Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spreading the Light of Wisdom...

(Submitted by a well-wisher and supporter of Door Step School - Ms. Sayali Kulkarni)

"Diwali is the festival of light, and light signifies wisdom." -  H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

The children and Staff of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Bal Mandir (SSRBM), Bavdhan, Pune believe that a festival is celebrated only when we can share the joy with people around us. We may make some delicious Diwali sweets but if we have no one to enjoy them with it is no celebration.

We at SSRBM Bavdhan decided to make beautiful Diwali lanterns to sell and raise money in order to make Diwali special for others.

The children, their teachers and other staff members put in their time and effort whilst the parents supported this wonderful project by buying these beautiful handmade lanterns.

We are very pleased to announce that raised amount will be using to buy books for the children of Primary ZP School, Abdagirewadi, Tal- Phaltan, Dist- Satara.

Most of the children of this school come from  poor families where the father, mother & other members are working on daily wages.

We brought the books from the Door Step School NGO. Special thanks to Mandarji Shinde & team for great, quick support.

It was really great moment to see happy faces with big- eager eyes of lovely kids.

This way SSRBM, Bavdhan team were able to support not one but two best causes.

Happy Diwali to you all.

(Door Step School thanks Ms. Sayali Kulkarni and SSRBM team for spreading the light of wisdom among children from Abdagirewadi ZP School. We are happy to see the brightened faces of children enjoying our books and teaching aids.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Teaching Alphabets...

Teaching alphabets is not an easy task. Under the Grow With Books programme, Door Step School's Book-Fairies teach children by using innovative methods. Most of the methods are play-based and interactive. The objective is to create interest about alphabets and to increase familarity of words. Children in this video are saying aloud the words written on the floor as one of them moves from one word to another...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

'जाणीव सामाजिक बांधिलकीची' - दै. सकाळ

'मॉन्ट व्हर्ट' कन्स्ट्रक्शन ग्रुपच्या बांधकाम साईट्सवर 'डोअर स्टेप स्कूल'तर्फे चालविल्या जाणा-या शैक्षणिक उपक्रमांबाबत शनिवार, २२ ऑक्टोबर २०१६ च्या दै. सकाळ पुरवणीत प्रसिद्ध झालेली माहिती.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Door Step School at Corporate Diwali Mela

It's festival season and several corpoates supporting Door Step School are organizing Diwali Mela (Fair) across Pune city. These are opportunities for the corporates to introduce NGOs they are supporting, to their employees. We are being invited to put up stalls at the Diwali Melas organized inside the corporate campus or at other locations around. Various gift articles and books are on display at the Door Step School stall. There are greeting cards, pen stands, and tea coasters with drawings of children printed on them. There are beautifully painted Panati (Diyas) for sale. But the best item on our stall is books published by Door Step School. These include workbooks and storybooks used for reading skill improvement programmes at government schools and educational activity centers on construction sites and slums across the city. The visitors to our stall get to know about the methods used to teach children from marginalized and migrant communities. The kids among visitors are attracted to teaching aids and word games specially designed by Door Step School. Overall, it is an opportunity to showcase our work and publications to new people. Through each such event, we gain more supporters for our work. We thank our corporate partners for giving us this opportunity!

(Photos: Door Step School Stall at Harbinger Diwali Mela 2016 in Pune)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Education Makes The Difference!

Every day, thousands of people from several states and villages in India migrate to the city of Pune in search of employment. With the industrial and infrastructural development, Pune keeps attracting people with various backgrounds - from young to old, from unskilled labourers to skilled professionals. The visible differentiating factor among all the migrants is their education, which decides their volume of earning, standard of living, and social status in the city. Fortunately, it is possible to cross the levels by means of education.

The work of educating children from migrant labourer families starts with creating awareness among the parents. Parents' participation is considered to be crucial for education of any child. Door Step School conducts parent awareness activities at the labour habitats and tries persuading the parents to send their children to school. Since the migrant parents are not comfortable enough with the local environment themselves, they are further afraid of sending their children away for any reason. As a result, their children remain deprived of education for the duration they live here in the city. Most of the times due to limited social exposure, the parents cannot even imagine how education could have made a difference in their lives. Door Step School field team has a hard time convincing these parents and getting access to their children.

Our field team is often supported by volunteers from corporates and institutes. These are the educated people who spend their weekends on the ground, understanding the problems and queries of parents, informing them about importance of education and benefits under Right To Education (RTE) Act, and actually helping their children reach schools. In the Baner - Balewadi area, a group of volunteers from 3DPLM Software Solutions, Hinjawadi is helping Door Step School field team in connecting with the parents.

The parents are labourers who usually leave their homes for work before 9 o'clock in the morning. Keeping this in mind, the volunteers turn up as early as 8 AM, sacrificing their weekend plans on Saturdays and Sundays. They start observing activities of our field team for first few meetings, after which they begin participating by talking with the parents and explaining importance of education and benefits of RTE Act, etc. Brahmanand, Shitala Prasad, Namrata, and Bharat are regularly seen at the early morning parent meetings and activities with children. During one such meeting, one of the volunteers, Brahmanand came up with an apt comparison of migration. While talking with the labourers from North Indian states, he said, "Even I am a migrant like you who has come to this city for a job. We hail from the same North Indian states. The only difference between you and me is education. If you want your children to be as successful as I am, please send them to schools now!"

This emotional appeal touched a cord and we could see the changed response of parents in further meetings. The volunteers from 3DPLM Software Solutions have also participated in activities like arranging games for children at the vasti, helping the parents in school enrollment procedure, etc. Door Step School thanks all the volunteers for their concern and support. We are sure that the children and their parents are inspired by them and have understood how education can make a difference in their lives!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

वाचन प्रेरणा दिन - २०१६

भारताचे माजी राष्ट्रपती 'भारतरत्न' डॉ. ए.पी.जे. अब्दुल कलाम यांचा जन्मदिवस (दि. १५ ऑक्टोबर) 'वाचन प्रेरणा दिन' म्हणून साजरा करण्यात येतो. या निमित्ताने यावर्षी पुणे व पिंपरी-चिंचवड येथील शाळांमधून विविध उपक्रमांचे आयोजन करण्यात आले. सर्व शाळांमधून मुलांनीच लिहिलेल्या 'डोअर स्टेप स्कूल'च्या 'वन पेज स्टोरी' उपक्रमातील गोष्टींचे सामूहिक वाचन घेण्यात आले. या उपक्रमात ज्या विद्यार्थ्यांच्या गोष्टींची निवड झाली होती त्या विद्यार्थ्यांचे 'वाचन प्रेरणा दिना'निमित्त आपापल्या शाळांमधे कौतुक करण्यात आले. मुलांना वाचण्यासाठी प्रेरक वातावरण निर्माण व्हावे म्हणून गोष्टीच्या पुस्तकांची वर्गांमधून मांडणी करण्यात आली होती. काही शाळांमधे विद्यार्थी व शिक्षकांनी एकत्र बसून पुस्तकांचे वाचन केले. मुलांनी 'वाचन प्रेरणा दिना'निमित्त विविध घोषवाक्ये तयार केली व म्हटली. वाचनाविषयी प्रेरणा देणारी भित्तीपत्रके शाळांमधे प्रदर्शित करण्यात आली. यावेळी डॉ. ए.पी.जे. अब्दुल कलाम यांच्या अल्पचरित्राचेही सामूहिक वाचन करण्यात आले. 'डोअर स्टेप स्कूल'च्या पुस्तक प-यांसोबतच शाळांचे मुख्याध्यापक, शिक्षक, पालक, तसेच सहाय्यक शिक्षणाधिकारी, मराठी साहित्य परिषदेचे पदाधिकारी, असे मान्यवरही या उपक्रमांमधे सहभागी झाले. मुलांमधे वाचनाविषयी गोडी निर्माण व्हावी या हेतुने आयोजित केलेल्या या 'वाचन प्रेरणा दिना'स सर्वच शाळांमधील विद्यार्थ्यांनी भरभरुन प्रतिसाद दिला.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Project Review Meetings at Door Step School

Over last 25 years, Door Step School has expanded reach of educational activities from hundreds to thousands of underprivileged children in Pune. The objective is to take education at the doorstep of children, hence the activity centers are spread across entire geography of the city and surrounding area. The teaching methods and teacher training model have almost been standardized over these years. However, close monitoring and periodic reviews play an important role in effective implementation of Door Step School programmes. The organization follows innovative tools of data collection and data analysis, for impact evaluation and corrective measures. Apart from monthly review meetings, Door Step School also conducts half-yearly project-wise presentations. The field team presents activities carried out through last six months. Achievements in learning levels against targets set at the beginning are reviewed, problems and special mentions are discussed, and the efforts of teachers and support staff are well appreciated. These review meetings are important for the entire team for knowledge sharing among people working in various areas and situations. All team members are excited to share their experiences and success stories. This is an opportunity for the organization to review and ensure all pieces of the programme are in place. This is also an opportunity for the field staff to showcase their work and gain motivation to keep working ahead!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Door Step School Vehicles

Door Step School runs various programmes for education of underprivileged children in and around Pune city. These include Educational Activity Centers run at construction sites and mobile classrooms used in temporary slums. All the children covered under Door Step School programmes are encouraged and helped to attend nearby government schools for formal education. Apart from creating awareness about education among parents and enrolling children in schools, Door Step School also provides school transport facility wherever possible. At present, five vehicles (vans and bus) are used for ferrying children to and from schools across Pune. Four School-on-Wheels buses reach out to around 400 children every day, offering education at their doorstep. Along with the teachers and escorts, our drivers (fondly called Kaka) play an important role in both school transport and mobile classroom programmes.

We express our gratitude towards our vehicles and entire transport team (driver Kaka's) on the occasion of Dasara (Vijaya Dashami) Pooja. We are happy and proud to see everyone in the team equally concerned about and aligned towards the organizational goal of 'Education for All'.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New School-on-Wheels for Door Step School

As a part of efforts to educate out-of-school children living in temporary slums and labour habitats on construction sites, Door Step School runs School-on-Wheels programme which is a bus converted into a mobile classroom. Sometimes, even setting up a temporary shelter as a classroom is not possible at locations where children live. The School-on-Wheels bus provides space for DSS teachers to conduct educational activities at such locations. The bus is modified to accomodate 20 to 25 children at a time. It is equipped with a blackboard, learning charts, mini-library of books and toys, etc. The bus covers 3 to 4 locations in a day, conducting sessions of around two to two and half hour duration. Focus of the programme is to make the children - often first generation learners - familiar with a learning environment. These children are eventually enrolled in nearby government schools for formal education. The sessions in School-on-Wheels bus support the education of both school-going and out-of-school children.

A recent addition to DSS School-on-Wheels programme is the bus donated by Tata Consulting Engineers Ltd. Mr. Amit Sharma, MD - TCE officially inaugurated the School-on-Wheels bus and also visited one of the temporary slum class at Baner, along with several other management and staff members of TCE. Door Step School appreciates the concern and support by TCE, which is going to help education of many children across Pune in coming times. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Every Child Counts – Bengaluru Pilot

Every Child Counts – Bengaluru Pilot

Bengaluru continues to see significant construction activity. A vast majority of these construction workers are migrant labourers.  Education of their children poses a challenge. Only a small percentage of the children of migrant labourers attend school, the rest remains out of school because of various reasons, they need to stay at home to take care of the younger siblings, or schools are inaccessible or simply they can’t cope up with schools having stayed out of school for prolonged time.

Though various NGO’s and government have been working to address this problem, it is a work in progress, any help is usually welcome.
 It is with that premise, this initiative originated, asking the question:

“How can an ordinary citizen in Bengaluru contribute to the cause of the education of the migrant labourer?”

 That question brought together a team of a set of likeminded people, with a desire to contribute something to cause of the education of the children of migrant labourers. The first lead to finding the answer was the “Every Child Counts Citizen Campaign” or ECC.  Inspired by the successful journey of ECC Pune, which has been working for the last five years with a similar objective, the team aligned to the goals and methodology set down by that campaign.

The goals and the plan to achieve the goals began to take shape. The short term goal was to pilot an ECC Clone in one location of Bengaluru. Haralur road, which borders the HSR layout, Hosur Road and Sarjapur Road, which has been witnessing a boom in construction activities was selected as the pilot location. Enrolling the out of school around two government schools of Haralur road thus became the primary objective of the campaign.
The campaign adopted the same structure ECC Pune had laid out.

  • Citizen would survey the locality, identify out of school children between the age of 6 and 10, and collect the details.
  • Citizen would engage an NGO and with their help, use the data collected to chalk out a practical plan to enrol the children identified to the government schools. The best case would be NGO selected would have funding to set up bridge schools in that locality.
  • NGO with the citizen execute that plan – enrol children directly to schools, set up bridging facility for the ones who cannot be enrolled.

As the citizen volunteers were not part of any NGO, the team choose to stick to the name of original – Every Child Counts – Bengaluru Pilot.

Given that the citizen volunteers had minimal experience in such surveys, the team approached for help, ECC Pune, Azim Premji Foundation and Gubbachi, all experts in this area.

Experts from ECC Pune were more than willing to share not just their experience, but also the toolkit required for the campaign. Gubbachi assured that if in case it emerged that there is a significant number of out of school children in Haralur road, they could potentially be the partnering NGO in the campaign.

Thus after an orientation session held attended by 11 citizen volunteers, the campaign kick started.  The citizen volunteers surveyed the Haralur area for 4 consecutive Sundays. Open source Android apps for surveying were also made available. The volunteers met with parents or relatives of children of the labourers.

The volunteers were received mostly warmly by the people. Their apprehensions would often ease out after a few minutes of conversation. Knowledge of local language became crucial to the success as majority of the people surveyed were from North Karnataka. Knowledge of Hindi, Telegu became useful too. The clusters surveyed ranged from decently organised labour camps by the big builders, to unhygienic chaotic shanties. Sunday 12.00 became the standard time for surveying the locations, as the team found the parents of the children being available on site for conversation.

Most of the parents were willing to send their children to school, provided some of the concerns were met. This included -

  • a safe transport to the school,
  • a day care for their younger sibling,
  • mitigating unsafe conditions in the schools.

The initial survey was led by volunteers with prior experience.  The apprehension that whether novice citizen volunteers would scale to their level dissolved in the second week, where the first timers did a wonderful job of initiating and carrying on conversations with the labourers.  Though the number of volunteers dropped, the volunteers from the same locality continued the survey till it covered the target area.

With 52 children identified in approximately 1 square kilometre, the first phase of the campaign achieved what it set out to achieve, a handful of volunteers completing the survey of the locality, identifying children in the age group of 6-10. The labourers found were mostly from north Karnataka, and the rest from West Bengal.

The campaign has now moved on to the next phase, evolve a plan of action along with Gubbachi.  The data thus collected have been handed over to NGO Gubbachi.  Therefore the campaign stands at a crucial phase, where without any funding, it has to solve problems such as setting up a bridge school, arrange for transportation, etc. The positive response from Gubbachi has kept the hopes of the team high so far. The team hopes that in the coming weeks, it will be able to address most of these challenges.

- Reported by Ranjit A Pillai, ECC - Bengaluru

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Celebrating Teachers’ Month - Challenges and Changes in the Community (CLC)

Door Step School’s endeavor to reach the underprivileged and deprived communities living in urban setting led to the establishment of Community Learning Centers (CLC) right at their doorstep. Each CLC along with its satellite centers serves a large number of communities living in its vicinity, providing the school-going children - study support, access to books, and a quiet place to study; for others - a chance to go to mainstream schools; and for those who just cannot go to school - an opportunity to get literate. 

Although the CLC is similar to the Educational Activity Center (EAC), it has more amenities in its main center. Computer training, e-learning facility, science lab, sports, and various other volunteer-based activities are also conducted by or in partnership with the teachers. The CLC is open for longer hours to serve the children effectively.

It is just 8:30 in the morning and Lakshmi has already opened the Community Learning Center in Dattawadi and is getting ready for the first batch of students for the computer course. She is busy cleaning and tidying the center and ensuring there is power supply; and just in case there isn’t, she has to decide which alternate lesson plan to follow.

Soon after, at about 9:15 AM, Nisha, Anjum, Vrushali, Chhaya, Mangal, and some others can be seen walking around calling out to children in various locations of Dattawadi; Punam, Savitri, Zarina, and Monica are doing the same in the by-lanes near Shivaji Housing Society; and Shubhangi and Kunda near Vaiduwadi in Hadapsar. All these ladies are teachers at the three main Community Learning Centers and their satellite locations, the latter enabling a deeper reach into the communities they serve. Like all the other Door Step School teachers, they play multiple roles in their line of duty. Their day starts like the ‘pied piper’ - attracting all the children and escorting them to the center; and then they transform into ‘life coaches’ who ensure the children learn happily a number of things; and finally ends at 5:30 PM when they hand over the mantle of responsibility back to the actual parents and head for their own homes!

The teachers have various reasons for choosing to work for Door Step School. Some like Mangal, Vrushali, and Nisha live in Dattawadi and are familiar with the local people and their problems; Anjum, Zarina, and Monica knew about Door Step School as they have also grown up in the area; and others like Savitri, Punam, and Lakshmi liked teaching and wanted a job! No matter what the initial reason was, now they share the passion of doing their best to ensure all children in their area are identified, enrolled in school if required, and attending school regularly!

"Working in the community areas has its own challenges," says Mangal who has a Diploma in Education and is with DSS since 1994. "All slums are full of out-of-school children. These children lack suitable role models and hence do not see the importance of attending school regularly. They find easy ways of earning money – begging is very common and many children, although enrolled in school, are found at traffic lights and outside shops indulging in this activity. Some of them help their parents in selling various items at traffic lights. So engaging them in educational activities is very challenging." She has been working in the Shivaji Nagar area for about 12 years. "At first when we started a satellite center near the District Court, it was in the open.. but there was a good response. A number of 5–10 year olds attended our class. We enrolled them in the nearby school and although many did not complete school, some of them did attend till Grade X. One has completed his post graduation and a few others have completed high school; but all are working and have responsible jobs and have kept in touch with me. Now, when their employers praise them, I feel very happy, because when they were in school, nobody except Door Step School staff praised them!’ she adds emotionally and wipes a runaway tear.

Vrushali also nods her head and adds, "Their irregular attendance and wayward behavior does not endear them to school staff! In fact, our biggest challenge is to ensure that they attend school regularly. We conduct a number of parents’ meetings, keep interacting with the parents and children, but it is still an uphill task. On the other hand, some children really surprise us! We started a new center on Sinhgad road. After a number of teething troubles, just as the children got used to the idea of going to school and had settled down, their entire community shifted to Hadapsar! But this time the children called us to inform that their parents had identified a school in Hadapsar and they would be continuing school without any interruption. They also invited me to their new home and school! I was so happy that I treated my family to ice-cream!"

Challenges come in various shapes and sizes! The CLC in Hadapsar is relatively new. Kunda, Shubhangi, and others spent a lot of time preparing teaching aids, charts, etc. to set up the center. They had gone house to house in the surrounding area to tell parents and children about the new facility. Most of the parents gave a luke-warm response that upset the DSS staff. However, within two days, the number of students went up to more than 300! "Then the challenge was how to keep them constructively engaged!" exclaim Kunda and Shubhangi in unison. "It was a test of our training as well as our experience. Now we have made groups and a schedule for them so that no one wastes time and there is optimum utilization of facilities."

Savitri is working with DSS since 2004 in the Vadarwadi area. "The local people here are very orthodox. They do not allow girls to study beyond Grade VII and they are married off very early. But now with constant interaction and awareness programs, there is a change in the attitude of the girls themselves who insist they want to study further. They talk to us about all that happens at home and ask for our advice. The few who study and get good jobs serve as role models and motivate other children." Monica quickly adds, "Many students and their families are very proud of Savitritai and appreciate her contribution to their community."

So, what motivates these teachers to keep working in spite of such challenging situations? "It is change… and that is inevitable!" chorus the ladies! "The best description of change is when our ex-students come to meet us and tell us of what they are doing and how they are in turn influencing others. Some of the girls whom we taught are married and have children of their own; and they are determined to send their children to school. Some are even working as teachers with Door Step School or take tuitions at home," elaborates Mangal.

The regular refresher training also gives them the confidence they need while working in the community. "The information about the Right to Education (RTE) Act further strengthens our views and gives us an edge while talking to parents. I have learnt the difference between just wanting to do something and actually doing it, from Door Step School and I am improving every day just by experience," Anjum puts her thoughts in apt words. Just then Vrushali makes an important observation, "Qualifications of a teacher are not as important in the field as the knack of handling people, especially kids. I think all kids are very talented and we have to be able to identify their special skills and encourage them to keep them in school. They crave for appreciation and attention because they don’t get it at home!"

The Computer lab is a major attraction for all the children with an optional fee of Rs.50/- per month. Lakshmi recounts nine year old Veerbhadra’s determined effort to pay from his saved ‘tiffin’ money. "I encourage children to sit and do whatever they can; and with a little guidance, most youngsters learn quickly." And the same is true for the teachers – all are encouraged to be computer literate.

Sports and science activities conducted through the CLC widen the experiences of the children as well as the teachers, exposing them to new learning opportunities. Participating in the annual sports meet has considerably expanded their general knowledge of sporting activities on the whole. "Now I know the rules of various games and the famous people associated with each game," smiles Zarina. 'During the Olympics, we had a quiz every day. Children love to play kho-kho, kabaddi, and throw ball; and everybody including us loves to do lezim." Adds Monica and their shared laughter speaks more than their words!

The teachers also escort the children to ‘Quest’, a science lab where the children get hands-on experience of various aspects of science. The escorting teachers are also encouraged to participate. As a result, some of them put up an impressive science exhibition to demonstrate various principles of science in daily life. The children were motivated to do something better than their teachers when it was their turn. "And that is the best award for a teacher, isn’t it?" asks Nisha with a knowing smile.

There are many activities organized by volunteers from India and all over the world. "They treat us with great respect and ask us many questions. We invariably use a smattering of English and a lot of body language to communicate!" smiles Savitri. "We learn many things along with the children; now I want to learn English," she adds hesitantly knowing she has said it many times before! "Our interaction with various volunteers has made us aware of different aspects of many countries - art and craft, languages, food habits, dress, and even some of their problems!" observes Shubhangi and adds, "My family is very jealous of me because I get to meet people from so many countries!"

Zarina narrates an interesting incident that has motivated her to do her job very sincerely. Just before 26th of January, she was supervising the speeches and songs the children had prepared for celebrating Republic Day at the CLC. As the class is conducted in a shared facility, some of the senior people from the community were also present. On 25th of January afternoon, she received an invitation asking her to come along with the DSS students for the flag hoisting ceremony in the community. Just as the celebration began, there was an announcement on the public address system requesting the DSS teacher and students to come forward and hoist the flag! This was followed by the speeches and songs prepared by the DSS students. They were very excited and honored. The parents of other children were so impressed that soon their children also started coming to the CLC for guidance.

Chhaya has a rather unusual incident to tell. Once while escorting 7-8 children on their way to school, she was crossing the busy road near Shivajinagar. It so happened that her husband along with his seniors was waiting at the same traffic light in a vehicle. When her husband waved and mentioned it was his wife, the senior officer was very keen to know more about her work. He was so impressed with the details that he invited Chhaya to a social awareness program held in their office and felicitated her and asked her to talk about her work. "Door Step School has given me the confidence to speak in front of a room full of strangers and more important, the conviction that I can do any work that I believe in!"

So what does it take to be a good Door Step School teacher? ‘A willingness to learn and work sincerely’; ‘Having faith in the capability of children’; ‘Having faith in yourself’; ‘Just smile and keep doing your work’; ‘Perseverance, patience, and positive attitude’  ….. and their discussion continues.

May they continue to do their duty with the awareness and maturity that lies hidden behind their unassuming nature; and may their work bring about the change they not only dream of but are also sure of!

- Written by Archana Vyavaharkar, based on inputs from Door Step School Teachers

(This article is a part of Teachers' Month series by Door Step School, Pune. For other articles in the series, please visit