Akshara strongly believes that, “Strengthening the community is a long term endeavour”. People of the community become more empowered and responsible to work together to uplift and sustain the quality of education. Thus, Akshara initiated thirteen educational camps in the community for the children of 9 to 14 years in the Kustagi block in the month of May-2013.
Preparation for the camps:
The senior team members from Bangalore trained the team of Kustagi and Mundargi in Dharwad for four days in order to prepare for the summer camps in their particular clusters.
The summer camp training laid special emphasis on
• The objectives of the camp.
• Stake holders for the Community camps.
• The target to conduct the Community camps in Hoskote, Kustagi and Mundargi.
• Time line.
• Core team for implementing each camp.
• A plan to conduct the community camps
Mr. Mukund Maigur held the training on ‘Street Play’. He made everyone the poets, writers, actors and pioneers of the story. The team members found this means to be an effective media to reach out the minds of people concerning the relevance of education.
The mixed group of volunteers were identified for this camp. A fruit seller, a mason, a carpenter, members of Gram panchayat, II PUC passed students, Graduates, D.Ed and B.Ed completed candidates were the volunteers who led the camps.
The team visited the community from door to door, met the SDMC members, the HMs, the teachers and the leaders of the village, explained them about the objectives of the camp and sought the donors to support the camps for three days.
Training the sixty selected volunteers:
Even though there was a lot of hesitation among the volunteers in the beginning of the sessions, gradually they all involved themselves in the training, every one participated in all the activities. The group activities, Lego, the tree game and the street play were particularly liked by all.
A session led by Mr.Shankar Narayan for four hours, his motivational speech and several activities made them think about the present status of education in their villages and they were stimulated to take up the new task in the form of village camps.
In Kustagi block 13 camps were conducted in different villages. The locations were selected based on the cooperation of the schools, the communities, the SDMC and the availability of the volunteers. Sixty trained and enthusiastic volunteers returned to their places in zeal to conduct the events in their respective villages.
The camps began with the procession in the village. The children, the teachers, villagers and the volunteers lead the procession to the camp venue. The inaugural function was held in the schools. The Gram Panchayat Presidents and members, the SDMC President and the members, local leaders, the Self Help Group members, youth club, Cluster Resource Persons (CRP) the school Head Master, the assistant teachers, the media people, cooks of the school and volunteers were present during the function.
Activities in the camps held for three days:
• The children were divided into four – five groups. They were instructed to be in their particular groups for all the three days. In the first session, they were made to dance, jump, sing and make jokes to attract them towards the camp. In some of the camps the guest lectures, the doctors, the lawyers, the engineers, the educationists and the Police inspector interacted with the children and inspired them to have an insight about their future.
• “Memory Game” was an interesting game for the children. Every one participated in an enthusiastic manner.
• The “Village Map” drawn by the volunteers involving the children show cased the picture about the irregular children, drop outs from the school, the educators of the village. This helped to know the present scenario of their village.
• The children enjoyed the “Lego Game”. They all jumped with joy to see the Lego kit. They made different models, created a scene and narrated the story. They never wished to leave the camp even though the time was up.
• “ASER” test was conducted to all the 727 children of the camp.
• “Pick and speak” was an interesting event for all the children. It raised the self confidence in them. This made the children to think, prioritize, exhibit their thoughts and ideas with expressions before the audience.
• The ‘Musical Chair’ game, the ‘Outdoor’ games, ‘Indoor’ games, ’Quiz’ in ‘English and Math’ and ‘General Knowledge’ created healthy competition among the children.
• A “Tree Game” was liked by all the children. After the tree game the children took an oath to plant a tree and name it. In Sebinakatti, Kalkeri and Bilagi villages the plants were distributed to all the children by the forest officer.
In every village, a social gathering was held after 8 PM it went on till 11.30 PM. The parents of the children participating in the camp, the village leaders, youth, the SHG members, the Gram Panchayat members, SDMC members all gathered during this meeting. On the ‘First’ day, the cultural activities by the children were well appreciated. Akshara team members briefed about the purpose of the camp and the significance of education in today’s juncture.
The points mentioned below were highlighted during the meeting.
• Monthly parents meetings to be held in schools.
• The parents should spend minimum of 30 minutes with their children every day and ask about the learning in their class rooms.
• The parents to meet the class teachers every month compulsory.
• To conduct a ‘Makkal Sammelana’ once every six months.
On Day 2, the children drew everyone’s attention with their cultural activities again. The volunteers, Akshara team in collaboration with the children performed the street play beautifully. The play was effective in spreading awareness in the minds of the village folk through children.The children expressed their views about the camp. The information collected through the village map was shared with the parents. The results of the ASER test were announced in the community. Mr.Sharanappa Vodagera a famous folk singer, entertained the people with his awareness songs called “Jagruti Geethegalu” concerning the education of the emerging generation.
The annual plan for the academic year was shared with the community and is as follows:
• To visit the school once in a month.
• To conduct meetings with the educationists.
• To provide basic facilities to the school.
• To identify the problems in the schools and to provide solutions.
• To give more emphasis on appointing teachers to schools.
• To look for teachers from the village who can render their services voluntarily.
• To help provide books to the children in time.
• To recognize the meritorious children and to motivate them as well as the other students.
On Day-3, during the valedictory function the community members and the donors were also present. The prizes were distributed for all the events which were conducted for the children. The dignitaries on the dias delviered their speeches. A word of thanks to all the people involved in the success of the camps and finally, the oath taking by the volunteers and the people of the community to carry on the same for the next summer camp was the sequence of the day.
About the camps:
The ‘Three Day Camp’ was as good as a festival in the village for the all the people. All the community people gathered in one place without any differences of cast and creed. They all agreed upon the idea of education and its importance. They were cooperated well with the Akshara team. The CRPs, HMs and the community people opined that, a educational programme of this type had never been held before in their villages. The programme went on till 11.30PM. The parents were glad to see their their kids performing various events. Over all they viewed the hidden talents of their children in the community programme.
727 children benefitted from this camp. All the children were tested with the ASER tool. As per the ASER result of 727 children, 408 (56%) can read Kannada, 86 (12%) can read simple English sentences and 206 (28%) children can do division.
Support of the volunteers:
The support of the volunteers was amazing. There are no words to express about them. ‘Fifty five’ of the had attended the training but more than ‘Eighty’ of them joined their hands during the camps leaving behind all their personal work. They helped and enjoyed in the camps without any expectations. The logistic arrangements for Akshara team was taken care by the volunteers. The volunteers said that it was a first educational function in their village and they will take it forward in the days to come.
A volunteer named Anand, a seventeen year old boy, passed his 10th standard with 70% in the year 2012-13, from the Government High School and is now studying in the first year of Pre-University College. He starts his day by distributing news papers from door to door. His father is an alcoholic and mother supports the family. His parents discouraged him from continuing studies due to the poverty. But, Anand wants to become an ‘Artist’. Therefore he earns money for himself and also continues his studies. He was an active volunteer in the Basavana camp, Tavergera. He donated tea and snacks on all the three days of the camp. “I am ready to invest my time and money for any educational programs. Akshara Foundation gave me an opportunity to be the part of educational program and I totally support their effort”,says, Anand.
Mr.Raghvendra from Kalkeri village has completed his D.Ed says through assuring words, that, “I had heard about the summer camps happening in the towns and the cities, but now it has stepped into the interiors of the village through Akshara Foundation. It is a gift for us. We the youth will continue this tradition”.
The support from the school HMs and the CRPs:
The Head Masters of the schools rendered their support. Some of the HMs stayed till the community meetings got over. A tasty food was prepared by the cooks to the children. In some of the villages the cooks of the schools donated tea and biscuits to all the children.
In most of the camps, SDMC President and the Gram Panchayat President were the major donors. Some of them provided breakfast,sweets, tea, snacks, note books, pens, and prizes for the events for all the children
Experience of the Cluster Facilitators:
• “It was a wonderful experience to know about myself. I learnt to organize events, gained the confidence and faced people and the media. I felt very happy when I addressed nearly 200 people” says Mr.Govindappa.
• Mr.Manjunath gladly says:“Before the camp I was like a tube light but after the camps I have become like a CLF bulb”I have taken up the challenge to give my service the best to schools and community”
• Ms.Shailaja says, “I came to know about my strengths and the talents through this camp”.
• “Initially, I was not confident about myself but now, I feel that, everything is possible if there is a will”. Explains Mr.Kotresh.
• Mr.Shivappa adds, “I was suffering from inferiority complex but these camps have helped me overcome my problem”.
• Mrs.Akkamahadevi asserts: “I had the confidence to do any program. But I was worried about how to take this with the support of community and volunteers. I succeeded.”
• Mr.Sharanappa shares, “I am impressed by the volunteers. They gave their time without any expectations for the cause of education. So everything is possible if we go with good will”.
• Mr.Doddangowda confidently says, “I learnt to organize the events with the support of the community. I was an introvert but now,I feel that I am not”.
• “I have gained a lot of knowledge by interacting with the children”. Says a newly joined CF, Mr.Shankarappa.
• Today, 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” opines, Mr.Umesh Meli the ‘Taluka Facilitator’.
• It was a firsthand experience and learning to have an exposure through the camps in the community.
• The education department officers, teachers, children, the community and the media had a positive view about the camps.
• Akshara foundation has shown and sown the way in the community to continue the camps in the days to come.
• The team has built up the confidence to take up any challenges on the field.
• It was a tough task to identify the volunteers in the community. Some said ‘yes’ but did not turn up for the training.
• Elections were a hurdle to get the camps started in time.
• Some donors assured to donate for the camp but were unable to do so.
• Internal conflicts between the SDMC and HM was also an obstacle.
• ‘Marriages’ and Gram ‘Habbas’ in the villages also intervened the camps.
• Basic facilities for the Akshara team was another challenge.
Akshara Foundation’s team in Kushtagi, with many experiences was able to successfully conduct thirteen educational camps. Through these camps, we brought a smile on 727 children’s faces. 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 this showed the enthusiasm of the people. The support of the volunteers, school HM, CRPs, people of the community has doubled the confidence of all the CFs. The regular support of Mr.Shankara Narayan, the stay in the village, his interaction with the people and the motivational speech had people impressed.
Though beginners, Akshara Foundation has made a mark and has created history in all the thirteen villages of the Kushtagi block.