now, my confidence level has increased, and I will converse in English with my colleague as well as with students. It’s an opportunity for us to recap what we had learnt in our school days, also we learn about new methodologies of teaching.”



HM, Shri. Zaheer Pasha regularly visits and observes the English class. He says that, “I have observed that the teacher handles the session beautifully. The way she engage students is excellent. Her approach of teaching is very good.

Students love to sit in her class. I have observed a lot of progress among the students after the implementation of EASY English programme. Students can now understand better, and speak in English. They participate in TPR activities.”

– Nalini Raj N. K.

Stakeholders laud the impact of Ganitha Kalika Andolana on children.

Akshara Foundation organised a Symposium on Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) to mark the completion of three years of the programme’s implementation. The symposium was inaugurated by Shalini Rajneesh., I.A.S. Principal Secretary, Primary & Secondary Education.
Inauguration Ceremony
In her inaugural address, Shalini Rajneesh said “GKA is reaching schools and children, it is a very useful and innovative programme that helps learning. Through activities and fun learning children are losing their fear of mathematics. The Government of India sent representatives to different States to find out best practices in education and Akshara’s model was one of those picked. One of the most important aspects of the programme is community involvement – people get to understand what is happening in schools and ways in which they can encourage schools and children.”
Shalini Rajneesh., I.A.S. Principal Secretary, Primary & Secondary Education
The symposium on Ganitha Kalika Andolana had three primary objectives.
(1) To share the GKA pedagogy and materials Akshara Foundation has supplied to schools and gauge their impact on teachers and students who are using it in their mathematics classes
(2) To tune into the pulse on the ground and get stakeholder perspectives and deeper insights into implementation
(3) To provide a platform for the learnings of GKA and discuss how to improve the efficacy of the programme in the coming years.

The Symposium featured two panel discussions: Pedagogy and Materials; and Reactions from the Field. The panellists consisted of eminently qualified and experienced people who have implemented several educational programmes. Participants included academics, policy makers, field practitioners and researchers who, as authentic voices of expertise and experience, discussed, deliberated and made recommendations for the way forward.
Panel Discussion: Pedagogy and Materials
Panel Discussion: Reactions from the Field
The panellists included: Dr. P. C. Jaffer, I.A.S. Commissioner For Public Instructions; Shri. Veeranna Jatti Reader – CTE, Chitradurga; Shri. Nagabhushana BEO, Chitradurga; Shri. Channabasava Swamy Gram Panchayat President, Pagadadinni GP, Raichur District; Shri. Manohar Badiger SDMC President, GHPS Bijakal village, Kustagi Block, Koppal District; B.K. Basavaraju, Director Primary Instruction; Dr. G. Vijayakumari Principal, Associate Professor, Vijaya Teacher’s College, Bangalore ; Annapurna Kamath, Math Consultant; Shri. R.V. Makali H.P.S. Suganalli, Bannikoppa, Shirahatti.

Dr P.C. Jaffer I.A.S. Commissioner For Public Instructions said “GKA is one of SSA’s major partnerships. We are reaching some of the most backward districts of the State with this programme. We have to ensure capacity building of teachers and have structures for the continued enhancement of mathematics.”
Dr P.C. Jaffer I.A.S. Commissioner For Public Instructions
As Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation said “The panellists are the voice of the stakeholders. Hopefully we can take GKA to every school in the State in the next two to three years with stakeholder participation and involvement.”
Shalini Rajneesh., I.A.S. Principal Secretary, Primary & Secondary Education in conversation with Ashok Kamath-Chairman, Akshara Foundation

About GKA: Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) is an elementary school mathematics programme designed and developed by Akshara Foundation to improve numeracy skills and facilitate the classroom teaching of mathematics in grades 4 and 5 in government schools. It is currently being implemented in twelve districts in Karnataka and two in Odisha. Visit: http://akshara.org.in/en/what-we-do/gka/

About Akshara Foundation: Akshara Foundation was set up with a mission to ensure Every Child in School and Learning Well. We believe that quality education is the undeniable right of every child and children should not be deprived of it just because they do not have access to it or the resources to realise their dreams. Visit: www.akshara.org.in

About SSA: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.

Reaching Higher with Easy English

Ever so often, Harshini has the Tab on her lap, teaching a small crowd of her peers its workings, its learning strategies. They are transfixed as much by the technology tool as by the English they are assimilating. Harshini is one of Mangala Mary’s two brightest students in her Nali-Kali class of 10 at the Government Lower Primary School, Mylapura, Hoskote block. Her natural flair for English heightened by EASY English to inspire great journeys.



There is little that this class 2 student cannot, for her age and grade, do. Vocabulary? She knows a good collection of words. Pronunciation? “Look,’ ‘six,’ seven,’ ‘come,’ ‘tree’……all in fast, accurate succession. She can pronounce them without lingering or spelling out the letters. Her teacher doesn’t have to prompt her. Comprehension? Harshini knows what those words mean. ‘Roof’ is the only true test in a variegated array of 10 words. save the daughter, educate the daughter (beti bachao beti padhao) was also promoted by hon. Prime Minister.

Writing? Not cursive yet, but neat, small blocks on pages unmarred by the eraser. A piece of fairly advanced text copied from Lesson 1, My House, in the textbook does not have a single mistake. “Mummy Tiger lifted her left paw and scratched tiger cub’s furry back.”



Spellings? It is an area where she stands on practically unassailable ground. She plunges straight ahead into the days of the week, spelling even Wednesday and Thursday with no pause to regroup. And months of the year too, February and August included, needing a bit of prodding only at April, that too just to jog along the sequence.

The bar is right up there for Harshini and expectations come crowding, from her teacher, her peers, from herself. This young girl is self-motivated, says Mangala Mary, serious, a slow smile of achievement on her face and an intelligent avidity. Mangala Mary sets a big challenge for her intermittently, and Harshini simply reaches higher.

 

Stars of Easy English: Learning Together

English was once outside the scope of classroom life in Chinnamma’s Nali-Kali* section at the Government Higher Primary School, Kolathur, Hoskote block. The English period went by, 3 to 4 p.m. every day, in dull tedium. The less than 10 children in Nali-Kali – Chinnamma has the 4th grade there as well – did not know a single thing other than the alphabet, she confesses. The class 1 and 2 textbooks open on the floor, most of it going over their heads. It felt weighty and overwhelming. “Very heavy,” as Mangala Mary in another school remarked. Chinnamma was helpless, she says, tied down to matter she could not understand, much less teach.

It was then that EASY English came into class. Chinnamma was open to its methods, its imaginative approach. “It’s a great help to us. In these times you have to know English.” But there was a catch, and that was technology, the new learning matrix in class. Three years away from retirement, she still says, “I don’t want to go into the Internet and all that,” and has used the same basic-edition mobile phone for the last 20 years.



Overcoming resistance was a large part of her conversion story. Today: “I keep the Tab open and the textbook open and integrate. To tell you honestly, I use only the Tab. The same lessons are there in the Tab, and much easier too. I often don’t open the textbook at all.” But Chinnamma continues to be technology-averse. She shuns a smartphone, in fact does not know what it is. Were it not for the inducements of the Tab she would not have crossed her mental barrier.



As for English, she says, “I’m only learning, still.” Chinnamma’s students too, along with her, are learning. “They’re improving slowly.” That is said with deliberate restraint, even a critical tone there. They are moving up, not as much perhaps as in the other schools, but they can answer most of the 23 questions and instructions Chinnamma has framed for them on a chart.

Some examples: “What is your name?’ “What is your father’s name?” What is your mother’s name?” “What is the first sound of your name?” “Which animal gives milk?” “Can you jump?” “Touch the board.” “Show me your nose.” Though whole-sentence answers are not within reach yet, the programme has made English comprehensible. The children understand the questions posed.



Action songs are their forte, a passion. The children know a repertoire of 10 rhymes, the tally way more than they ever knew before. It does not take much to trigger them, they are willing singers and movers. A regaling happens every time the Akshara team visits, and during the English period. The big, semi-dark room reverberates as the children stand in a circle, singing full-throatedly words they can sometimes only barely grasp or pronounce – this little cameo at the centre, and Chinnamma on the perimeter, like a conductor, raising and lowering her arms.

“Come little children……I will teach you A, B, C……”

“Watermelon, papaya, mango, banana……Fruit salad.”

“We go around the mango tree, the mango tree…..”

……………………………..


* Nali-Kali is a creative learning approach adopted by Government of Karnataka which combines classes 1, 2 and 3 in a single multigrade classroom.

A Motivated Teacher

“I Now Like to Learn English”

Mangala Mary’s English class at the Government Lower Primary School in Mylapura, Hoskote block, is amongst the finest in the programme. The EASY English impact here has been far-reaching. There are many children who are high achievers and a teacher whose motivational energy, once sparked, never fails. “My students are grasping well. They’re learning well because of the programme,” says Mangala Mary.

But more than her 10 students, it is she who has reaped its fruits, she says. “The Tab that Akshara has given us is more helpful to me than to the children, I feel.” Her smile is warm, hospitable. “I learn English from it, from the teacher modules. I now like to learn English. It is very interesting. When I don’t know something, I ask the Akshara team.”


Children learning English in Mangala Mary’s class

This is a sea change for a teacher, who, in 19 years of teaching, had not come anywhere near English. It passed her by, in the streets, in shops, in life’s exchanges. As a government-mandated subject in class, she also had English thrust upon her. She had to teach.

Mangala Mary had not considered herself equal to the challenge. The idea did not capture her only because she was without a captivating, easy enough toolkit. She resisted English like she stonewalled the advent of EASY English a year and a half ago. The Akshara team hesitated to visit her – she was hardly accommodating, the friendly smile missing. English is heavy, she said. The programme is difficult, she concluded, before she had given it a chance.

Then the training workshops started, and change began, gradually in the beginning, and soon with mounting momentum. First came the ability to comprehend, to appreciate the surge of English around her at the training venues, then came the tangible self-esteem recovery. Her attitude became aspirational. “English is an international language. All of us must know how to use it,” she says. Communication is still some rocky distance away. “But I’m able to teach better than before.” Confident assertions are now a part of her personality. “I understand the English on television news. I watch BBC sometimes. But I can’t speak all that well,” she says dejectedly.

Motivation Defines Her
Her gaps in capacity are keeping her motivated. Not that enthusiasm was ever a shortfall. Mangala Mary has an abundance of it, and as if to prove it, she takes the class 2 English textbook and reads. It is a fluent accomplishment. “I understand it,” she says. She picks up a chart from the wall on A House that she has made as an experiment in designing English teaching-learning materials (TLMs) that give complementary support to the lessons. Marked on it and highlighted in colour are parts of the house like roof, doors and windows.

Mangala Mary in her classroom

“I have made charts on the Alphabet and Healthy Food. The Alphabet, I did myself. For Healthy Food, I made a coloured photocopy from the Tab.” Another chart on the drawing board is: Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness. A pencil sketch of the idea is roughly in place. The team tells Mangala Mary to put the ‘Is’ after ‘Cleanliness’ and make a statement of it rather than have it hang as a question. She welcomes the feedback.

The Demand Side is Active
English has an appeal for parents in this mostly low-income community of 592 people . That it is now taught with seriousness, with technology-supported learning resources, is a source of satisfaction to them. They keep the demand side active and Mangala Mary feels energised by the persuasive pressure. Already a committed teacher, it strengthens her resolve to deliver on their English goals.

Try, Try, Try My Best

Akshara Foundation’s Easy English programme puts Jayalakshmi in total command.

Jayalakshmi belongs to a small, elite league of government school teachers who know English, her passionate urge for it pushing her to greater ascendancies. Her spoken English is smart, stylish, free-flowing, of current coinage. “Come, you want to talk to me?” she asks mildly, but with total command as she pulls out chairs. “Now tell me,” she says, settling down.

Jayalakshmi is the Headmistress and teacher of a Nali-Kali class of 11 at the Government Kannada Lower Primary School in Gonakanahalli, Hoskote block. The school has 18 children, classes 1-5.



As one of its foremost teachers and strongest supporters, she holds high the torch of EASY English, Akshara Foundation’s Digitised English Programme. In a writing assignment for the programme’s training workshop (6-12-2016), she writes, “EASY English. It is a very effective programme from Akshara Foundation. It is very helpful to all government teachers, especially those who are interested to learn and teach English.

From the beginning, I attended all the 10 training workshops. I learnt small and big letters, English grammar………how to make sentences, how to teach English with the Tab for the children.

The children in our school are enjoying English a lot. It is successful and practical. So once again, I would like to say thanks to Akshara Foundation. We are grateful for the EASY English programme.”

The only spelling mistake in the two-page essay is when Jayalakshmi writes ‘greatful’ for ‘grateful.’ Only two or three places where a word connector is missing, like ‘those,’ ‘a,’ or ‘the,’ or a preposition misjudged, a couple of instances of wrong usage, and just once where a sentence is stranded. Her work shows organised thought, and comments and ideas are couched in separate paragraphs.

“I couldn’t even write one page before EASY English started,” Jaylakshmi says. “Now give me a subject and I can write three or four pages. I write about any topic given at the training. Ask the Resource Person,” she says, signalling to the Akshara team member. From a teacher who completed her B.Ed in English this year, it is not something anybody is disputing. “Not enough. No,” she protests in severe self-disapproval. “I have a lot of work left to do.”

Jayalakshmi’s search for English is assiduous. It began in 2010, a few years before EASY English, when her eldest son, now in engineering, teased her repeatedly, “You can’t even speak English.” Stung, Jayalakshmi enrolled in a two-month spoken English class. The learning there had its limitations, till she became one of the teacher beneficiaries in Akshara’s English programme. Now she is simply in a class of her own.

“I read India Today, The Times of India, comics. I watch English news on my mobile,” she says, tapping her elegant smartphone. That, for a confident, self-assured lady, is the only piece of technology she deals with. “I’m on WhatsApp and Facebook. Mostly I read other people’s posts on FB. I don’t like posting much – it’s like saying everything to everyone. When I get a difficult word, I go to Google.” These are some of the engines that power Jayalakshmi’s English growth.

Few government school teachers in the programme muster the courage yet to declare, as she does, “English is easy to understand.”

“They’re Improving…..” Jayalakshmi’s students have an expert touch with the Tab that is far ahead of what the team finds in many classrooms. When visitors enter class, they speak only in English. “They’re improving day by day,” says Jayalakshmi. “They’re completely engaged with the technology of the Tab.”

The Drive that Keeps her Going: Jayalakshmi needs neither prodding nor pushing, her answers tumble out before the questions are put. “You tell me,” she says, sitting forward. “How do I improve my English? I want to learn more English, have more fluency.” Her drive keeps her on her feet. At 48, she has her journey mapped and it is strewn with self-affirmative milestones. “I want to do my MEd* in English. After my 60th year, I’ll do my PhD**. Now I’m busy, busy, always busy.”

Today’s chock-full calendar of activity is: doing as much as she can to advance her grasp. “Try, try, try my best. I want to teach my students more English.”

……………………………..

* Master’s in Education.
** Doctor of Philosophy.