Sunday, June 25, 2006

Navrang UTSAH

The DSF conducted an ice-breaker session at the Rajajinagar 2nd block (Navrang) school this Saturday, the 24th of June.

Volunteers had turned up at the school from different parts of Bangalore –
Ashwini, Avinash, Nisha, Pacchi, Pavithra, Sowmya, Thiru, Vikram and me.

We had noticed a couple of things concerning this school in our previous two visits.
One was that the Head Master was quite open to our involvement, and assured us that the kids and the teachers would co-operate with us in anything we planned.
And the other more significant point was the behaviour of the kids. Discipline, which is an almost alien concept to the kids at the Malleswaram school, seemed to be in plenty among the Navrang school kids.

Both these factors aided us in spending some fun time with the kids, and possibly laid the foundation for sustained involvement.

The school has a skewed class strength – 60% of the 110 kids belonging to 6th & 7th, with 1st to 5th making up the remaining. We decided to split them into groups along this parameter.

We played Pass the Parcel with the bigger kids, the box containing the chits of actions provided to us by Megha. Barring a few shy kids, most were quite enthusiastic to come forward and perform the act. In fact, for every activity, there were always a bunch of extra volunteers.

Ashwini, Pavithra and Sowmya took the smaller kids under their control, and conducted their games. The highlight of this was the running race where chota Chethan, despite facing senior competition, hung on to complete the race. Here is that kid…

A lot of kids asked us whether we would be coming every week.
Hope that their enthusiasm continues to remain unabated, and we can make a difference in their lives with the co-operation of the teachers.

Thanks to all those who could make it, and the others like Pooja who helped us with the ideas behind the games.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Navrang school.

Update on the Navrang school.

A set of volunteers - Sridhar, Prashanth, Ameya, Vikram and I visited the government school in Navrang this saturday. It is the one next to Basaweshwara College. The total strength of the school was 120 last year and 105 till now with about 60% of the students in the 6th and the 7th standards. The school has a huge campus with the high school adjoining the primary and middle school. This gives it an advantage of a huge play ground. There is electricity and water supply. ISKON provides mid-day meals. A few rooms are being constructed as there is a shortage of rooms in the school. The students coming to the school are not from around the school, but are from places as far as peenya. That explains the low strength in the school. The bus passes for the students are arranged for by the headmaster of the school. He was keen to know if we would be of any help in arranging for the bus passes for the kids. The students seem much disciplined as opposed to the malleshwaram school (Malleshwaram school kids win your heart with their indiscipline :-)). The school does not have a computer.

The headmaster of the school was very receptive and encouraging. He readily agreed to give us the first hour on Saturday.

The next Saturday we are planning to hold a ice breaking session - UTSAH - from 9:30 to 11. It would be great to have as many volunteers as possible. If you are interested in being a part of UTSAH, mail to me at

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Enrollment "rally" for the Malleshwaram schools...

Reminders of a rally I went to once and the rythmic call out of strong messages...

But this rally was much more gentle while being as meaningful and was much much more closer to our cause as DSF volunteers ...

"Beke beku ..Vidye beku" (We want education) ...
"Yene barali, Oggatu iralli" (We want to be united) ...
"Shaale bitta makalannu shaalege serisi" (Put you kids who've dropped out of school, back in).

And we saw our young leaders (Parthiban...among others, now in 5th standard...a smart and well rounded little personality) among the rallyists who shouted their lungs out during the entire 1 hour walk through their community!

We joined the Headmaster, some of the teachers and the TCH trainees associated with the school and quickly mixed up with the younger crowd to hear their side of the story.

Why a friend wouldn't come to school because her mother expects her to go to work, how a girl has to take care of the new born while her brothers can go to school, how one of them has no explanation for not going to school except her silence, how another school in the neighbourhood is preferred because the medium of teaching is Tamil, how quickly one can use the pretext of the unknown school that he/she is going to being on a holiday.

Kids always amaze you! Whether it's an innocent smile... or the quick "scurry away" act they perform when they see the headmaster... or shoot back with a quick rude repartee... or just plain say the truth :)

There are problems in bringing kids to school on a sustained basis... and there are complex causes to these problems... there are some we can't own up to find solutions for. It hurts to be helpless in the couple of cases we saw today... But we are also happy for all the children who do go to schools, seeing the kind of environment they are brought up in...the lack of nutrition among other things... they go school- get a meal, books, clothes and a mediocre education... And I, just like you, don't like the word mediocre for our children. There is so much to be done...and so little we could do

Wish this group of volunteers is always as motivated as they have been and as they were in the "rally" today :) ... Thanks Chilli, Vikram, Ameya, Rashmi, Smitha, Pacchi and Nisha !

Ameya's chase being the highlight...and here he comes, a winner, with Vishnu.. the kid he chased all the way to the ... don't ask :)

Success in this case has a tough set of determinants... I can't say we were completely successful in achieving the cause of this rally... Just hope the kids we took to school today keep coming through the year...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

English from Standard 1 in Maharashtra

Today's edition of The Times of India carries an article titled "Maharashtra introduces English from first standard".
(I was unable to get a link to the article on the website, will update later)

This is a welcome announcement and I am glad to note that one of the more progressive states of this country has gone ahead and proven its tag. Ofcourse there is the case of the suicides in Vidharbha, however, the government has once again shown its visionary prowess in taking this step.

In Karnataka, on the contrary, a lot of such decisions are influenced by vernacular groups who voluntarily stand for the protection of the local language and its literature.

I have failed to understand the concept of regional languages taking an adverse impact with the advent of English. There are no facts to prove this. I have known quite a few Kannada speaking youth who are equally well versed with Kannada and English. They, rightly, take pride in their mother tongue and also show keen interest in English literature. If at all anything, their English schooling has embellished them with greater pride in their mother tongue. Primarily because they are able to see both sides of the proverbial coin.

On the other hand, children deprived of English during their early formative years have found it difficult to pick up the language later on in their lives. Let's face the harsh truth of recent years - globalisation is here to stay. Whatever you might want to do, any career you might want to venture into, English has become a must.

Every career you take up is directly or indirectly linked to a chain of careers and companies that span the world. Therefore, why deprive the children in government schools from getting this advantage early on?

There could infact be a negative effect of not teaching English early enough. Children deprived of this "global language" wind up without suitable jobs and therefore develop angst and frustration. This angst might either get directed towards English or towards the regional language, depending on the circumstances. Clearly, this is not what the nation wants.

Right now India is being led ably by its powerful and energetic youth. It is India's duty to provide its children with world class education and with tools to equip them to stand at global junctions.
This is the least our country can do. India can shine only when all its children are given equal opportunities.

Excerpt from the ToI article:

Taking a cue from billions of Chinese taking to English, the Maharashtra government has decided to introduce the global language from Standard I from 2006 in all state schools. Officials believe this move will help stem the tide of students to English-medium schools.
Quote from the principal secretary to primary education and sports - "While the mother tongue is important, there is a global demand for English-speaking people.........The country has been divided into two Indias - those who know English and thos who don't".

Nice article and I think it is a great fillip to the effort of all at the Dreamschool Foundation.