Friday, December 29, 2006

Ramnagara school trip

Thorns made red by bleeding hearts.

Well, if not a bleeding heart, I indeed was in a quandary. Chalghatta school - 200 kids - never been on a school trip - wow! lets take them out - but how ??

The logistics was turning into a nightmare. A bus can take 50-60 kids, a long journey makes it 9k/bus, and entry fees. And, food expenses. Mysore beckoned, but entry fees & quite long a journey. Same tale with Shravanabelogala-Tallakad-Bellur circuit.


My morning run ---> solution thrashed. Check with Sunand. 'Yes! we will do it', he says. Bliss.

Funda: Thorns are mostly in our imagination, as in the pic above. The locust intimidates other predators with it thorn like legs.

And, so on a saturday morning 9th of Dec 06. All the 6th & 7th std kids were taken on a outing. The 5th std kids from Chalghatta, along with 3rd to 5th from the Bellur school will be taken to Fun-world sometime in Jan. An elaborate pooja for the bus, seemed to satisfy the bus driver. He had cribbed heavily that only 46 passengers are allowed, and we were 66 kids, 8 teacher staff, & 6 volunteers!!!
And soon, Sunand & Shweta got some major Anthakshari going in the bus. Latest Kannada songs from FM 137.66
Ramnagara was the destination. A rock-climbers paradise. A quite place, with vultures above ur head, place to be. We wanted to introduce the kids to trekking and rock-climbing.
And soon, after breakfast, Sunand launched onto what trekking is....rock climbing is......the equipment you need to be.....water bottles.....discipline....etc etc. At the end of the briefing, a boy promptly fainted!!!!
And soon, the 66 kids were divided into groups with volunteers Leena, Chetna, Shweta & Navrathan leading them. Sunand & Mallesh were the rock-climbing experts and leading the trek/climb. The teachers, esp the school HM Mary had a tough time in the small trek. She kept saying 'Since when have you been scheming this on me'...she struggled.....the kids literally ran.....and after some time 2 kids came back to help their HM!!!

Soon, we reached the base of Ramdevar betta. The joy here is the natural slide thats on this rock....the kids went up & slid down merrily.

We climbed up the hill, pitched in the equipment, and introduced rappling.
And after swift instructions from Mallesh & Sunand, the kids rappled down. It was a good test of their confidence, courage and trust.

Soon boyz & girls clamoured to get down. A few kept away, having a single rappling rope was becoming a botlle-neck. Shwetha took upon securing the harness & gloves.


By 5pm, we had finished with the last rappling kid, and went down for lunch. A good number of the kids had rappled down. The plan was also to visit Kokrebellur, some museum at chanpatna, and Rajarajeshwari temple. But, with rappling taking all the time we ditched it.
The school had raised Rs 2300 from the kids 50Rs each, from all those, who could pay. They covered food charges and also bought some canvas shoes for those needing it. Transport charges was covered by DSF. Rock climbing charges raised from volunteers.
The way back, the back benchers started with some major Ayyappa bajans, and soon being tired gave up and slept. It was 8:40pm, when the bus reached the school. Sunand wanted me to 'de-brief' the kids. And so, for the 66 kids seated in a corridor, that glowed in a yellow light lamp, for those who rappled, and those who didn't, with some of their parents watching, I spoke of 'Why adventure'....'Why push the body'...'Striving beyond the limits'...'Marathon running'.....'Rock climbing'....'Their exams'.....'their studies'.....'little more marks' The kids starred back sleepily, and their parents were quite.
Well, we managed to pull thru this outing safely. And, the kids enjoyed it. A new experience.
A zillion thanks to my buddy & Man Friday (Man Saturday ?) Sunand, who made this happen.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

School Trip - Malleshwaram Kannada and Urdu school

Star studded sky, the toy train, the swings and slides, boat rides, good food and the company of friends. When we as adults can enjoy all of this, why wouldn't the kids !
And our kids from the Government Primary - Kannada and Urdu
- School, Malleshwaram, who probably do not get to have this kind of fun too often were nothing less than ecstatic today !

We started early in the day and as expected the kids were all in school before we got there with the hot idlis. The kids helped us and themselves to a good breakfast and were all neatly seated in a disciplined assembly, but deep within raring to go. Thanks to Veeresh who brought the BMTC bus on time, ensuring we stuck to our schedule. We had one bus 121 kids and 16 adults... And all of us quite accommodative in a over-crowded bus. Thanks to our fear of one-ways, our excitement and the fact that our bus-driver was quite cautious... We reached our destinations and back, packing ourselves tightly up in the lone bus, very safely.

The Nehru Planetarium was our first stop. All 120 of our kids under one sky,
learning about the milky way and the constellations. The parade of planets and the darkening of the dome was applauded and thoroughly enjoyed by all. The show is called "The Solar System" and plays in Kannada at 10:30 am on Saturdays. The rebated ticket for Government school children can be procured at the counter at 10:15 am at a cost of Rs. 15 per person. [Contact No : 22266084 / 22203234]

Balbhavan welcomed us next. While the wait for the toy train was announced to
us, we stepped into the aquarium in the neighbouring building. The moment the first few of them stepped into the dark room, there was a sound of awe and amazement that gradually grew into a loud chatter, the kind that one of our volunteers classified as "sounding like a Fish Market". Never-the-less, adding to the dimensions of learning, was this experience, that opens up the young mind to the existence of such a variety of fish, in so many different colours sizes and shapes. The aquarium charges Rs. 2 for a child and Rs. 5 for an adult. They cut down the price by half, in case the school authorities carry a letter of authentication.

The toy train... as exciting as ever took us on one loop of the BalBhavan area. Quite realistic in terms of the Train experience when it runs through the tunnels and over the waterway and through Bamboo much as not when you see dinosaurs and other animals along the way. But it's a great experience for the kids. The roar while we passed through the tunnel, still resonates in the memories of today's outing. The Toy train tickets cost Rs. 5 per child and Rs. 10 for adults. The train operates after 11:30 am and has a lunch break between 1:30 and 2:30 pm.

Once off the train, the children rushed to the play area and spent the rest of their time on the swings, slides, boat rides, etc., wanting to be uninterrupted, except for lunch. After lunch, although they would've liked to spend more time at the play area, we decided to call it a day. The drive back was dotted with the undeterred enthusiasm, we started with... the kids singing, in more like a contest of sorts, loud and rocking !

Thanks... is what they said to us...

Thanks... is what we ought to say to DSF and our fellow volunteers - Ameya, Kavitha, Sri, Chilli and Vikram and their super effort, in the trip that we thought would be a big challenge in implementing.

Thanks to Mr. Dey and Mrs. Rajini for helping to sponsor a half of the

Thanks ... to all our children, who always bring us smiles, by just being themselves - innocent and genuine !

Thursday, November 30, 2006

“Maaya” Kannan

Around six months back, I had the opportunity of meeting Kannan, a student of the RT Nagar Tamil School. The occasion was the Lucent Day at the school. By the end of the day, I realised that it wasn’t just an opportunity…in fact, it was an honour to have met him.

I am sure there are countless stories of him that the volunteers at his schools would have, but for me, just a single day’s interaction gave immense insights into various aspects of him. It was a truly amazing experience…and here I try to recount a few of the multiple facets he possesses.

The first thing that struck me was the ease with which he ragged people. They could be his teachers, his fellow students, volunteers, chief guests…it didn’t matter to him. If he found something funny about them, he would go ahead and crack a comment right away. And this was done, not because of a lack of respect, or any malice…it was just the way he enjoyed his life, the way he perceived everything as something that would bring a smile to him, make him happy.

Then came an exhibition of his helping nature. The chairs had to be arranged…call Kannan. The stage had to be set…call Kannan. The shamiana had to be dismantled…call Kannan. School wasn’t just a place for him to study, play and leave. He took part in all the activities, and helped arrange everything. He helped people out of his own free will. In many ways, it was a double gift. Not only does the person being helped get the benefit of Kannan’s hard-working nature, he also gets to listen to some of the wittiest comments.

If the above qualities somehow gave the impression of Kannan being someone not that interested in studies, one couldn’t be far off from the truth. Instead of talking about his academic records, marks in exams, etc. I think this small incident should be enough to let you know how seriously he takes his studies:
All the students who had attended the function that day were given a gift. The gift was two huge slabs of chocolates, something that would have most boys his age very happy. But he turned to me and said, “idhikku badhila oru geometry box kuduthirndha evlo nalla irundhirikkum!” (Instead of these (chocolates), if you had given us a geometry box it would have been so nice!)

In between, there was the charming bit of innocence, when he was hesitant to pose for a photograph as he felt his “aayisu koranjidum” (his life would reduce). But his eagerness and enthusiasm for all things won over, and he came to us at the end of the day, requesting for a photo of his to be taken. He also wanted it delivered to him in a week’s time…which was duly done, and a geometry box was also given to him for good measure.

And finally to yet another feather in his cap. He was telling us about how he had played kho-kho at the district level, how he worked on his muscles, how he practised a lot on his running…and the fruits of all that labour has finally arrived in him being selected for the State level 400m sprint! Here is My3’s mail on this:
Kannan (std 7th RT Nagar Tamil school) qualifies for STATE level
400m run !!

Anyone who has ever visited the RT Nagar Tamil school could not have
missed this kid. An enthusiastic youngster - " School Headboy"
welcomes you with a broad smile and stick in hand (which he claims
he does not use for hitting, only pretending to hit:-) ) Catch him
working confidently on the computer (thanks to Sunand & Thiru),
making ppts and docs. Speaks some English, always keen on learning
more. Entrust a responsibility to him and he is sure to deliver.
With this all-round talent, he certainly has the potential to go
well ahead in life!

He won the block level, taluk and district level 400 metres and will
now compete at the Karnataka level. He gets Rs 5000, complete sports
gear and training for a week from the State Athletic coaches.

All of us at DSF wish him all the best for this race and hope he
also does equally well in the long and gruelling race of life! And
maybe here, we have a role to play, to ensure such kids do not fall
back in the race of life!
I think I need to re-emphasise this – it truly is an honour to have such a kid amongst us. Let’s wish the best in life for him.

He is truly set to achieve magical heights. All the best “Maaya” Kannan!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

At the Navrang school..

Try reading a textbook lesson to a kid and then a story to a kid. You'll be surprised at the receptivity of the kid when you are narrating the story. Their minds can easily grasp even the most complicated words and understand any message through a story. This is what happened this Saturday at our Navrang School.

Most of our volunteers were missing at the School on Saturday. So Kavya and I decided to read stories to the kids from class 1 to 6. All the kids from the silent to the talkative, quiet to the mischievous loved the story being read to them. In the course of the narration, we revised our WordsWorth clusters whenever we came across any remotely connected object in the story. E.g.: The appearance of the sky in the story made way to revise our nature, animals, baby animals and colors clusters.

At the end of the story, we picked some kids to volunteer and narrate the story to us. These kids were so smart that they remembered every scene of the story. The sheer confidence with which they spoke could have put any adult to shame in public speaking. The kids forced us to continue the reading session for a second story to be read to them. Avi, who joined the session later, suggested that we should have someone with a loud voice read the story.

However, the kids loved the session and we were also able to integrate our WordsWorth session into the story.

Like icing on the cake, we had a different set of notes in our wish box and one of them was ‘we need story books and story reading sessions’. We felt proud that we had satisfied their wish even before we had read it.

Guys, try it out in your schools. This is similiar to the Hippocampus sessions but not sure if all the schools are having these regularly. Also this works better because the kids can relate to you as a volunteer and you would have developed a good rapport with them.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wish Box...

Inspired by the Navarang school folks... who came up with the idea of a Wish BOX...

We put up our Suggestion BOX today in the malleshwaram school....

And our first suggestion ... was a well written note in English -
" I want to learn and read English" , Student, IV Standard ... :)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Innovative Ways of Teaching: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

It is inspiring to see that there is quite a good amount of innovation happening under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA).

I read an article in the Hindustan Times - New Delhi edition a few days ago regarding the innovative ways of teaching that have been adopted by the volunteers at the SSA. Currently unable to get the online link, but its available on their e-paper version.


Innovation, it seems, is the way to go. Conventional teaching methods are giving way to creative ideas.....

In Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district, children from 170 deprived families call a boat their school. Since their parents live on boats too, normal schools were too far for them. So, “providing schools close to their homes” was the best bet of giving them an education, the compilation says.

This particular one seems interesting:

In Gujarat, girl students are being used as tools to educate their mothers, with the help of SSA volunteers.

This is a great move of trying to educate the mothers via the girl students.
Traditionally, the housewives in this strata of the society are conservative and usually not educated. By trying to address their education needs in addition to educating today's girl child, the SSA volunteers have come up with a great solution.

In Haryana, the government has given bicycles to 21,000 girls so that they get to school.

It is commendable to see the efforts that are going into the program in terms of new and innovative ways of teaching.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ban on English in Bangalore Schools

More than 100,000 English-speaking children in India’s information technology capital of Bangalore will soon have to switch to schools offering lessons exclusively in a Dravidian regional language, following a crackdown on more than 2,000 English-medium institutions in the state of Karnataka, reports the Financial Times in this news article.

The state government’s promise on Monday to enforce a widely flouted 1994 language policy requiring compulsory Kannada-medium education in primary schools reflects resentment at the influx of relatively wealthy English-speaking IT workers into Bangalore.

The crackdown has seen 800 schools stripped of their status and a further 1,500 face closure, according to an education department official.

This is definitely a backward step taken by the government. Hopefully a public debate will follow and oppose this move. Read the full article.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Perot, chalghatta & mummies

Chalghatta school, a nice looking govt. primary school with a small ground interspersed with Ashoka trees. The school houses 200 prince/princess. They really own this school, they make such ruckus, that some new volunteers go back home to terrible headaches (takes some getting used to, you see).

The school has a fundu HM Mrs Mary Angela (left most), a superb PR lady. And, another teacher Bhuvaneshwari, whoz fast becoming my favourite (rightmost lady). Bhuvaneshwari is real good at culturals, no wonder, we had so many children vying to sing/dance & perform.

Ha...oh..3 similar shots....lots of back light, so only this angle permitted decent shots. Hey, who are these lovely ladies ??? They are singing 'Hum honge kamyaab ek din'......well, Ladies & Gentlemen, Sep 2nd 06, over 20 employees from Perot systems dropped into interact with our kids. To keep matters simple, the 1st to 5th kids were let off at their usual closing time, and we continued interacting with the 6th & 7th. Amit, hardcore DSF volunteer, also happens to be a Perot, and so it worked cool for both parties ;-)

Event A was collage making. 8 teams with volunteers thrown in, and 30 minutes. The teams took on this with all seriousness, with volunteers majorly guiding them. And, soon we saw some lovely stuff.

Event B was to mummify.....yeah...seriously, take a kid and mummify....for bizzare reasons only girls got choosen....and turned out to be real fun.

Shot of the day.

The kids were all real excited by now....and the volunteers strongly identified themselves with their teams & kids. I guess, the event had achieved its purpose.

Yes, kids got a double-decker box with pencils/scale etc and nice snacks/Icecream.

Perot systems is also sponsoring a LifeSkills session here at the school for the 6th/7th on weekdays, conducted by Mrs Sadhna. A nice corporate-NGO partnership.

We still need people for the bread & butter stuff, my kids are pathetic when it comes to reading English. And Math ? not far either. So, if volunteering & making a difference at the primary level appeals to you, join us.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I-Day at Bellur Nagasandra School

After leaving school, this was the first time I celebrated I-Day. The functions began (as usual) with the preparations & lots of music. This was followed by a very unusual puja of Gandhiji's picture and of the flag post, followed by some very moving speeches by those present. Many of the villagers who have been involved in the school improvement committee as well as those who have been contributing to the school were present. Flag hoisting and the national anthem were next on the agenda and these were followed by distribution of sweets & pencils / erasers to all and geometry boxes for the 5th std.

Maybe going forward, we should work towards having the children more involved in these activities by teaching them some patriotic songs etc. Akash, lets try to target this for 26th Jan.. :)

Monday, August 28, 2006

NBD Ramanagara

Notebook drive, a DSF initiative: Giving notebooks to govt. school children. On 19th & 22nd Aug, 5,500 notebooks were given to 1500 students in 19 primary rural schools around Ramnagara. On 19th, a gang of 30 volunteers, lotz from Accenture, distributed the books. A few schools were closed because of 'Nalkne shravan shanivaara', and these were covered on 22nd Aug. The pics, shot by Sunand, tell the story.