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.
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.