Unrelenting Commitment towards Children’s Learning – A Volunteer Story

Akshara Foundation’s work has attracted many people who are strongly passionate about education, and who want to make a similar difference in their hometowns. One such person is Mahesh H, a team leader from G. Hosalli village in Gubbi taluk, Tumkur district, close to the Andhra Pradesh border.

Already a community figure, Mahesh had first heard of Akshara’s Ganitha Kalika Andolan (GKA) kit, and felt it to be very effective as a teaching method. He was very impressed upon reading more about the foundation’s work, and resolved to join it in some capacity. He soon achieved his aim, and set to work with gusto. He would go around distributing the GKA maths kit in schools, and have teachers learn how it worked so that they could use it to teach their students effectively.

He also ramped up Akshara training for teachers in the surrounding villages, believing the foundation’s method of pedagogy to be the best option. Not content in just managing things remotely, Mahesh made it a point to drop in and even take part in training the teachers for at least one session a few hours each week. He would also try to instruct children in schools whenever he could.

As a result, the recruitment of volunteers increased, and Akshara’s reputation grew among the locals.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Mahesh was concerned about the learning loss that children faced during the pandemic and wanted to maximise the amount students could learn in those trying times. He felt the Building Blocks app to be a very effective method to catch up, and worked hard to spread awareness of it. He used a local cable broadcasting network to beam awareness programmes and advertisements about the app into homes in nearby villages.

When the lockdown guidelines were relaxed, he motivated volunteers to personally go to homes and instruct parents and children on what to do to use the app and get the best effects. These incidents show his unrelenting commitment to children’s education.

Mahesh’s determination and strong will makes him a powerful force for education in rural Tumkur. It is the inclusion of such people into our army of Education Volunteers and Team Leads, and their enthusiasm to work that allows our programmes to truly become sustainable movements.

Meet Shreyanka Mally

Spotted this piece on women who work at Mu Sigma and were thrilled to see Shreyanka featured:

“Akshara Foundation was her first client. She assessed their pre-school program for Anganwadis (kindergarten) in terms of sustainability and consistency. They had huge bundles of sheets of data consisting of community feedback from parents of government school children in the urban poor regions. Field workers had immense amounts of data that they brought back from their investigations. Akshara wanted to build a dashboard to highlight the problems. Shreyanka created a feedback excel template and committee feedback template for the field staff with questions for them, but first translating all the notes from Kannada (the local dialect) to English. This template was in addition to the ones created for school teachers and parents…”

Read the full piece here.  

Makkala Habba 2013: Creativity Unleashed

Saturday mornings in the last 4 weeks had not just been the most awaited one for many a students in Bangalore but also for the volunteers.  After all, it was the celebration of creativity in a different and an innovative way for most people involved.

These Saturdays have been an explosion of creativity and learning for students from 9 Government schools across Bangalore with over 3655 children participating. This year the “Makkala Habba” was held from the 16th November- 14th December 2013 in Bangalore. The Habba was one place where chaos, excitement, energy, ideas and imagination were running high.

 A Community Festival
Akshara has been creating programmes in the Pre-schools (Anganwadis) and Government Primary Schools with an intention to improve educational outcomes. The “Makkala Habba” is a community festival which aims at bringing the parents, teachers and students together. The involvement of the parents and the community ensure the betterment of both the school and the students. A festival like this also ensures that the parents and the school staff build a good rapport and work together.

What is the Makkala Habba?
Makkala Habba is a Community Festival in schools and pre-schools. The festival involves the active participation of the Parents, Teachers and Children to engage in creative LEGO brick activity in the school along with the volunteers.

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. This year the Habba had multiple themes. This year the themes were chosen on things the children see around in their surroundings. My ideal city, My school, the market, village fair, modes of transport, shopping mall were some of the themes chosen this year.

Children had to depict the theme using LEGO brick based model construction. The duration of the Habba in each school was two hours. However, in these two hours there was an exchange of ideas, thoughts, views, conversations which helped these children come up brilliant models. On the other hand, there was parent- teacher interaction which otherwise is a rarity.

The Habba was witnessed by senior Education Department officials at many locations. Members from School and Pre-School Monitoring Committees were also invited. Volunteers from Akshara Donors and Friends helped conduct the Habba at the various locations.

This Habba would not have been such a success had it not been for the various volunteers.  Huge thanks to the volunteers from CGI, Hewlett Packard, Hibu, Robert Bosch, I-Gate, Target and the Akshara Team for their help and support. The first edition of Makkala Habba wouldn’t be the same without the co-operation and help from all those involved. 

Kathe Helu Aata Aadu !

“Kathe Helu, Aata Aadu” was designed as a part of the World Literacy Day and Teachers Day celebrations.  All the planning had been done in a single week and it was now time to execute the plan. While the Library team and Asha spent time finding the right schools and co-ordinating with the volunteers, I was looking for volunteers over the social media. We got a good response and we were all set to get the ball rolling.

15th September felt a little different from most other Saturdays. After the usual peek-a-boo with the clouds, the sun had decided to shine up warm and bright. The volunteers were excited and so was the Akshara team. While Lakshmi and I missed our way, we eventually found the school just behind a magnificent Banyan tree.

Seeing the school building immediately brought smiles on our face, not because we found the school at last but because this school had a playground, which is indeed a rarity these days.  Around 9.45 am the volunteers started pouring in. Soon there was a bunch of twelve volunteers, 11 of them from Hewlett Packard and one independent volunteer who was back to Bangalore after a long gap of 3 years.

After a quick round of introductions, hi’s and hellos and a brief about the event the volunteers were all set to get the plan into action. They formed groups and entered the respective classrooms.  The same book was read out to all the classes but the activities planned were different.

Volunteers first began with the story telling session which lasted for about 30 minutes and the remaining 60 minutes were dedicated to the activity that was planned. While Class 5 were engrossed in making LEGO models, Class 6 got busy with their collage sheets and the kids of Class 7 happily enacted the story.

What dominated the atmosphere was excitement and enthusiasm, both from the kids as well as the volunteers.  The children chattered happily with the volunteers, each one eagerly talking about their hobbies and their aspirations.

Once the story telling and activities were done, the volunteers distributed stationery and books to the kids and this not just added to the twinkle in their eyes but also brought out big broad smiles.  Post the event, kiddies kept telling the volunteers to come back again the next Saturday.

The event definitely brought a lot of smiles and joy to the volunteers and the kids, as for us it was a learning experience. Inspite of the confusions, the chaos, and the last minute changes we had managed to pull off the event decently well. Of course it all doesn’t stop here, we need to be more organized and execute the plan well and yes we are all charged up to learn from our mistakes and make sure we don’t repeat them.

A big thank you to the Library Team at Akshara for putting up all of this in such a short time.  A bigger thank you to the big group of over 60 volunteers from HP, Robert Bosch and Target for making this event a huge success.  Special thanks to Anu, Asha, Ramesh and Nirupama for all the lovely pictures. We are pretty much inspired to continue this trend and have many more such events. So keep reading our blog for more information!

More pictures here.

Kathe Helu Aata Aadu with Akshara Foundation!

Akshara Foundation takes great pleasure in celebrating Teacher’s Day and World Literacy Day differently this year. Akshara would be organizing “Kathe Helu, Aata Aadu” – a combination of story-telling and activity sessions in school libraries. The idea of this event is to advocate reading skills and creativity amongst children.

A different activity will be organized in each class depending on the grade – story telling + collage (replicating / based on the story), storytelling + skit (depicting the story) and storytelling + building LEGO landscapes(depicting the story).

The event will be held on 14th September 2013 between 10am and 1pm.

For more details email us at volunteer@akshara.org.in

Volunteers required for Storytelling sessions

Image source: http://www.patrickranchmuseum.org

Would you like to read stories in Kannada to children? Now, here’s your chance !
Akshara Foundation had pioneered a major coalition involving Dream A Dream, Magic Bus and other leading NGOs, to improve the lives and life chances of children in Bangalore. As part of the initiative, we are organzing a camp for children from the slum in Ambedkar Nagar (Mysore Road) on Sunday, the 11th of August. Many exciting events including LEGO will be organized for children between 3 and 14 years of age.
We are looking for around 10 volunteers who could conduct book reading sessions for children. If you think that you conduct an interesting story telling session for children, do write to volunteer@akshara.org.in

Details of the event is as below:

Date: 25th August 2013

Venue: Ambedkar Nagar ( near the Pepsi Factory, Mysore Road)

Time: 9.30 am to 12.30pm

Languages: Should know to read Kannada

A Different Monday Morning!

Akshara Foundation organised a LEGO WEDO Workshop along with the LEGO Foundation for an enthusiastic bunch of volunteers from Robert Bosch on 24th and 25th June 2013 at the Government Kannada Higher Primary School, Vivek Nagar, Bangalore. Manoj Kumar Mahalingam of Robert Bosch who shares his experience with us.

On 24/6/2013, unlike every Monday, I had the privilege of sleeping a little longer than usual and so I bravely protested the early sun’s mutiny. Eventually, I woke up to remember my destiny that day was not office but on the contrary, a school. With an unusual rate of adrenaline for a Monday morning, I hurried up and in no time reached the school.

A well-known NGO, Akshara Foundation that works on improvisation and facilitation of education, particularly at the pre-school and primary school level. They started a venture with LEGO Foundation of Denmark where teaching becomes more creative with the colourful LEGO bricks.  As I grasped, my purpose with 8 of my colleagues is to learn and teach the children who yearn for…

We were 9 members from RBEI who volunteered for this event, 4 other volunteers of Akshara Foundation joined us in “LEGO ROBOTICS WORKSHOP”. We were addressed by a motivational speech about Akshara’s work and principles; its idea to facilitate child education in an organized way was indeed inspirational.

 On the second day of the workshop, we were asked to be seated in teams of 2 with a Lego kit and a laptop with the “WEDO” software in it. Casper, from Lego Foundation started the exercise with a simple tower construction with the Lego bricks. It was like time travel, in few minutes, I was revisiting my childhood days. My eagerness and childlike creativity was at its best that day. Eventually we got to use motors, infrared sensor (motion detection) and accelerometer (tilt sensor). Being an Electronics Engineer it was absolute fun for me to use them. When it came to programming, software was designed so as to make it user-friendly for the kids. Simple drag and drop blocks with Lego symbols such as to make the models work.

As the workshop continued, we simulated a football game with a kicker and a keeper. This was not all we also experimented with each model made emphasizing on how kids would understand teaching concepts. We sprung our creative ideas to fly free in several aspects and that too without conscience.  By the end of workshop we had several models like alligator that could snap its mouth open on sensing movement, a roaring lion that could sit on its hind legs and stand, a crane that could lift a person, a monkey that played drums, a bird with flapping wings and an airplane that modified its engine speed upon direction of tilt.

The main idea was to see how children would take it?  Would it be fun? Or would it be difficult to grasp?
As they say, Rome was not built in a day and so everything needs time, but the best way a child could learn is through play. You learn what you like, as you yearn what you want. After a good discussion, I headed back to office, and as I walked away, I looked back at school and children who were eager to take photographs with us.

I was that age and today I am here because I’m lucky to have got what I needed to succeed. This is their chance, why not provide what they need…