Punjab Education Dept. visit Karnataka for Knowledge Sharing

One of the key tenets of Akshara Foundation’s work in primary education is sharing – all our projects, be it KLP or Together We Can stand on our willingness to share. In one such effort, we spent two days with officials from Punjab Education Department (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan & SCERT) and Sampark Foundation sharing our teaching methodology, training mechanisms, assessment guides and teaching-learning material, for their consideration for replication in Punjab.
Team from Punjab education department
inspecting a math class
Sampark Foundation has been working with the Punjab Education Department helping primary schools deliver better education for school children. While considering support for English learning, Sampark visited Karnataka to see Akshara’s successfully functioning model. 
On Wednesday, the 5th of March 2014, Mr. Satwant Singh – Pravesh, SSA, Mr. Kanwaldeep Singh – ASPD Teacher Training, Darshan Singh – Pravesh Dist. Coordinator – Sangrur and Ms. Baljeet Kaur – English Subject Expert – SCERT, Venkatesh Malur and Sandeep Chauhan from Sampark Foundation came to Akshara Foundation. With special focus on our swalpa English Thumba fun programme, Kanchan Bannerjee of Akshara Foundation made a presentation and demonstrated our English kit which is used by Primary School teachers as supplementary material to help better learning.
Learning material in a nail-kali class
To see our work in action, we set off on a field trip the next day, to visit nearby schools in Hoskote for an interaction with children and teachers to demonstrate our contribution. We first reached the Government Higher Primary School in Sir M. V. Nagar in Hoskote to meet Esther Rani and her class. Esther’s nali-kali class of 1st to 3rd standard students demonstrated incredible reading ability. 
Singing English rhymes, reading long sentences, recognizing names of animals and things, the class set a positive tone for the visitors. The enthusiasm in the classroom was bountiful and all students were eager to demonstrate their English skills which was a joy to experience. The team visited two more primary schools in Banamakanahalli and Marasandahalli with around 30 children each and saw the program in action. The children in all the three schools were very eager to show off their English skills and were able to recite rhymes, read out stories and speak out a few sentences. The teachers were making a difference since they had been able to take out their fear of English through the training and practice.
Team from Punjab education department
inspecting a reading lesson
From there, we went to a remote school, rather far from public transport connectivity, with pre-school, primary and higher primary classes. Here was a quick demonstration of our Math kit, which helps children learn through experience. From there, we visited another school close by for a good sample, before we walked off to meet the Block Education Officer. 
Hoskote is among the districts identified as backward in parameters of quality education, with the education department working consistently to make the situation better. The Block Education Officer discussed with his contemporaries from a different state, issues of training and management. The officials see the fruits of the English program and have made provision for refresher training of teachers without a budget allocation since it is helpful to teachers and children.
Students from Akshara supported schools demonstrating English reading and math comprehension ability.
The Education Department from Punjab takes back with them Akshara’s know-how and experiences from the ground illustrating the impact of the work we’ve done. There is, of course, a long way to go – further meetings, conversations and plans – before this is implemented in Punjab as a demonstration project. Until then, let’s work harder and share more.
With inputs from and pictures courtesy of Venkatesh Malur from Sampark Foundation.

Do Not Judge them by their Appearances

Monalisa Hota from our Research team shares an interesting anecdote with us.

I visited this school in the Boodegere Cluster during one of my routine visits for supervision of RCT (Randomised Control Trial) Assessment Tests being carried out by our (Akshara Foundation’s) Field Coordinators. This school was a Control school, meaning that Akshara Foundation does not support this school with training and learning materials. The first impression I got of the school was due to its dilapidated pathways within its premises; these were laid with large sharp stones all over the front of the first building which made walking painful and, I should say, wobbly. Walking around this Higher Primary School, one could see a lot of open space waiting to be beautified and utilized for sports, games and gardening. As we approached the classes, it got worse; the classes and corridors seemed as though they have never been swept before; the toilets stank and so did the classrooms situated next to them; and the children were dirty from head to toe with the dust that stuck to their feet and clothes from the floor. Despite these indicators, there was something that felt right about this school. The teachers came across as confident and were found capable of handling a class of about 20-30 kids; and more surprisingly, the children, especially that of standard 4, were all bright eyed and bushy tailed…. brimming with confidence and mischief.

We got a chance to dig a bit further as this standard 4 was not being monitored by any teacher and we were needed to keep them from disturbing the data collector (who sat outside this class testing children). So, we tried to keep them engaged and entertained in ways that we could. We started with performances and the girls came forward to present their group songs followed by solo performances by some boys. They seemed fully in control of their actions and were very entertaining too, despite bantering from an overzealous audience. Surprisingly, there were not just one or two but many children willing to come forward and perform.

The performers!

Once this was over, suddenly one boy’s curiosity spread across the entire class and I found all of their eyes on me. Until then, I was quietly enjoying their performances and interactions. In no time, they surrounded us and started asking my name: nimma hesara yenu, miss? then switching to Hindi- aapka naam kya hai, miss? I quietly looked at all of them and then asked them to ‘guess’. They misunderstood and thought that I am asking them to GIVE me a name. Names started pouring out as I was given a range of names ….Shanta, Savitri, Anuradha …While they excitedly brainstormed, I fumbled to find an expression for ‘guess’! Could not find the word then (but on asking around later on, I found its meaning is close to an Urdu word andaaza). Anyhow, they gave up and started asking my name again. So, Shreedevi intervened with some clues to keep the game going. Clue #1: World-famous lady: Response= Indira Gandhi. I did not see that coming!; Clue #2: Starts with ‘mo’ and has four characters (in Kannada of course); Clue #3: Ends in ‘sa’. Seriously thinking by now, they were taken to the board where she wrote ‘mo’ followed by two blanks followed by ‘sa’. Amidst all that noise that did not sound anywhere closer to the name, I heard it.


It was a little girl’s voice who got shy as I spotted her. She had got it right and that was mighty impressive!! Well done! All of us praised her by applauding and I (ritualistically) took her picture. The quiz ended there (I was happy to see my name find its place in something more useful than just causing raised eye-brows and you-are-kidding expressions). Next time, may be I would carry a picture of the painting itself so they’d have something more to associate it with. Finally, we decided to just quickly see if they could read from their own text book; there was no child who could not read from the Kannada book they were asked to read from. As we left them to read among themselves, I could not help but notice what a lively mix of mischief, discipline and intelligence there was in that class. I no longer got distracted by the unpaved bumpy pathway and wondered what was working there.
Appearances are deceptive: an old adage got re-inforced (once again) by this visit.

Field Experiences in Kushtagi

In a relentless effort to monitor and propel the programmes, Akshara’s resource group and field teams are checking on progress and learning achievements and also capturing experiences from Hoskote, Devanahalli, Kushtagi and Mundargi Blocks. In Kushtagi, where stumbling blocks have been more in evidence. Delays in training have impeded the programmes in this Block, and yet, there are outstanding examples of teachers striving ahead, regardless.

  1. There is a method to monitoring. Schools where the programmes are running are classified as ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. It is an internal Akshara ranking that helps distinguish between quality schools and poorly performing ones.  
  2. ‘A’ grade schools usually have bright children fighting competitively to answer questions the visiting Akshara teams ask them. They are smart, not to be outwitted by what they do not know, quickly clearing doubts and carrying on. 
  3. In ‘B’ and ‘C’ schools there is markedly less enthusiasm. In the former, children have seen the Akshara teaching-learning material and know how to use it, but need practice before they can become competent. In ‘C’ grade schools children have seen the TLM, but are not aware how to operate it. The method eludes them.

It is difficult for visiting teams to ask teachers directly if they are following the programme methodologies. It would seem like an affront, a doubt cast on credibility. Akshara teams take up the TLM with the children instead and estimate what they have been taught, and how.

The CRP, An Active Promoter

The resource group from Bangalore visited 13 schools in Kushtagi Block. The 3 Urdu medium schools among them were non-starters – the programmes have not moved. The excuse was that training was delayed. But the 10 Kannada medium schools of ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ grades were more invested in the programmes, teachers taking them forward despite the tardiness and, sometimes, the lack of training.

The Cluster Resource Person (CRP) of the Hiregonnagara cluster is an active promoter of the programmes. At the Samalochana Sabhe Saranabasiah Kolli organises every month for the teachers under his watch, he tells them that the English and Mathematics programmes are good, that they will not experience any difficulty if they follow the Akshara TLM. It will be so easy, he tells them.

An Inspired English Teacher

At the Government Kannada Higher Primary School (GKHPS), Habalakatti, the resource group was in for some big experiences. It has 298 children and classes from Std. I to VIII. SaranabasiahKolli was there telling the team that he was getting a definite sense of the programmes benefitting children. Mainly because of an inspired Std. IV English teacher who is a Master Resource Person chosen by the Department of Education for his proficiency, and trained by Akshara.
The children engaged the resource group in conversation by asking them their names. They could identify the parts of the body and point to their functions and rattled off fluently the names of twenty six vegetables, all in English. They even made sentences with them.  The results are obvious, the resource group says. The children are gaining a foothold in English.

A Motivated Mathematics Teacher

The resource group came across another inspired teacher at the school – Rajani of Std. IV. She has not received training in Mathematics. The team could not ascertain why and conjecture that perhaps it is because the school feels there is a lead teacher in Santosh, or it is because Rajani was needed as caretaker teacher when the others went for their training. Her attitude, however, was immensely positive. She was not unhappy about it. Akshara’s Mathematics Teacher’s Manual and the TLM are her daily guide in class and SaranabasiahKolli is always motivating her to follow it. Even if no big impact can be seen, the resource group is full of appreciation for her ongoing efforts.

The Resource Group’s Observations

The team’s conclusion is: Though some of the training in Kushtagi Block took place only in December 2012 and January 2013 due to factors beyond Akshara’s control, teachers who are interested and motivated have made significant progress in the relatively short period of a month or two. The syllabus is being covered by linking the TLM to what is being taught. Solutions are being found through the TLM for doubts that arise from textbooks. This breed of teachers says that the programme-prescribed group work is an effective strategy and that children do their work on their own even if they happen to be absent.

From failure to success!

It has been a busy day at the Government Higher Primary School in Hasigalla, Hoskote Block. Akshara’s Makkalu Habba has just ended. It has been an afternoon of excitement, with Mathematics and English tests, way different from the regular class examinations. . It is also the finale when the prizes would be given out before a small crowd of parents, the Block Resource Coordinator (BRC), the Cluster Resource Person (CRP), the School Development Monitoring Committee (SDMC), out in force, the Akshara team and the school’s Headmaster and teachers.

The children sit on mats spread on the ground in tense anticipation of the results. Manasa of Std. VII is in full flow, extending felicitations and a warm welcome to the visitors on behalf of her school. Standing right behind is Aswathamma, class teacher of Std. VI, shadowy but forceful, prompting, gently steering Manasa as her fluent Kannada hits the occasional rough trough. The prizes are announced. The winners are jubilant, the losers crestfallen. Aswathamma picks up the microphone and sends out a consolatory message. “To those children who have not got prizes, do not lose heart. Failure is a stepping stone to success.”

This final note of sympathetic morale-boosting captures Aswathamma’s teacher-personality, Asha as she is fondly called in school, in her village of Hasigalla and by her family. She has this knack of distilling wisdom for an occasion, for a situation, interpreting it for a young generation.

Ashwatamma or Asha as she is popularly known as by everyone has come a long way. From being a shy, jittery 19 year old teacher to a bunch of motley kids at the government school in GubbiTaluk, to a confident and a creative teacher who is every child’s favourite. She has evolved from being a tongue tied to being an effortless teacher. She proudly exclaims teaching has become the easiest thing. Presenting the textbook imaginatively, or exposing the mysteries of science, it is now as easy as the students’ dance performances she helps compose, or her composite morning assembly.

Today at 42 Asha teaches the students with the same grit and determination with which she stepped into this profession. While she tasted failures in the start she has used these failures to build up her success. Mathematics and science are Asha’s subjects. She has a Trained Teachers’ Certificate, which she acquired after her SSLC or Std. VII examinations. Her students have a 60% – and above – success rate in Mathematics. It has been on-the-job, her learning all these twenty one years as a teacher, eighteen of which have been at this school. Asha has a daughter who is doing her BE (Bachelor of Engineering).

 Asha never wanted to teach young children. She had dreams of higher studies and a lecturer’s post in college. Her mother was her support and her inspiration. With a twinkle in her eye she says her mother would have been happy to see her work and make a difference to those many students she has been teaching.

Asha has been the proud recipient of the Department of Education’s Best Teacher Award in 2003-2004. Mahindra & Mahindra, the prominent corporate entity conferred on Asha the Best Teacher Award in recognition of her skills and service. This changed the opinion of many that government school teachers are weak on fundamentals, not qualified or dedicated enough.

Since Asha specialises in Mathematics, The Department of Education has designated her as a Resource Person in Mathematics. Asha says she would like to grow further, expand her knowledge base. She says her professional growth is important, for the sake of her students. But often she has to bow to what the government says.

Asha is the driving force of the morning assembly in school, a format she has choreographed of prayer and moral teachings from the lives of seers and saints. She talks about Swami Vivekananda, about respect, service and good thoughts, bringing elevation down to a level comprehensible to children as they embark into a world of moral erosion.

Her morning assembly has an all-round character. Asha places the Deccan Herald and the Kannada daily, Vijayavani, before the children and one by one they read the headlines. She initiates a discussion on sports events making the news. A special concern is health, and every morning Asha asks the children a question related to health and general knowledge.

Her students – she shares an unbreakable and unshakeable bond with them. She envelops them with warmth and support. Her HM commends her as a “hard worker.” In her community her service to students is on public record. They call her “our daughter.”

Asha is indeed a rallying figure for students. It is obvious as they huddle around her, seeking advice, settling an issue, or debating a point with earnest, open faces. And she motivates them to do their best, to excel, as she prepares them for the dance at the MakkaluHabba, pulling a costume into shape, smoothing a stray strand of hair or powdering someone’s face.  Asha gives her students the freedom to be.

 Last year children passing out of Std. VII celebrated her birthday in grand fashion with a cake and gifts and flowers. Her old students shower her with little gifts during New Year and festivals. An outpour of affection, which brings tears to her eyes as she reminisces and revisits fond memories. The photographs in her mobile are a telling commentary.

She wants her students to do well in whatever in do but she reiterates the point that they must be good human beings first.

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.

Maths becomes fun with Akshara’s Teaching Learning Material (TLM)

A bunch of children engrossed in solving a Math problem

Maths at times can get boring, the numbers can simply add to the extent of numerical monotony. Teaching maths can be a bigger challenge if one doesn’t know the right tactics to teach. A lot of research and studies say that many primary students find it difficult to solve basic maths.  So we decided to change the way we looked at and taught maths.
Our in-school programmes where the Teaching Learning Material (TLM) is being introduced welcomed this concept with cheers and smiles. The Mathematics workbooks distributed to children in the class were designed to bring about group learning. The emphasis was laid on two things namely thinking and doing. Children formed small groups of four and five members with one student taking the lead and charge of the group. The students of fourth and fifth standard were also given notebooks to do the sums.
Kerolina, who teaches Mathematics and English to students from I- IV standard at the Government Kannada Higher Primary School (GKHPS), Kodihalli says with a smile that teaching maths would have been a real difficult task without the Akshara TLM.
In Hoskote, this is the second year of the programme and almost 75% of the teachers depend on Akshara’s methodology and TLM to teach Mathematics. At some schools the TLM methods are used twice or thrice a week, while others prefer to use it on a daily basis. While the Devanhalli block has just begun implementing the TLM routine, they are making candid attempts to adopt the group learning methods and techniques.
The TLM programme has been a huge favourite with both the teachers and the students. The Mathematics Programme has definitely made learning and teaching both a fun experience. Lakshmi, the Headmistress of a school in Doddadunnasandra says she has seen a great deal of improvement in her students who now understand the concepts of mathematics with ease.
What makes the Mathematics Programme even more interesting is the fact that apart from learning it is also helping these children build skills like leadership and teamwork. At a school in Atibele, it was wonderful to see the group leaders manage the Mathematic class when the teacher was absent. Not only did they make sure that there was no chaos but also dutifully did the sums and completed the lesson for the day.
With the TLM, teachers also have taken a step towards innovation. Manjula, a teacher regularly conducts Mathematics quiz in the Nali-kali classes. Students who give the correct answers are rewarded with bonus marks. With innovative teaching methods and equally enthusiastic learning the TLM programme has proved to be a boon.

LEGO Habba begins with a bang..

The LEGO Habba kick-started with a bang on Saturday, 3rd November 2012. The first set of schools to participate were GKHPS Siddapura, GKHPS Handenahalli and GKHPS T.C. Halli.  Around 300 children, 80 parents and 32 volunteers participated in these schools. While employees from Fidelity Information Services organized the Habba in Siddapura, children from Inventure Academy ran the show in Handenahalli and T.C. Halli. The theme revolving around the Habba was “The Land of Stories” and each class had to come up with a model depicting a story using LEGO blocks.

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 !! “

LEGO Habba 2012 : A Community festival in schools

Why a Community Festival?

At Akshara, we create programmes in Government Primary Schools and Pre-Schools (Anganawadi-s), that are intended to help improve educational outcomes at these institutions. Among the aspects of each program is an Outreach to Community, the parents of the children. An involved and engaged parent community helps both children and these institutions do better. A Community Festival is a good way to ensure that Parents and School Staff build a good relationship to ensure that they jointly do the best for the child.

What is the LEGO Habba?

With this intent in mind, Akshara is creating a series of Community Festivals in schools and pre-schools. The festivals, called the LEGO Habba, have been conceived with the aim of having Parents, Teachers and Children engage in a creative LEGO brick activity in school. We believe this Habba will be perceived to be very unusual, curious, and interesting, and should see better participation on part of the parents, as to compared to that during the twice-yearly Open School Day hosted by the Education Department, the SamudaayaDatta Shaaale. Co-located Pre-School staff and the parents of pre-school children are also being invited.

The Habba uses the theme of LEGO model construction wherein Parents, Children, and Teachers are to be invited to play, and create a LEGO model in the school. The Theme of the Habba is entitled “Land of Stories”. Children, their parents and the teachers get together in classrooms, choose a story that is a part of their common cultural memory and decide among themselves how they will depict that story, using LEGO brick-based model construction. The entire Habba lasts for only two hours. In the process of this activity, we believe that the resulting interaction, exchange of views and ideas, and the ensuing conversation will help create a few lasting relationships between parents and school teachers, leading to increased engagement on part of both in the education of their children. The long term benefits of this relationship will surely tell on the children’s learning outcomes in the schools.

The Habba will be witnessed by senior Education Department officials at as many locations. Members from School and Pre-School Monitoring Committees are also being invited. Volunteers from Akshara Donors and Friends are being drafted in to help conduct the Habba at the various locations.

Where is the LEGO Habba?

The LEGO Habba is planned to be held at sixteen Government Primary Schools. The Habba will be held on seven continuous Saturdays, immediately after school hours, starting on the 3rd November 2012 and going up to 15th December, 2012. The list of locations is shown below. The geographical locations of these schools in Bangalore is also shown.
      Schools where LEGO Habba is being conducted
 LEGO Habba location map
Join us and participate in this interesting event to bring together children, parents, teachers and the community to celebrate the creativity of each child !! If you would like to participate, please write to Arvind Venkatadri – arvind@akshara.org.in