Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Home Lending Libraries in Communities during Summer Vacation

The Society for Door Step Schools (DSS) conducts a Reading Programme in more than 200 schools during their school hours. The main aim is to provide extra-curricular, age appropriate and interesting reading material to the children to help develop the habit of reading.  So, when the schools were closed for the summer vacation in April and May 2019, the Reading Programme encouraged their teachers and school staff to take the Door Step School bag of story books to the children in their communities. The children were very excited and made the most of this opportunity.

Two ‘book-fairies’ and a Grade VI teacher from Kondhwa took a bag of books home and conducted a home lending service for the children living near their respective homes. 

Pallavi Salunkhe works as a book-fairy; and the children living near her home in Susgaon know that and keep asking her to get more story books for them. So, in the summer vacation, she promptly took a bag of books home and invited the children to borrow books from her special library! She kept a detailed record - 38 children managed to read a total of 210 books! 

Similarly, two other book-fairies, Savita Shelar and Nutan Gaikwad, who live in Kirkitwadi encouraged children to read and borrow books available for home lending. Since the children had no home-work, 27 children read 66 story books. Eight year old Yash said that he liked a book titled ‘Lalchi kutta’ and kept reading it again and again. When his mother noticed it, she asked him to write down all the composite words in the story. As a result, his reading and writing skills have greatly improved.

Sangharsh liked the book ‘Chilubal’ while Om enjoyed reading ‘Bhitra sasa’ and ‘Bhali khod modli’ because the friends in the stories look out for each other.   

Mr. Sheikh, a teacher in Kondhwa School, asked for a bag of story books. He then conducted a parents’ meeting and explained to the parents the importance of reading and how the children were now responsible for keeping the books safely. He encouraged the children who lived near each other to exchange their books and put their free time to good use. The children were very happy to take home two or three books each. When the school reopened in June the children brought back all the books and exchanged further and discussed what they had read. 40 students had read 84 books! 
Door Step School sincerely hopes this love for reading continues as a lifelong habit for all the children. 

Contributed by Project Grow with Books, translated by Mrs. Archana Vyawaharkar, Volunteer,DSS,Pune

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Initiating Change towards Foundational Learning

‘Parivartan’, the training center of The Society for Door Step Schools, Pune (DSS) has been doing a commendable job since its inception in 2007.  It was started with the aim of bringing about uniformity in the training given to the staff of Door Step School with a special focus on the teachers working at grass-root level in various DSS projects. Since its inception, it has evolved into a well recognized training center even for other organizations working in the field of education. Their effectively planned and result oriented modules for language and math are more than welcome in every teacher’s repertoire.     

DSS recognized very early, the challenge of achieving the most basic learning skills- being able to read the local newspaper. As a result, DSS first devised a 120 day language learning programme based on their experience in the field and simultaneously designed and developed various teaching aids/tools to implement this programme. DSS soon started an intervention programme for Std.I in municipal schools and adapted the 120 day programme to its syllabus. As a result, 90% of the children with 80% attendance can read the Std.I text-book at the end of the year. A similar 120 day programme for Maths was developed that was to be simultaneously implemented with the language plan. The methodology to implement these programmes involves rigorous monitoring and revision work done regularly. The tools include (other than the usual charts and picture books) various adaptations of popular games, puzzles, specially designed competency based reading material including story books and stories written and illustrated by children themselves, and plenty of creative work to make learning an enriching experience.       

Sampark Bhaje, Eklavya Nyaat, Disha Samaj Vikas Sanstha, Asha Kiran, New Vision and Saans Foundation are some of the NGO’s who have also been trained at Parivartan between April and June 2019. The common factor is always, ‘Which is the best way of teaching children and especially under privileged children who have no encouragement at home?’    
Every NGO that approaches DSS for training first gives their requirement and then DSS plans their schedule with the appropriate modules. Most of them come for training to teach language and math. 

The first reaction of any trainees handling DSS’ teaching aids is, “Oh….why didn’t WE get to learn like this!”  And then, “This is such fun! I’m sure the children will love it!” The enthusiasm takes over and the teacher is drawn into its folds with a commitment to teach and learn. They are once again students and enjoy every aspect of the training….the games, activities, role plays and the theory… all are popular. The structure of their own training teaches them the importance of diverse ways which they can use to make the children’s school experience a happy one.

Many admit that their own reading and writing skills improve by attending even a few days’ training. They realize the importance of planning and following a time-table. They also appreciate the ingenuity of making difficult concepts easy and yet interesting; they feel confident to take part in discussions regarding the teaching – learning process; and also feel confident to control a class!

All the trainees always appreciate the total commitment and the passion of the DSS trainers who have developed the teaching aids/ tools. They also admire their patience, and humble and co-operative nature that encourages interaction at every turn.   

Door Step School thanks all these organizations and wishes each one of them the very best in helping to transform the foundational learning in our schools and provide more strategies for improvement at all levels.    

Very often, in the process of teaching, assumptions are thrown to the wind. Back to the basics.

Contributed by: Mrs. Archana Vyawaharkar, Volunteer, DSS

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A year's work and way to go ahead...DSS, Pune Annual presentation.

The Society for Door Step Schools organized its Annual Presentation on Saturday, the 11th of May at the BAIF Development Research Foundation, Warje. The presentation provided an overview of the organisation's goals, objectives, activities, projects and reach, and the year's highlights. These were presented by the staff, with an emphasis on the holistic approach followed, with frequent lessons on hygiene and good habits, exposure visits to companies, book and science exhibitions, and various other activities. 

The recently enrolled Suraj and Suresh, two young boys who spend their time building solar chargers, cookers and countless other innovative things made an appearance, while young Ganga, a former student and current member of the DSS team warmed the audiences’ hearts with her story. In her concluding address, the President, Mrs Rajani Paranjpe, expressed her gratitude to the attendees and talked about the way forward.

The DSS gallery, a display of charts, photographs and the children's work, showcased the projects, which extend from providing basic primary education, surveying sites and enrolling children in schools, to providing support services, school transport facilities and vocational guidance.

The happy, informed guests at the end of the event were a testament to The Society for Door Step Schools’ steps in the right direction in the quest to taking education to every door step. 

To catch few glimpses of the day, please play the below video.

Write up and photo essay by Ms.Anamika Chakravarty, Intern, DSS.
Photographs by Ms. Amoli Birewar and Mr.Chinmay Jariwala, volunteers,DSS

Monday, April 22, 2019

How we finally got 4 girls to learn!

DSS has been working at a slum called Valhekarwadi, a settlement of 35-40 hutments comprising of 2 communities: Nandiwaale (Bull bearing nomads who make predictions about weather and harvesting) and the Untwale (Camel bearers). The parents from the Camel bearers community work on garbage trucks each day from 7.00 am to 4.00 pm. There were 4-5 girls in the age group of 10 to 14 years who had to look after the house, cook, clean the house, wash clothes and utensils, look after their younger siblings and also take the sheep for grazing. Our teachers would go to their houses every day to bring them to our class. They could not be enrolled to schools, their parents were totally against it, but we thought that they could at least come to our School on Wheels class so that we could work on developing their interest in learning and eventually we could convince their parents to send them to schools. But the girls would often refuse to come to our class because of all the household chores that needed to be completed. And if they did come to the class, something or the other would happen: like the cattle would enter their huts and eat grains or any food available. The parents would then beat them up. One such time when the girls were in the class, one of their lamb was eaten up by dog. That was it, the girl was beaten up and her coming to the class was stopped. 

These girls were smart and fond of learning, it felt wrong to stop teaching them, so our coordinator tried to hire a teacher who could go to the settlement and teach the girls instead of making the girls come to the School on Wheels class. We interviewed a few teachers but all of them refused to go to the settlement since it was unclean. One of our own teachers Ms. Vidya Pawar was ready to go and teach the girls at their door step! We planned her class in such a way that would not interfere with the girls’ work. The teacher would follow the girls and try to teach them, for instance if  the girls were cleaning their utensils, she would sit with them and teach them ‘स – साबणाचा’ (s for soap), ‘प - पाण्याचा’, etc. The teacher would also follow them to the river when they went for washing clothes. 
One such afternoon when it was extremely hot, the teacher went with the girls to the river and fainted there. The girls felt really bad and thought they should cooperate in some manner since the teacher was taking so many efforts. The girls convinced their parents to let them sit for the class in one of the tents. The girls and the parents found one such tent where classes could be conducted. In the beginning only 3 girls would come to the class but eventually all 4 girls started coming regularly. Now these girls themselves come a little earlier to the class (they don’t need to be called anymore), and they would even clean up the tent and make it ready for starting the class! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Change is taking place, slowly but surely!

DSS conducts surveys in temporary locations including construction sites to enroll out of school children between 6-8 years of age to schools. In 2016-17, in one such survey at a construction site in Baner, we found Rahul, a 7-year old child who was not enrolled to school. 

We spoke to Rahul’s father, Mr. Garibdas Shrivas multiple times to enroll him to school, however the father would say that they were from Bihar and since they were new to this place, he would not send the child to school. After some more meetings, he agreed to enroll the Rahul to Baburao Katke PMC School in Baner. DSS also provided him school transport facility. But the pick-up point of the bus was about 8 minutes away from their home and Mr. Shrivas could not drop the child till the bus due to his Security Guard duty. He would say that his boss would get upset if he took a break to drop Rahul to the bus. Our staff thus spoke to his employer to request him to give Mr. Shrivas a 15 minutes break so that the child could continue going to school and the society chairman agreed to it. Still the father often insisted that the bus pick the child up from their door step, which was not a possibility, given the logistics. However, later he ensured that the child was regular to school.  

The next year, Mr. Shrivas bought his son a bicycle to go to school. However, the distance to the school was close to 2.5 km and the road was a busy one which worried the parent a little. Thus, he researched a little and found that a school transport vehicle was available for the Sant Tukaram School in Pashan. He went by himself to the Rahul’s school to get the child’s school leaving certificate and enrolled Rahul and his younger daughter Alka (who by now was also of the school going age) to the Pashan School. He now pays for the private school transport for both his children and they are both regular to school. 

Not only has he been so diligent to send his children regularly to school, he has also been speaking to other parents to convince them to send their kids to school. We have been in constant touch with him and since we saw such a positive shift in his attitude towards Education, we made him the ‘Shikshan Mitra’ in this area. Since then he always attended all the Shikshan Mitra meetings conducted by us and he has also helped enroll children of other watchmen around him. He also regularly follows up with the 5 children we assigned to him and sends us updates and photographs via WhatsApp. 

Mr. Garibdas Shrivas, who was initially so reluctant to send his child to school has now become so aware about the importance of education that he himself took an informed decision of changing his child’s school, arranged private transport for his children after enrolling his daughter on his own! Not only that, he is also a responsible Shikshan Mitra who is helping us with enrollment of other children and helping us ensure that they are regular to school! Who says change is not possible!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

School Management Committee Melawa 2018-19

School Management Committee (SMC) is a mandatory body for government schools which has come into existence due to the Right to Education Act in 2009. The constitution of SMC is such that parents, teacher representative, school principal, student representatives, education specialist, community representatives, all come together for the betterment of the school. The parents constitute 75% of the committee. It is a highly effective tool, which can bring about improvement in learning environment. DSS started working with SMC from 2014. In 2018-2019, DSS has been working with the SMC in 30 schools.

Formal introduction of SMC members to the entire school, conducting trainings and workshops, etc. were a few of the activities undertaken under this initiative. We conducted an annual event for the members of the SMC in these schools to bring them together and discuss the work done and changes brought about by them in their respective schools. This event which was conducted on 23rd January 2019 was graced by 80 SMC members from 20 schools. The event was inaugurated by the Chief Guest: Ms. Shubhangi Chavhan, Assistant Administrative officer, Education Department (PMC).

The inauguration was followed by a welcome song by 6 SMC members after which 8 members presented the work done by them in the year. The chief guest then felicitated members of 15  schools selected from the total 30. These schools were selected on the basis of total number of meetings conducted, the attendance of 80-90% in meetings, number of visits to the school kitchen, the infrastructure and other facilities in the schools of these members.

A small quiz based on the trainings conducted by DSS was also conducted for all the members. The fact that most of the members won the small mementos presented to them on giving correct answers showed that they have understood their roles and responsibilities and are aware about the development areas of schools.

Mrs. Chavan addressed the audience telling them how happy she felt that the members’ sincere work towards making the schools better is being acknowledged with trophies. She liked the fact that the members come together and try to resolve any issues, these issues. She said that the members should in fact involve the parents in these activities too. She also mentioned that she would like this initiative to be run not only through the 30 schools but all the schools!

The SMC members sang the song ‘शाळा आमची आहे किती छान’ (Our School is so nice) which was the perfect way to conclude the programme!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Our recent experience working with the sugarcane factory workers’ children.

The temporary settlement of 'Tolis'
Every year during mid October, many migrant families travel to sugarcane factories to work during the harvesting season. These seasonal migrants return to their villages by December-January when the work gets over. 

It is common for the workers to bring their entire family, including young children, thus disrupting their education. While the parents toil the entire day in the factory, children are left behind at home to help their parents with the household chores and to look after their younger siblings. 

There are two types of workers: the ones who work at one sugar factory throughout the season and the other which are called ‘टोळी’ (toli which means group) and work in different factories during the season and are always on a move.

We came across one such ‘toli’ near Talegaon in December we decided to bring our School on Wheels (SoW) bus to this location. (School on Wheels is a signature programme of Door Step School where we use buses remodelled as classrooms to conduct classes for children in locations where there is a lack of space.) This settlement in Kanhewadi constituted of around 10-12 families of sugarcane crushers hailing from Chalisgaon with 12 children, 8 of which were between ages 6 to 14 and 4 were between ages 3-6. 

Visits to the farm to meet the workers who could not attend our meetings
The parents were a little sceptical in the beginning since the classes were to be conducted in the bus, but our staff could speak their native language (Ahirani). Hence we explained to them how DSS works in their own language and also spoke to their Contractor who, along with a few parents, checked out our website to know more about DSS. This eased them into sending their children regularly to the classes. During this time, we not only conducted parents’ meetings in the settlement but also went to the sugarcane farms to meet a few parents who could not attend the meetings due to work. 

The 8 children between 6-14 years of age were enrolled to schools in their native village but when we checked their learning levels, we found that only 1 child knew almost all the मुळाक्षर (Mulakshar – Marathi Alphabets), 1 child was learning बाराखडी (Matras) while the other 6 hardly knew any alphabets. We prepared plans for each of these children. We conducted the SoW class near their settlement for 2 hours daily. Our staff noticed that the children were eager to learn. Our focus was primarily on the older children while for the Balwadi (3-6 yrs age group) children we told stories, taught songs and conducted different activities according to our monthly project topics. Since we came to know about the location only in first week of December, we could conduct only 16 classes till December end when all the families of the toli returned to their village Chalisgaon. By the time they left, almost all children had completed their Mulakshars. We followed up with the parents (Door Step School takes down parents’ contact details while enrolling children to our classes. This enables DSS to track them once they migrate), who informed us that the children have started going to the school again after returning to the village. 

This was our first experience working with the toli. We have taken the contact details of the contractor as well, and plan to target this community as soon as they arrive in October next year.