Dasara Camps at Kushtagi


The Kustagi team conducted twenty camps during the Dasara holidays with the help of 83 trained volunteers, reaching 1,052 children of 3rd to 8th standard at twenty villages. Excellent support was drawn from the community, schools, the officials of the Education department and the media. The team planted 324 plants during the six camps. The camps were conducted at zero cost, however, the community and the schools helped raise Rs.2, 34,710 in cash and kind.

Preparations from the camps:
The BEO, BRC and the nodal person for Akshara activities Mr.Sharnappa Nagoor and the BRP were informed about the camps requesting them to provide a room and the support from the school authority while conducting the camps.

Based on the experiences of summer camps, the team selected five volunteers from the field. Most of these volunteers have completed D.Ed, while some are pursuing graduation and some others studying at the Pre-University College.

Twenty villages were identified and finalized for the camps. Letters were sent to all the Head masters/mistress by the Block Resource Coordinator (BRC) to support the team while the camps were going on. The CRPs were made in charge for the camps and the donors were identified.

Training for the volunteers:
One day training for 83 volunteers in two batches was held on 7th and 8th of October-13 by the District and Taluka coordinators. A brief introduction about Akshara Foundation and the work done in the Kustagi block was given. To break the ice the volunteers were made to play memory games. Further information about ASER, tree game along with tips were given to the volunteers. They were also told in detail about the street play on the awareness of education. Competitions like pick and speak and construction of different themes out of Lego bricks was done to give the volunteers a fair idea about the same to be held during the habba.
   
Camps:
The volunteers and the cluster facilitators led the children in a PRABHATPERI shouting the slogans related to education in the entire village, which attracted the attention of the community people towards the camps. The Head master and SDMC shared the responsibility in arranging the inaugural function in the school premises. SDMC president, Gram Panchayat President/members, leaders of the village, the Cluster Resource person, the school Head master/mistress and invited guests were present at the inaugural function.


Special invitee for the inaugural function:
Katapur is a village which belongs to Hanumasagr, Kustagi block. The camp was conducted at HPS Katapuras as per the request made by the Head master and the community.  Mrs. Netravathi Patil, Police Sub Inspector for Hanumasagar was invited to inaugurate the camp. She addressed all the children and said to dream big. She also appealed to the parents to send their children to school regularly. She specifically emphasized on educating the girl child and abolishing the practice of child marriage. The PSI spent her time until the lunch break and observed the activities done in the camps. She was all praises for Akshara and thanked for taking up such an effort to make the children happy.

Activities for three days:

Activites like memory game, fun games, making the village map with the help of the volunteers, constructing the Lego models using the Lego kit, some outdoor games and rhymes and action songs were conducted which not only kept the kids in the classes but also engaged them creatively. Competitions like pick and speak, drawing, English and Math quiz, musical chair and language game brought healthy competition between each group.

The children practiced street play, drama and a variety of cultural activities to entertain their parents and the community in the evening. Special activities like making flower bouquets, rangoli competition for children & the women, the dance and drama by the youth, planting the trees were the main attraction during the camps.

Feed back by the children:
Savitha Hiremath from 7th standard says, “I am the eldest daughter at home and have to always help my mother at home as well as in the field. I convinced my parents and attended the camp. I was elated to be a part of this camp, it was a different world for me which I had never dreamt of. These three days of the camp has gifted me a new life. I will study well and make sure to be useful to the society”.
“I watch the quiz competition on the TV. But I literally faced it in the camp. I liked the quiz competition”. Says, Shivkumar Gadad from 6th standard.
“All this while I was just studying without any goal, but the Doctor (invited resource person) made me dream and told me how to reach the goal” expressed Akshatha Jigeri from 8th standard.
ASER Results:
Conducting ASER test to all the children who participated in the camps was the major  task given to the Akshara team. The test was conducted using the ASER tool which includes Reading ,basic Math and English. Of 1,052 students, 1,001 attended for the ASER test.

The results showed that, 18% of the children are able to read the sentences and 42% of the children can read the story. 26% of the children could do the subtraction and 14% could do division while 16% of the children are unable to identify, 1-9 numbers yet. 24% of the children could read capital letters in English and 36% of them could read the small letters. 26% children could read simple words.


Community gathering:
 Community involvement could be seen almost every day during the camps. On day 1, the community was invited for the inaugural function, on the second day the community gathered after 7 PM to watch their children perform at the cultural programme and to listen to the message by the guests. Similarly, all were present on last day of the camp for the valedictory function.

A huge chunk of people gathered for the cultural program. It was a good platform to address the community. Dist coordinator, Taluka coordinator, the CRPs, HMs, SDMC President and the Gram Panchayat President /members spoke about the significance of education and requested the parents to send their children regularly to the schools. The children staged a drama on Child marriage, Drop out school children in order to spread the awareness. It was an effective message for the parents and the community by their children.      
                                                                         
Excellent participation of schools and communities:
The camps conducted at Shiragumpi, Ganganal, Nerebenchi, Kadekoppa, Hulsgara, K.Boduru were memorable ones. The participation of the youth, community, the parents, the Head master, the CRPs and the school teachers was highly commendable. The camps seemed like a festival in their villages. The SDMC and Gram Panchayat, took a vow to regularly send their children to schools and  help them to dream high. Many parents expressed that, they will strive hard to fulfill the dreams of their children. 324 plants were distributed and planted during the camps in these schools.
Community feedback:
“Camps like this really helps improve the overall development of the children, such camps should often be held, and we will support and carry on the camps in our village”.                Says,  Mr.Hanmanthpppa Kodagali the SDMC President.

Mr.Sangappa Gorebal the retired teacher of Bodur expressed that many people gather for the political issues and village festivals. But for the first time in his life, he has seen people gathering for the purpose of education. He had seen the camps in urban places but had not witnessed such an innovative camp which strived towards community awareness. He thanked and applauded Akshara Foundation for the initiation. He  was one of the donors for the camp.
Mr. Neelappa Chavan the President of Gram Panchayat of Kyadiguppa opined that, “ It is a good plat form to bring out children’s talent. We the committee will add this plan in our agenda and conduct the camp with help of the school teachers and volunteers”.

Feedback from the CRPs and School Head Masters:
Head Master Mr. Prabhakar Vijapur from Bodur said, “ Akshara Foundation has done some wonderful work for the Department. Whenever we call the parents they never turn up but through this camp almost all the people turned up. It is a good effort to spread the message of importance of education. The competitions like, quiz, language game, tree game and memory game will be continued to be conducted in my school, Thanks to Akshara”.
A Head master from Gangnal says,“We have seen the children attending camps in cities and town but this time many of our village children are the beneficiaries. Thanks to the volunteers and Akshara for the effort”.  
Mr.Nataraj the CRP of Bodur cluster said that, he has seen many organizations working in his service but never seen such activities and the concern towards the children and the community. Akshara’s systematic approach towards with education is appreciable.

Feedback from the volunteers:

  • Balanagowda Patil from Gangnal says,” I attended the volunteers training in Kustagi block just to kill the time. The talent of the children seen on and off the stage has made me speechless. The concern, selfless effort of Akshara Foundation is praise worthy. I have felt the joy of giving my time and gained a lot for my life”.
  • Mr.Kumar G from Amaravathi, says,“ I had heard of such camps happening in the towns and cities. But Akshara brought this to our village and I am proud to be a part and lead the  camp. It is one of the successful programme for the children and the community”.
  • Mr.Nirupadi from Kalamalli village views, “The camps organized by Akshara Foundation  made the children happy  and also brought about awareness among the people of the village. The drama presented by the children was an effective message to the parents”.  
  • I have come to know the learning levels of the children of my village through ASER test. I have learnt the names of many trees through the Tree game. I drew the map of my village. Lego was a wonderful kit for the children. I learnt how to conduct the camps in my village”. Says, Yamanoorappa Bandihal from Nidasheshi village. 

Experience shared by the Cluster facilitators:
“It was a wonderful experience to organize the camps, but with the help of the community I learnt to organize function, gained the confidence of the people and faced the media” Says Mr.Sangappa.
Mr.Manjunath gladly says: “The experience of the summer camp gave me a lot of confidence. Both the camps have given me a high satisfaction. My hard work can be seen in the village. Everyone in the village recognizes me”.
Ms.Shailaja says, “I can deal and organize any program related to education in the community. I have gained a lot of confidence by this camp”.
“Initially, I was not confident about myself, I spent sleepless nights but now, I feel that, everything is possible if there is a will” explains newly joined CF Mr.Doddappa.
Mr.Shivappa adds, “I was suffering from inferiority complex but through these camps all my doubts have vanished”.
Mrs.Akkamahadevi asserts: “These two camps have added to my confidence level when to summer camps”.
Mr.Sharanappa shares, “Everything is possible if we go with the good will”.
Mr.Doddangowda says,”I have learnt how to communicate and organize the events with full confidence.
Once again, I feel proud to say that, I am a block facilitator of Kustagi block for Akshara Foundation. The camps have thrown the light on the block and many officers, the teachers and the people recognize me. I have put in my best efforts at the camps” opines, Mr.Umesh Meli the ‘Taluka Facilitator’.

Conclusion:
Akshara Foundation team in Kustagi, with many experiences has been able to successfully conduct twenty ‘Educational camps. Through these camps, we have brought a smile on 1,052 children. The village map, Tree game, ASER, street play, Drawing and Quiz competitions, Lego, Outdoor and Indoor games, Action songs and many other activities have retained in the young minds of the children. The cultural activities performed by the children and the youth, Rangoli competitions for the women in the village were interesting to note. All these showed the participation of people. Approach in the community, the support of the volunteers, school HM, CRPs, people of the community has doubled the confidence of all the CFs. 

Dasara Camps

The operations teams at Akshara had a crowded schedule in September. It was hectic and fulfilling. So much to do, in the short span of the Dussehra-Ramzan holidays. The Makkala Habbas, or children’s festivals, they organised in the four Blocks of Hoskote, Devanahalli, Kushtagi and Mundargi called for a heightened efficiency.

The teams selected 12 villages in Hoskote Block, 2 in Devanahalli Block, 20 in Kushtagi Block and 10 in Mundargi Block for the Habbas.

In September, Makkala Habbas took place in: 9 villages in Hoskote Block, 1 village in Devanahalli Block, 10 villages in Kushtagi Block and 5 villages in Mundargi Block. The rest of them were scheduled during early October.

The Habbas were three-day festivals at each location, and the details that had to do be dealt with were huge; every minute aspect to be attended to. Everything had to fall into neatly programmed slots and then emerge as a choreographed whole on the day of the Habba in each of these villages.

All stakeholders had to be contacted in person and their involvement and support secured. They included parents, school managements, youth groups, gram panchayats, community based organisations and self-help groups. And children, who needed no persuasion.

A timetable was drawn up for the three days, and the list of items to be organised tackled.  Habba schedules; donor support; logistics and preparation; themes for children’s activities and talent shows; the inauguration, the closing ceremony; the topics for guest speakers; community programmes like cultural activities focussing on education, discussions and exchange of ideas;  invitation cards, advertisements, the media’s presence, public announcements of the Habbas in villages. It required planning at an acute level.


Makkala Habbas – The Objectives

Makkala Habbas were community education festivals that took a leaf out of the successful summer camps held in the Blocks in April-May. Each of them was organised as a single, stand-alone event. There was the underlying purpose that gave them commonality, as did the sequence of activities. The template was broadly the same, but every Makkala Habba turned out to be different, with its own stamp.

The objectives were: to raise awareness in the community about the school system and their role in it; provide children with learning opportunities, a space to explore their talents and get them to use their holidays in an effective way; make parents aware of their children’s learning; and enlist the involvement of local youth in primary education in their villages.


The Activities


There was a lot that happened for children at the Habbas – challenging games like the play tree, memory game, pick and speak; drawing a village map, quiz competitions; an ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) test to determine competence in Mathematics and English; craft, drawing and painting; village processions highlighting the importance of education; guest lectures; a tree planting drive; song and story; and inspirational moments. The community participated with great enthusiasm, contributing effort and resources.

The Back-End Operations – Training and Community Meetings

The back-end operations for Makkala Habbas began with the training of volunteers and community meetings.

Fifty eight youth volunteers were trained in Hoskote and Devanahalli Blocks; 96 in Kushtagi Block and 52 in Mundargi Block. They led the Habbas, took charge of the process, coordinated with the community, managed the children, all the fun and the learning, and ensured the smooth progression of activities. They were participants as well, in the skits on education at sundown, and in all that transpired those three days.

The Hoskote team went about preparing for the Habbas systematically, conducting 17 community meetings in September. They were energising forums for people’s participation.

The thrust of the team’s communication to village communities was to take part in education with the conviction that it can be the change-maker their children need. Though the meetings were called explicitly to canvas support for Makkala Habbas, the team never stopped reiterating this message and exhorted parents to involve themselves more forcefully in their children’s education, find out about their learning outcomes, build a stake in schools, propel School Development Monitoring Committees (SDMCs) to address school issues and be a force for change.

The topic of Makkala Habbas nudged to the centre of the meetings and the team shared with the community the vision and purpose behind them, the list of activities they had organised, and told them how, with their cooperation and support, the festivals could become enshrined as biannual events in their calendar. Providing learning-enrichment in interesting dimensions for children during the holidays, and an opportunity for parents and the community to engage more constructively with education.

Dussehra Camp at Karapanahalli

Samitha Manoharan from Target shares her experience at the Dusshera Camp held at Karapanahalli. 


It all started with an invite from Akshara “3-day Dussehra Camp for children in various villages in Hoskote”.  That piqued my interest; especially as it came from one of Target’s partner NGOs.  
I reached Hoskote bright and early on Oct 19th, and called Srinivas-the coordinator for Hoskotetaluk.  He had very kindly volunteered to escort me to one of the villages where the camp was to be held.  He handed over some chart paper and other camp paraphernalia in a large bag along with a big bunch of roses.  I was mystified!!

The mystery was soon to be revealed.  Travelling along some sylvan green fields, I soon discovered that roses were abundantly grown in Hoskote!!  We reached the government school and were warmly welcomed by both the children and the other volunteers.  Excitement pulsed in the air as the children, along with their parents, impatiently waited for what was in store for them.  We soon had the village dignitaries kick off the program with a traditional lighting of the lamp and a soulfully rendered invocation by the school kids.  There were inspiring speeches by the village dignitaries, Akshara representatives as well as the school Head Mistress.

The children were divided into groups and given names of famous Indian personalities like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru etc.  The day’s events included a game to list the maximum number of trees followed by creation of the village map by the different teams.  The village nurse was also invited to give a talk on good nutrition and hygienic practices and the children listened with rapt attention.  This was then followed by a highly competitive LEGO session where each team tried to outdo the other in terms of creativity as well as in the height of their creations.  There were a lot of oohs and aahs along with groans of dismay when the creations crashed; but they were soon rebuilt to their towering proportions by the enthusiastic children.  The day’s events were brought to an end with an energizing game of musical chairs.

Day two was kicked off by a drawing competition for the tiny tots whose creations soon began to adorn the school walls!  This was followed by a closely fought quiz completion which also included brain teasers and mental math.  The children sailed through this session and tie breakers were needed to be able to judge the best team!

After the grey cells had been exercised enough,  it was time to settle down for some testing on language and math skills.  The ASER test was administered to the school children by the volunteers who had previously been trained by Akshara.  Post lunch, excitement again ran high.  The children had caught sight of the many saplings that had been transported to their school all the way from Anekal.  They were to be planted around the school that very evening!  The school children were to be entrusted with the task of safeguarding the  trees until they had had the chance to grow and flourish.  The evening session, was dedicated to Shram Dan, where the volunteers went around the village talking to its occupants about the importance of keeping their surroundings clean.   The volunteers were cleaning up the area as they talked, hence reinforcing the message.

All in all it was a wonderful experience of village life and a wonderful opportunity to interact with its most interesting occupants-its bright children!!

The Tree game, a Guest Lecture by the village nurse,Village Map, Lego, Musical Chair, Drawing, Quiz and brain teasers, ASER test, Tree planting and Shramdan-cleaning up the village were the highlights of this Dusshera Camp. 

The ASER Report 2012

A kid answering the evaluation test


The ASER 2012 report is out and like every year the ASER centre has made use of simple yet effective methods and techniques to bring out the outcomes of the social sector programs. In simpler terms, the ASER Centre works towards evaluating the basic skills in reading and arithmetic acquired by the children across urban and rural India.

 While the ASER Centre makes sure to see that the money got is channelled into social sector programs like education, health, nutrition, and livelihoods, among others. Lack of information on how these investments often translate into outcomes on the ground is a major barrier to evaluating their effectiveness and determining whether money is being well spent.

The ASER Centre approach has its roots in Pratham’s work across urban and rural India to help children acquire basic skills in reading and arithmetic. ASER Centre was established as an autonomous unit within the Pratham network in 2008 and have been going strong ever since.

According to ASER reports 2012

·        Enrolment in the 6-14 age groups continues to be very high. But the proportion of out of school children has increased, especially among girls in the age group of 11 to 14.

·         Private school enrolment continues to rise in almost all states.

·         Reading levels continue to be a cause for serious concern. More than half of all children in Std. V are at least three grade levels behind where they should be.

·         2012 was the year of Mathematics. But it has been a bad year for basic arithmetic for children in India barring Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.

·         ASER 2012 assessed Basic English by giving the children English reading and comprehension tasks. Of those who could read words or sentences, well above 60% could convey the meaning in their own language.

·         Private inputs into children’s education, such as private schooling and private tutoring, are widespread. Their influence on children’s learning outcomes is substantial.


·        School facilities have shown improvement over time.

According to the ASER 2012 findings in Karnataka

Increase in the percentage of students who were present on the day of the visit.
The number of students from class 1-4 who were present on the day of the visit has increased from 81.7% in 2010 to 89.1% in 2012. Additionally, the number of students from class 7 and 8 who were present on the day of the visit increased from 70.9% in 2010 to 83.1% in 2012.

Slight decrease in the percentage in the Teacher-student ratio
The student teacher ratio percentage decreased from 69.4% in 2010 to 66.9% in 2012.

Slight increase in the percentage in the Class and teacher ratio
The Class and Teacher ratio percentage increased from 82.8% in 2010 to 83.2 in 2012.

Increase in the percentage in the access versus usage of toilets for female students.

Decrease in the percentage in the access versus usage of libraries.

Read the complete ASER 2012 report here.
Read the ASER 2012 report for Karnataka here.

Creative solutions for RTE challenges

The fanfare around the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE Act) is dissipating. Soon the reality will hit as the Act has to become ‘operational’. The powers that be are yet to ascertain the exact modalities of how this will work — the resources, the monitoring and tracking, the exact role of the private schools and a multitude of other issues.

Now is the time to take stock of the landscape and see what can strengthen the implementation of the Act.  Equally important is to be cognizant of the challenges that come with this ambitious goal and pre-empt some, if not all of them.

Enabling factors
There is no dearth of innovations in the education sector and many of these can address systemic gaps. Social entrepreneurs behind these innovations have demon-strated that these can work not just in small settings but even when taken to scale.

A time-tested example is what Rama and Padmanabha Rao have developed through the RIVER (Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources) project.  As we know, most rural schools are single-teacher schools and have no choice but to take up multi-grade teaching, thus limiting a child’s ability to learn well.  RIVER has been able to re-design the teaching methodology so that single teachers who are teaching different grades at once are able to do it effectively.  Their success has already been demonstrated in 75,000 schools that are using this model in 13 different languages, and nearly 1,20,000 teachers have been trained to use this approach.  Beyond this, the Raos have been able to help develop teaching materials involving the local communities.  This makes it low-cost and the children can easily relate to them.  All this put together has addressed issues of teacher and student absenteeism, made learning a joy and filled the disconnect between schools and communities.

There are many such innovations, which when coupled with the existing infrastructure, can do wonders.  Technology can play a pivotal role too — empowering teachers and students alike.  An extensive mapping of these innovations and integrating the truly promising ones into the mainstream is the need of the hour. 

Quality and metrics
Efforts like Read India, undertaken by Pratham, emphasize quality and not just the number of children in school. Tracking and monitoring results is integral to the success of what the Act hopes to accomplish.  Pratham is also behind the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) in order to assess the national success:  the numbers as well as the quality of education attained by the children.  ASER has served as the proverbial mirror revealing what has worked well and what has not — including the geographic disparities.  Pratham also conducts bridge schools for children who are out of school to prepare them to re-enter mainstream schools.

Porous system
Then there is the issue of those children who fall through the cracks despite the best of intentions of all stakeholders. A case in point is children of migrant labourers.  Millions of poor rural Indians migrate from their villages in search of work for up to 8 months every year. They work in brick kilns, sugarcane plantations, salt pans and other labour-intense sectors to provide for their families. Typically, their children migrate with them.  Such migration usually results in these children dropping out of school at a very young age and starting work, often under hazardous conditions.  The LAMP (Learning and Migration Program),run by the American India Foundation, reaches out to these communities and their children and ensures that they have access to education.  Children can stay back in seasonal hostels in their native villages and continue to learn or attend site schools where their parents end up working.
 
Lessons to learn
While it is a totally different issue, there are some interesting parallels with another major Act passed recently to deliver another social good — employment.  The NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has had mixed results.   While some states have been able to access close to 50 per cent of funds available under NREGA, other states have used less than 10 per cent of the funds. RTE could go the NREGA way if not handled well.

There are voices of dissonance being heard in the context of resources.  On whom does the burden lie?  The centre or the state?  What kind of micro-planning is needed?  For resources to be allocated, village level planning is needed and aggregated information from villages has to flow upward for allocation of funds.  How realistic is this and how will this be executed?

Teacher recruitment
The challenges are many and being cognizant of them is the first step.  The Act has not mapped out a plan to address the gap in the number and quality of teachers. Large numbers of teachers must be recruited instantly, trained and retrained adequately, placed rapidly and monitored regularly.  Partnerships with private schools can help with setting up such training facilities. The second challenge is incorporating the voice of the marginalised communities in the resource allocation process.

Many of these people are illiterate themselves and therefore unaware of policy changes and unable to comprehend their rights.  The government must take steps that include these communities and the civil society must provide a platform for them to be heard.  Social awareness is what will close the final gap.  Many communities do not see this as an investment in their children’s future.  ‘If my child is going to eventually work in the fields, what is the use of years of being in school?’  This is the question posed by many remote rural communities.  Other stigma and challenges need to be addressed — such as keeping the girl child in school.

The key is for the government not to reinvent the wheel, but to form partnerships with the stakeholders to replicate, build on and scale up models that work to overcome some of the challenges.

As one leading educationist in the country put it, ‘Stratospheric debates on education and RTE alone are not enough’.  Governments, philanthropists, the citizen sector, businesses — all have a major role in enabling India achieve its educational success.  It will take lots of resources and many creative solutions to ensure that the children are actually able to exercise their right that the Constitution of India has now handed them.

Source : Deccan Herald