|Kids and volunteers at work|
|A training session in progress|
“I have been associated with Akshara’s English programme for the past 4 years, right from its inception of designing the package to its implementation towards becoming “Swalpa English, Thumba Fun”. It is always nice to see Ms Kanchan Banerjee, the Managing Trustee, taking personal interest in the program and striving to improvise and upgrade it from year to year, based on the changing needs of the target group. Now, let’s do an objective analysis of the programme:
Conversation and TPR Activities.
My direct experience in the training classroom: The teachers as well as the RPs initially started with an attitude to mean- “Oh! another training!” Later, as they were made comfortable with icebreakers they settled into the comfort zone and got involved in the program. As the training was in a workshop mode with many strategies, they all willingly participated with interest. They found the rhyme sessions very interesting and asked for more new rhymes, they asked for the rhymes between the other activities as a warm up. They enjoyed the individual activities more than the group activities. In their session end feedback they said that they would look forward to more of Akshara English training program as it empowered them to use English in their classrooms. They also felt the workbooks and lessons were simple and realistic. It would help them to transact better as it was graded and attractively presented. They wanted more of Grammar support and to fulfill this requirement Akshara’s monthly worksheets helped them a lot. On the whole the teachers as well as the RPs actively participated in the training. Each one came forward to enact the stories as role plays and enjoyed it. They enjoyed the whole training program and said it was like going back to their school days. It was seen that by the end of the 5th day they were more empowered with spoken English and they also affirmed it by saying that it had built in the confidence and capacity to handle their English classes better, in unison all of them said that they would want this training again and again. They were also in touch with me during the break in between the initial orientation and refresher programs and it has continued to be.
Response of teachers/ RPs in both sessions:
Interaction with participants during activities: They found the rhyme sessions and role plays very interested. They also opined that picture reading and story building were highly suitable for their classroom. They said individual activities like pick and speak, dialogue extensions, division of attention activities helped them a lot to enhance their attention and confidence. They found the language web an interesting way to teach grammar and sentences.
Myoverview of the scenario in Mundargi:
How they used the TLM in classroom?
Why is TLM important in language learning?
Has it helped children learn the English language?
All good things have to end so did Mundargi’s refreshers session which would go a long way down the memory lane! 🙂 “
“ “Welcome to Kushok Bakula Rimpoche Airport, Leh. The temperature outside is -12 degrees Celsius”. I had arrived in Ladakh, but a Ladakhi welcome had already been bestowed on me the previous day at New Delhi airport, where I was met by a smiling Stanzin Norbu from the 17000ft Foundation. I was here at the invitation of Sujata and Sandeep Sahu, founders of 17K, to help them provide a training-orientation to Heads of some 100 Government Primary Schools, where they had set up their School Libraries as part of their programme with rural Ladakhi schools.
It seemed at first sight that there were just two things in Ladakh: ice, and space. From my bedroom window, on the ground floor, I could gaze upon the sunlit spires of mountains on the far shore of the Indus. I had been given a list of clothing material to buy and I got it all from Decathlon here in Bangalore, the most important part being a Goose-Down-Jacket-with-a-hood. I had thermals and skiing-gloves and fleece sweaters and fleece caps and a balaclava and skiing clothing ( form-fit trousers and shirt ) and a baggy waterproof pair of trousers. I had been asked to take Diamox tablets for altitude sickness and I felt no ill effects whatsoever.
I was reading Pankaj Mishra’s An End to Suffering: the Buddha in the World, an apt book for this place. The travels and thoughts of the author mingled with my impressions, as I saw Abbaley and Ammaley, our hosts, sit in the sunshine working the beads and reciting the Name four lakh times. There were shrines with large red and yellow prayer wheels at street corners; a steep hill in upper Leh seemed to have a monastery on top, but it seemed beyond me to attempt to get there. I contented myself with listening and humming Manasa Yetulortune in that lazy morning sunshine and talking to the two house cats in Tamil, who insisted that I part with some of my puri-s.
The pillar was perfect for the build up of a horizon – all the way from green grass to blue skies. But the fact that one can go round a pillar lent to our imagination an interesting challenge. What goes round and round? Our very colorful answer turned out to be – “The carousel”! It’s one of those fun experiences – you put a coin in it, it takes you up and down, round and round and makes you feel all happy at the end of it. And what joy it brings to children! There were other elements a kite and a festoon that brought to the pillar the sense of a merry fair – an escapade and a moment of being a child again!
Under the staircase, in keeping with the theme, we had the larger than life expressions of some of the elements represented on the pillar as well – a dandelion (inspired by the KLP logo), clouds and the sun, a butterfly and colorful kites!
While they fast disappear in the rest of this city, we decided to paint ourselves a line of trees – in different sizes and shapes all the way leading upto the pillar. Half a dozen little ones from a nearby Anganwadi graciously left us thumb-prints for the fall colors of the foliage. And that’s what will make these trees special for us! Note there’s an owl along the way – one of our colleagues insisted on having one – to negate the myth and superstition around this beautiful creature – and in the true spirit of co-existing with nature as splendid as it is!
A true collaborative effort, it had so many of our colleagues standing funnily sometimes, squatting, kneeling and in other unusual yogic stances to bring ourselves some happy times and reminder of who the benefactors of all our work are really!“
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Training gets Delivered
While the Akshara team has designed child-friendly Teaching Learning Aids, supporting the programme through constant interaction with the Teachers and measuring the programme through various assessment strategies, the programme is delivered in classrooms by Teachers themselves. A comprehensive training component is developed at Akshara focusing on basic English and Math knowledge that can aid teachers in the classrooms. The training is delivered in a cascading fashion through the education department Master’s Resource Persons (MRPs). A 5-day training in the beginning of the academic year is followed by a refresher training later in the year. This year, over 1500 teachers have been trained in the Akshara methodology and are currently delivering the programme in the classrooms.
“Akshara Foundation’s Training has Given me a new Approach”
We have received overwhelming responses to the trainings. The teachers are very happy with our training and feel the programme will surely benefit the children.
Sridhar, a primary school teacher who teaches English in Std I-VII and has a command over the language, said, “I have undergone so many English training programmes in my six years of service, but Akshara Foundation’s training has given me a new approach and I can teach my students in a simple way.”
Shailaja Patil from the Government Higher Primary School, Nidasheshi, said, “I have never tried speaking in English before, but once I started attending Akshara’s training I got the confidence to speak in English. I assure you that I will do my best in class.”
Mehaboob Sahib, a Master Resource Person, said that he has imparted English training for many teachers, 13 batches of them. “But I enjoyed imparting Akshara Foundation’s training package the most. This package has been designed keeping teachers in mind. Simple and the best.”
A few teachers who underwent our training in the Devanahalli block went a step ahead to compare our training with the British Council training and had the following points to say:
1. British council training was in lecture mode where as the Akshara Foundation training was activity based.
2. The Charts, Flash cards, Teacher’s guide etc provided by British Council were not up to the mark. The Akshara teacher’s guide, cards, charts flash cards etc provided by Akshara Foundation were very good. These are very useful for children’s learning.
3. Importance was not given to the communication skills of the teachers in the training program of British Council. In Akshara Foundation training program importance was given to improve English spoken language abilities of the teachers and English grammar.
4. The techniques of developing basic language skills among children were incorporated in Akshara Foundation training. Akshara Foundation training caters to the needs of improving teacher’s skills in using English language.
- The methods of reciting rhymes and storytelling models were discussed.
- The Akshara Foundation gives good guidance.
- The basic grammar points have been covered. But some more grammar activities could have been included.
- I feel that this type of teacher’s guide, kit and training for teachers may be given to all the teachers in the state.
We are thankful to all these teachers for finding value in our training and we believe that they will create a positive impact on the learning levels of children.
A Creative Workshop
On the 8th of November Akshara Foundation organized a Creative Dialogue at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, a vibrant, day-long exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas on How do We Nurture and Resource the Children of Bangalore for a Self-Sustaining Life for the Next Fifteen Years? By end of day they were ideas that transcribed into concrete goals – to be achieved and accomplished.
Participants were drawn from a cross-section of organizations, government and non-governmental, and from among individuals with a role to play.
Outcomes and Outputs – The Purpose of the Meet
The purpose of the workshop was to co-create within and across public and private sectors, an interconnected nurturing and resourcing of the children of Bangalore, fit for the next five to fifteen years. The main objectives were to increase understanding, determine future threats and identify a way forward with the future of the children of Bangalore in mind.
The catalyst for the day was Matt Clarke from the Nowhere Group based in the United Kingdom who emphasized the purpose of the meet as an immersion in the unknown from where participants would traverse together with their collective knowledge, insight and experience, mindful of themselves as creative participants but connected with fellow travelers, in this indeterminate, uncharted space, and emerge at a breakthrough moment in outcomes and outputs. Matt Clarke characterized outcomes as the intangible achievements of mutual understanding, desire and energy to co-create and continue, and outputs as the tangible projects and agendas “to move through current barriers and resisters to change elegantly into a projected future reality.”
Discussion and Group Work
Participants were each engaged in discussion for a minute in which they stated well-founded positions on child-centered issues that ranged, among others, over the status of children, mental and developmental perspectives, health and nutrition, what government could do better and what citizens could do to galvanize, and learning from successful initiatives in order to create new and better jobs for children.
Facilitating the day’s exploratory seeking of definitive end goals was the next round of group work, an exercise “based on the works of the psychologist Kurt Lewin who laid out that the present is strongly affected by the pressures of change and these pressures are constantly offset by the forces that are the resisters to change. That is what defines the present for all of us.”
Participants had to systematically identify the various factors that would affect the collective aim of creating a self-sustaining life for the children of Bangalore. Bangalore, which, as a sub-set of India and the world, has been and will be affected by local, national and international events. The groups ideated, deliberated, set up conversations and dialogues and zeroed in on key areas on which they presented.
A Flawed Delivery System
A dialogue of constructive depth and detail started around health and nutrition which came up as a common concern.
Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation, shared one of the serious limitations to afflict this sector, which is the extremely low pay of employees working in child healthcare. He said that even though there was no argument in anyone’s mind about the importance of ensuring good nutrition, this anomaly in the delivery system interferes strongly with the deliverables.
He then stressed on synergistic efforts towards uplifting the basic learning and nutrition levels of children, as they are staggeringly low. It is not about money as there is enough of it. It is about the collective efforts that we are yet to make, he emphasized.
Speaking of nutrition he turned towards corruption in government departments, particularly in Bangalore, as an important factor preventing any development despite the resources and the laws.
On Good Governance
A discussion took place on good governance, and Kanchan Bannerjee, Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation, suggested that government use the good examples already developed by non-profit organizations and put them into effect.
Decentralizing delivery models, government transparency, the shortcomings in our education system in creating children who are inquisitive, and questions of design, structure and leadership entered the dialogue.
Key Value Drivers
The four value drivers that emerged to be taken up at a macro level were: Governance and Leadership; Education; Health and Wellness; and Data Transparency. The groups were asked to place on record their level of self-belief in these as the issues they must coalesce around, these as the issues which would bring about an actual difference in nurturing and resourcing the children of Bangalore for a self-sustaining life.
There was some hesitation, an occasional lack of confidence, a lack of preparedness to commit; there were divergent views, tangential views, a critical note even, sometimes a mismatch with what was on the table and a lack of collectivism. Matt Clarke steered the groups to coherence and clarity and they laid down objectives, actions that would be taken, and a time-frame to achieve them.
The importance of each of the four value drivers were discussed and tangible deliverables were identified. The groups committed to take this creative dialogue forward, agreeing to meet in April 2013, Matt Clarke as catalyst once again. The report concludes that in culmination participants shared their feelings about this experience. The day had been long and packed, but the focus, the thoughts that found expression and the excellent design package of the activities left most of them energized, enriched and inquisitive.
You can read our November 2012 edition newsletter here.
Do write to us with your feedback on the newsletter. We would love to hear it !!
Come Saturday morning and all the locations wore a festive look. Shamiyana, music, colorful festoons created the perfect atmosphere for the Habba to begin. The event started off with a brief welcome to the children, parents, teachers, SDMC members, volunteers and department officials. Soon, teams were formed with each team consisting of a volunteer, teacher and an Akshara librarian. Each such team would coordinate the Habba in each class. It took a while for volunteers and teachers to gently persuade parents to tell stories to their children. Soon we saw the whole group interacting well with each other to decide on the story and started building different components of the selected stories using LEGO blocks. In a lot of instances, it was so heartwarming to see parents and their children guiding each other and joining hands to build models together.
After 70 minutes, the outcome was astonishing and satisfying. In front of us, there were highly creative models. Beautiful LEGO models told us stories of ‘Simha Mathu Mola’, ‘Mangoose kills the snake’, ‘Monkey and the Crocodile’, ‘Punyakoti’, ‘Onake Obavva’ and many more..
The models were then displayed and one could see parents beaming with pride. One parent told us that so far, no one had invited them to the school to play. This event helped them to know their child better as they were unaware of their child’s talent. For once, they could interact well with teachers for a reason other than academics.
The Cluster Resource Person from the Education department Mr. Govindappa, who participated in Siddapura said,”It was a very well organized event. By looking at the LEGO bricks, I was half-tempted to join the children (which I did too) and play with them. And I was surprised with the presence of Parents for such a long period. They are not willing to get back home. So, I thank Akshara Foundation team, and all the Volunteers and School Staff for such a fabulous event.”
The event concluded with the distribution of gifts and snacks to all children. Each school was also gifted with a LEGO box.
Overall, the Habba, as the name suggests was like a Habba in the School, and was powerful enough to pull along parents, teachers, children and volunteers to come together to celebrate creativity !! We hope, this Habba is a gateway for better involvement of the parents in their child’s education and will initiative the demand for quality education in the future.
Arvind Venkatadri, Head of Akshara’s library program, participated in the Habba in the GKHPS Handenahalli. Below Arvind shares his joyous experiences of the Habba.
” I reached Handenahalli at 9:10 AM, well in advance of the start time of the Habba, planned for 1130. I was immediately impressed by the level of preparation by the HM, Shri Bhaskar and his staff: a very colorful shamiyana was already up, the LEGO Habba banner was flapping in the breeze over the main gate of the school and the HM’s voice could he heard testing their PA system! The ground was spruce and clean and very soon I spotted Akshara’s Librarians, all smartly dressed for the occasion: Deepa, who works from this school and her colleagues Renuka, Pushpa, BhagyaJyothi, Lakshmi, Manjula and Pankaja from other schools in Anekal Block.
The SDMC members arrived and so did teachers from the neighbouring schools, Bikkanahalli, Sollepura and Kotaganahalli; I recognized and was greeted by Shri Lakshmipathi of Bikkanahalli. For this Habba, we were expecting a whole bunch of volunteers from the Inventure Academy, an International School located near Dommasandra. Lavanya Vimala, a teacher at Inventure, called me to tell me they were on the way and soon enough the Inventure bus came rolling to the gate of the school. They were greeted by Shri Bhaskar and welcomed to the Habba. There were some students of Inventure and some parents as well, who were curious to see what this Lego Habba was all about. One of them, Anjana, started a very detailed shooting of the entire event, complete with interviews of participants. By that time a good few parents had also gathered, some grandparents too and were engaged in charming conversations with the Librarians.
We quickly briefed them as to the plan; Prabha from Inventure agreed to be the compere and took charge at once. She kicked off the Habba by welcoming the assembled parents and the staff members of the neighbouring schools and the SDMC members. She gave a lovely introduction to the Theme of the Habba, “The Land of Stories”. Everybody was excited with the prospect of making Lego models to show off their stories. The children came streaming out of the classes to take their parents there; the teachers quickly took charge, along with atleast one volunteer from the Inventure group. Soon there were keen discussions in many of the classrooms: Children telling ” ajji” to decide on a good story and in some cases, children telling stories to the adults and exhorting them to adopt these as their story for the Habba. The volunteers helped create some wonderful talk: Prabha was very effervescent, as were many of of the other teachers. The Inventure Children sprang their own surprise: they had brought charts and banners of their own, handmade, which they decked up in the classrooms and also on the central stage in the courtyard.
The stories were decided upon fairly quickly: the Thirsty Crow, the Rabbit and the Lion, from the Panchatantra and The Village Fair, a popular story in our Libraries. People decided upon how to build the stories: what creatures to make and what the surroundings were like and of course, deciding on the main event to depict. The Akshara Librarians then brought in the buckets full of Lego and upturned them on the floor. The surprise and utter delight on the childrens’ faces was a joy to behold, and they cheered as they dug in to get hold of the pieces they needed. The volunteers helped some of the shy adults to come out of their shells and make the models; the Inventure students thoroughly mixed with the children here and helped create some intricate models.
Soon it was time to bring out the Story Models and display them on the stage. Librarian Manjula had drawn up areas on the stage where each class would arrange its Story Model.
They were astonishing, the models. The Lion was a sheer delight, with mane and tail, as was the reflection of the lion in the water inside the well. The trees in the forest had been made with a lot of care, and foliage looked very real. The Crow looked very good too, cocky and street-smart. The Village Fair was full of detailed pieces: a merry-go-round, dancers, shops, games, even a mobile tower near the village. Prabha invited children from each class to present their story; each story was cheered by the closely pressed group. Parents delighted in the attention their wards were getting; I also met parents from the nearby anganawadi who had come in to find out what was going on.
Finally, it was time to wind up the show. Prabha made the children cheer when she announced that there were gifts for everyone. The children quickly lined up in a crocodile as they streamed towards the gate. Akshara Librarians smilingly handed out goodies and snacks to each child, from both Schools. Some tiny tots from the anganawadi came up timidly asked for the biscuits too and gleefully accepted the gifts.
It was deeply satisfying. The Children, the Parents,the Teachers and the Volunteers: it was just perfect. I think we will see similar efforts being made by th Govt School teachers themselves at other places, on their own. That will surely make the future Open School Days in Govt Schools a very different and noisy affair !! “