Monday, December 30, 2019

Rajanitai and Binatai invited by President's office....

What can be a better way to end this year and embrace a new one, for Door Step School!

Rajanitai and Binatai have been invited by Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's office) for interaction with our Honourable President Mr. Ramnath Kovind on January 03, 2020 due to their significant contribution for the community.

Congratulation to Rajanitai and Binatai!

DSS team.

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. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Book fairies make daily school bus rides more fun and productive!

A PMC PMPL bus runs between Hadapsar and Wanorie to pick and drop students to and from school. Children staying in the Ramtekdi Vaiduvadi area commute through this bus. Ms. Sheetal Gaikwad and Ms Shabana Sayyed, residents of the Vaiduvadi area, work as book fairies in the Wanorie branch of our school. Even they use this bus while returning from school. 

During their travel from school, these book fairies observed that the students create a chaos in the bus and do not listen to the bus kaka, which makes it difficult for him to maintain order in the bus. To control this situation, our book fairies came up with a brilliant idea. They asked the students to read the books that are distributed to them, and it was decided that every student would narrate a story to the others during their bus travel.

Thereon, the children started reading books and preparing for their storytelling session. Thus, during their time in the bus, the kid would either be reading books or listening to the stories being told by others. This automatically reduced the chaos in the bus and their travel time was rather put to good use. For this positive change in the children, the bus kaka thanked our book fairies.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Yekamma finally goes to school!

Yekamma Pawar came to Pune with her parents and 2 older brothers from Karnatak last year. The family stays in a temporary slum in Nakhati Nagar, Rahatne and the parents work as daily wage earners for contractors. Yekamma attended school in her native village till 2nd standard. Door Step School staff had been meeting her parents since last year in order to convince them to send her to school in Pune. Every time we met them, they would say they did not have time to go with her to school for her enrollment (taking a day’s leave from work meant not getting paid which, for them is a huge loss). Yekamma’s mother would also ask us who would look after the house if she went to school? After all someone needed to be at home for the daily chores of filling water, cleaning the house, cooking. 

The girl kept telling our staff how much she wanted to go to school. We would tell her how we were trying to get her parents to agree. We also told her to speak to them, tell them how much she wanted to learn. After much convincing from the DSS staff and Yekamma herself for almost a year, this year the parents finally gave in. They took 2 days off from work and came with our staff to the Rahatni Girl’s School (No. 55) to enroll Yekamma to 4th standard. She has been regularly attending school since then. She has also been an active participant in various sports activities lately: she won the first prize in long jump in an event organized by Bajaj, in the same event, her school won the lezim competition and she was declared to be the best flag bearer. About 115 schools participated in a sports event organized by the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation in which she got the second place in 50 meters running competition and was declared the best flag bearer in the lezim competition in this event too. Yekamma's parents too are now happy seeing her do so well and are glad they sent her to school. 

When DSS recently spoke to her teachers about her progress at school they were impressed with her, they said they initially had doubts about her even coming to school regularly but now they are happy with her sincerity. 

Her sports teacher Mr. Ganesh Lingade, said she shows great potential in sports, and she is especially good in Kabaddi. He said they plan to prepare her for school level Kabaddi championship next year. 

We are thankful to Yekamma’s parents who finally agreed to send her to school. We are proud of Yekamma and hope to see her succeed at school and in sports. We hope that all the parents understand importance of education. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Help comes in all forms!

Right to Education Act mandates school enrolment however, without any provision for school transport, children are often unable to attend school. This leads to irregularity at school and also in dropouts. Door Step School has thus been bridging this gap by providing school transport using its own vehicles as well as private transport. 

To enable the parents to play an active role in their children’s education, we gradually hand over this responsibility of providing the school transport to them (this is done in phases: after providing transport from DSS for a year or sometimes more, depending on the parents’ level of awareness, we take partial support from the parents to provide transport and then once we see that they are motivated enough, we encourage them to take charge). 

This takes convincing not only the parents but also the private school transport drivers. We would like to extend our appreciation to one such driver, Mr. Janardan Jaagde, who has been providing school transport to the children we have enrolled in the ZP School in Narhe since the last year. In the beginning he was a little upset since the condition of roads to this school is very bad. Especially in the rains Mr. Jaagde would complain that he had to put all the earned money into repairs for the vehicle. Door Step School’s staff would keep explaining the parents’ situation to him, they would tell him about the work DSS is doing, they would urge him to keep going showing him how important it is for them to continuing schooling. Mr. Jaagde said at the time that, he would see how the situation is 2-3 months down the line and if it doesn’t work for him, he would stop providing the transport. 

Gradually as he worked more with these children, he has become more involved in the work. There are no complaints about the road from him. On the contrary, he not only helps us ensure their regularity to school by not taking any holidays, he also keeps a check on the children’s attendance: he contacts our staff as well as the parents if he notices that a particular child has not been availing of the transport. 

One such time when he noticed that a girl named Renuka Vankeri was not coming since 3-4 days, he called her parents. The mother informed him that she had lost his job. She informed him that she is a single mother of two children and the younger child has also been unwell of late. She said she could not afford Renuka’s transport fees and hence she stopped sending her to school. Mr. Jaagde then took it upon himself to pay for her transport fees for the next 3 months. It is touching to see people such as Mr. Jaagde to understand the importance of sending children to school and helping them out in whatever way possible! Renuka is now regular to school, thanks to Jaagde kaka!   

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Article 5: What about their “Education”?

We bring you the 5th Article by Rajani tai from Chaturanga, a supplement of the local newspaper - Loksatta. In this article Rajani tai puts forth yet another important question:
Our system emphasizes on basic education and tries to fit in everyone in this set framework.  Some children have special skills, specific likes and dislikes and find it difficult to conform to the system. What about the children from the deprived strata of society for whom this education itself is non doable and yet have special skills? ? How do we bring forth their talents? We keep saying that let them learn what they like and automatically they would learn to read and write – but where do we find this option? Maybe, we may find some way out for some children, but there are many whose talents never see the light of the day and are snuffed unseen – what about them?

28th February is designated as the National Science day. This article is written taking into consideration the appropriateness, in discussing this day – a slight digression from the topics discussed so far.

We work in various slums all-round the year and reach approximately 2500 children every day. True, this number includes more of the children from the migrant communities, but we do have children who start from Balwadi and reach the 10th -11thgrade. For these children, once they settle down to the school routines and are proficient in basic reading and writing, then we introduce English, Mathematics and Science. To create interest in Science and understand its basic tenets we conduct small experiments related to their day today living. The main reason for our emphasis on science is because of a Science laboratory called “Quest” in our area. The motivational force, the energy, the guide, the person setting its direction, in short everything this organization stands for is one Shrimati Malati Kelkar.

We started taking our children to her lab. About 14 years ago. The children were made to perform experiments on their own. This helped the children to get the information, learn the principles and reason out results. Like all things, it started in a small way, but as our area of operation expanded it started becoming difficult to get children from far away centers to the lab. On the other hand, it was clear that the children liked this initiative, they were different from the other children at school in understanding all concepts and moreover even their teachers at school specially mentioned or promoted these children. So now we started thinking of ways to reach the children who were at a longer distance from the lab.

 We decided on two things – first, to prepare kits and reach to the centers away from the lab. And second, train the teachers to conduct these small experiments and explain the rationale and principle of these experiments. (Mind you, many of our teachers are just 10th grade or 12th grade graduates). Some of the experiments included were making soap bubbles and then seeing the various colors when exposed to the sunlight. - And then finding out why? Or the experiment demonstrating how soil erosion can be reduced by afforestation. For this we took 3 plastic bottles and cut them across the length not exactly in halves, slightly above the spout to let off the excess water. This created a hollow – something like the rain water drain. We then filled the hollows up with soil. We sowed wheat and garden cress seeds which sprout and grow very fast in one bottle, in the second one we sowed garden cress but sparingly and in the third we didn’t sow anything. After the sprouts had grown sufficiently tall we carried out our experiment.  We watered all the 3 bottles – in the first one the excess water which dribbled out was clear, in the second one it was slightly muddy and the in the third one it was completely muddy. The children did these experiments on their own and the principles of the seven colors of light and soil erosion were permanently embedded in their brains. The children perform such small experiments and learn.

For the past few years, we have been holding Science Exhibition on National Science day. The participating children choose their experiment, perform it for the visitors, and then explain the principle behind it and how this principle can be used in our day to day lives. There are several types of children here – some who learn the whole explanation by heart and blurt it out but keep quiet when posed with questions – some who try to explain but not very convincingly and very few who not only understand the principles but go a step head – beyond what is taught.

 In this year’s exhibition there were two such examples.  The first one was utilizing the air pressure. A young boy had made a model of earth moving machine (common parlance JCB), using syringes and moved the arms of the machine by pushing and pulling the syringe plunger. The second one was, utilization of solar power. Actually it was not just an experiment as this boy uses solar electricity every day at his home and supplies electricity to the neighboring 15-20 hutments for charging mobiles and one single light bulb. He along with his uncle had found the solar panel and all the other storing and wiring material from the scrap which they used to collect. His uncle taught him how to use it to produce electricity. Unfortunately, his uncle passed away. But this young lad of 10 years who has studied only till 3rd grade, who hardly knows any reading or writing , has put to use the “knowledge “ given by his uncle to produce electricity and use it daily. One feels surprise as well as remorse.

Remorse; because if this boy doesn’t attend school, then he has no accredited, approved option available to pursue his interest in this field. If he has to complete schooling then he has to spend at least 10 years of his life at school. The children we are taking about very rarely complete 10 years of schooling. Some of them start working while others are not ready to do menial jobs as they feel they are educated and get enmeshed in a delusion of self-esteem.   Then they fall prey to various addictions and the parents are left regretting that their dreams of seeing their son being educated and becoming an officer are shattered.

Education for all is essential and a must, but then what part of this must be compulsory? When will the children get education which will give scope for their inherent skills and likes dislikes to be enhanced – skills like music, painting, acting, dancing, scientific curiosity, mathematics, carving to name a few. Moreover skills which would help them earn something while learning. This thought or idea is nothing new – many have elaborated it many times but as yet such options are not available to all and sundry. Then what happens to the creator of JCB or solar panels? How do we bring forth their talents? We keep saying that let them learn what they like and automatically they would learn to read and write - but where do we find this option? 

Maybe, we may find some way out for the children mentioned above, but there are many children whose talents never see the light of the day and are snuffed unseen – what about them?

For the original article in Marathi, please visit Shikshan Sarvansathi (Education for all) - Article 5

Rajani Paranjape

Translated by Wasudha Korke

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Kudos to the Shikshan Mitras!

In our endeavour to mainstream the out-of-school children which involves not only enrolling them to schools but also ensuring that they continue going to school, DSS actively works with all the stakeholders: the Government, schools, and also the communities where we work. 

While working with the community, one of our initiatives, ‘Shikshan Mitra’ is yielding positive results. Through this initiative we work with the motivated members within the community. With their help, we are able to encourage and help parents to enroll out-of-school children and continue their education. These Shikshan Mitras are normally security guards, daily wage workers or people doing odd jobs. So far 56 Shikshan Mitras have enrolled 158 children to school. 

We appreciate the efforts taken by these Shikshan Mitras and look forward to more such helping hands!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Stay healthy, stay a message Rajani tai would like to give all women.

On account of this International Women's Day, the team from interviewed Rajani tai as she has been an inspiration for many and continues to do so with her positive and energetic persona.

We thank team Seniority for giving Rajani tai this honour of sharing her thoughts which not only hold true for her fellow seniors but also everyone from different age groups and fields.

Please click here to see Rajani tai's interview with

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What can we do for Suresh?

A 10 year old Suresh goes rag picking each morning instead of going to school. He hails from Solapur and currently stays in a makeshift hutment in Indrayani Waste, Moshi. This child who could attend school only till 3rd standard has created 4 Solar Panels which charge mobile phones and rechargeable batteries for lamps, providing light to 20 families. He did this from the waste he collected and the little knowledge of solar panels he got from his uncle. 

Rajani tai recently wrote an article (please click here to read it) about such kids and it is indeed worrisome that such kids do not get the education, guidance and encouragement to hone their skills. 

So what about children like Suresh? What can be done for them? What can be done for Suresh? We would really appreciate if anyone could help us encourage this smart kid further. Any ideas to help shape his future would be appreciated. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Book Exhibition in Baner-Balewadi for our children and their parents!

Door Step School extensively works with the parents to encourage their active participation in their child’s education. This is imperative for the child’s regularity and for reducing the number of drop outs. 

Few of our initiatives through our program ‘Parents’ Participation in Child’s Education (PPCE)’, we have formed groups of parents we call ‘Palak Gat (पालक गट)’ and a group of mothers which we call ‘Maitrin Gat (मैत्रीण गट)’. In the meetings we conduct for these groups, we tell the parents about various ways to encourage learning in children, like ensuring that they do their homework, or just sit with them and ask them to read aloud, tell their children stories and also check their learning levels. The parents have started doing this. The objective behind helping them assess their children’s learning levels is that they can discuss their progress with their school teachers. When we discussed their children’s learning levels at one of our meetings, we noticed that the learning levels of those children whose parents are aware of the levels are as expected. We could thus point out to all the parents at the meeting that, the more aware and actively participating the parents are in their children’s education, the better the child does at school. 

Also, in this effort for the parents to help improve their children’s learning levels, the PPCE team arranged a book exhibition of DSS books where parents could purchase the books based on the learning levels of children. Almost all parents, whether they were members of the Palak Gat or not, visited the exhibition. Few parents who couldn't, asked the children to purchase the books. Few parents who cannot read, asked our team to help them out with appropriate books, while few who did not have enough money bought the books promising to pay us later. A Grandmother of one of the children could read, she herself read through our ‘Jodakshar Sarav’ books and bought a set of 2 for her grandchild. The children were seen reading our books, they were enjoying them. We suggested to the parents that they could buy different sets of books and then exchange them with other members of the community. We sent messages for the rest of the parents who couldn’t be present that they could ask us for books whenever they wished and we could get them for them. 

The fact that the parents not only came to the exhibition but also showed willingness to buy books for their children is definitely a positive step in our efforts towards encouraging them to actively participate in their education! 

Below is the original report in words of Mr. Harishchandra Phadke, our on-field staff member:

'आपण बाणेर बालेवाडी विभागात पालक सहभाग प्रकल्पाचे काम करत आहोत. पालकांची जाणिव जागृती वाढ्विण्यासाठी पालक गट व कायम वस्तीमध्ये मुलांच्या आई यांचा गट म्हणजेच मैत्रीण गट केलेले आहेत. याचा उद्देश आहे की,मुल शाळेत नियमित जावी व त्यांची वाचन क्षमता योग्य असावी यासाठी या पालकांबरोबर काम करत आहोत दर महिन्याला एक दिवस एक तास याची मिटिंग त्याच्या वेळेनुसात नियोजित केली जाते व या मिटिंग मधून मुलांच्या वाचन क्षमता काय आहेत आणि कुठे असायला पाहिजे याची जाणिव करून दिली होती. तर या पालकांना आपण शाळेत जावून शिक्षकांना भेटायला व त्यांच्या मुलांच्या क्षमता काय आहेत व त्या योग्य होण्यासाठी काय करावे विचारण्यासठी तयार करत आहोत. 
मुलांच्या क्षमता काय आहेत याची मिटिंग घेतली त्यावेळी पालकांना विचारले तुमची मुले कोणत्या क्षमतेत आहेत ते विचारले व त्यांची क्षमता काय आहे व त्यांची क्षमता काय असायला हवी याची चर्चा केली. 
या चर्चेतून सांगण्यात आले की जे पालक लक्ष देत आहेत त्यांच्या मुलांची क्षमता ठिक आहे. व आपली मुले जर योग्य क्षमतेत आणायची असेल तर आपल्याला म्हणजेच पालकांना अधिक लक्ष द्यावे लागेल. तर या मुलांचा अभ्यास घेण्यासाठी द्स्स ची पुस्तके उपयोगी पड्तील म्हणून वस्तीमध्ये पालकानी पुस्तके खरेदी करावी त्यासाठी पुस्तक प्रदर्शन लावले होते. 

ज्यावेळी आपण पुस्तक प्रदर्शन वस्तीमध्ये लावले त्यावेळी पालकानी मुलांसाठी पुस्तके खरेदी केली. काही पालक अशिक्षित होते त्यांनी आमच्या मुलांना कोणते पुस्तक घ्यावे असे विचारून पुस्तके घेतली. काही पालकांनी मुलांकडी पैसे दिले होते, काही पालकांनी पैसे उद्या देतो म्हणून पुस्तके घेतली आपणही मुलांना पुस्तके घ्यावीत त्यासाठी आपण उधार दिली आहेत. काही पालक गटामध्ये नव्हते परंतू त्यांनीही आपल्या मुलांना गोष्टीची पुस्तके घेतली. एका आजीबाईनी आपल्या दोन नातवासाठी जोडाक्षर सरावाची २ पुस्तके घेतली. त्या शिक्षित होत्या त्यांनी स्वतः वाचून पाहीली व घेतली एका पुस्तकाचे पैसे दिले व उद्या एका पुस्त्काचे पैसे उद्या देणार होत्या. 
मुल पुस्तके वाचत होती. त्यांना मजा येत होती. काही मुलांचे पालक नसल्यामुळे त्यांना पुस्तके घेता आली नाहीत. आम्ही पालकांना सांगत होतो की नंतर केव्हाही पुस्तके घ्यायची असल्यास आम्हाला सांगा आम्ही आणून देतो. 
एकंदरीत पालक पुस्तके घेण्यास तयार होते. आणि आपणही त्याची महत्व सांगितल्यामुळे त्यांना पुस्तके घेण्याचे महत्व वाटत होते. 
ज्या मुलांची जोडाक्षर पुर्ण होती त्यांच्या पालकांनी मुलांना जोडाक्षर सहीत गोष्टीची पुस्तके घेतली आहेत. मुलांना आम्ही वेगवेगळी गोष्टीची पुस्तके दिली व सांगित की, एकमेकांना पुस्तके द्या म्हणजे अनेक गोष्टी तुम्हाला वाचायला मिळतील. 
जर आपण पालकांना पुस्तके घेण्याचे महत्व सांगून तशी संधी दिली तर मुलांसाठी पुस्तके घेवू शकतात.’

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Donation by students of Walnut School

Walnut school holds a ‘Fun Fair’ where children are asked to put up and manage their own stalls. 5 students of this school had put up a selfie booth in this event. They made a profit of Rs.5000/-. All these students are from 5th standard. They together decided to donate this amount to ‘The Society for Door Step Schools’. They bought stationary items like crayons, pencils, pouches, bottles etc with the money and have handed it to DSS. It is really commendable to think of other children at their age. We would like to say a big Thank You for their contribution.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Shikshan Sarvansathi 'शिक्षण सर्वासाठी' (Education for All)

Rajani Tai has been writing a series of articles 'शिक्षण सर्वांसाठी' (Shikshan Sarvansathi - Education for All) in Loksatta newspaper. So far Loksatta has published 4 of her articles in this fortnightly series. Below are the links to the original articles and their translations in English:

People beg because there are people who give alms

We bring you the 4th Article by Rajani tai from Chaturanga, a supplement of the local newspaper Loksatta. In her forth article, she explores the effect of giving alms on the psyche of receiver and specially if they are children. How it damages their self respect and how they consider it their right to receive handouts. She also briefly touches the quality of education offered in the Government schools and the rules and law governing these schools:

We had just begun our work. In front of our office was a Band Stand. Every morning a lot of children used to collect there. Therefore we conducted our teaching classes there. At the same time, some persons used to come there to distribute bananas and bread and such things. We saw firsthand, the way the children crowded around these people, how they tried to be one up in getting more, and the wretchedness they displayed. They were not beggars, nor did their parents send them to beg, but neither were they told not to take anything for free. In a way the children were getting training in begging and running after handouts. Even now we experience such things. We as citizens are very enthusiastic about distributing free handouts. 
       Some years ago we worked in a slum near the Sassoon court. Now due to widening of the road this settlement has been removed. One experience from there – One van came there regularly and distributed meals for the seniors and milk pouches for the children... They had a habit of either begging for food or eating such free food. The milk pouches were sold to the nearby tea stall and the money was used to buy liquor – the milk was never given to the children.
     We enrolled the children from this slum in a nearby Government school.  In those days lunch was not provided at the school and children carried their own lunch boxes. These children didn’t carry their lunch, as food was not cooked at their homes. The children stayed hungry the whole time, so we used to take them to nearby “Zunka- bhakar” (Sorghum Indian bread and cooked onions) center, for their midday meals. Of course now the children get mid-day meals at school and the Zunka Bhakar centers have become extinct. Even now there are many such families who do not cook regularly – especially in urban areas. In the villages you don’t find them as there are very few donors of freebees.
     Slightly digressing from the main topic, let us see how the children going to Government school fare. The standard of these schools is very low. Though the children attend school only 30% know the basic Marathi alphabets. There is no one at home who can teach them or monitor their progress. The parents are busy trying to make both ends meet. Many a times they leave the house before the child leaves for school, therefore there is no one to check whether they actually reach the school. And the schools too are very accommodative – only 80% attendance is required. Yet only 50% children attain this target is the reality. Now exams are not conducted to promote a child to the next class, so once a child is enrolled and he has 80% attendance he is promoted to the next class irrespective whether he has learnt anything or not. Another lacuna in the system is that when a child is 6 years old he has to be enrolled in the 1ststandard, if he is 8 years old then 3rdstandard and 10 years at the time of the first enrollment then he has to go to the 5thstandard, regardless of his acquaintance with the basics of learning. Once he is enrolled, then his class teacher has to ensure that reaches the level of the other students – the law says so. In reality this doesn’t happen. Even if a child attends school, it doesn’t mean he can read and write.

Here is one case where we used to go to teach the children who stayed in a hostel run by a voluntary organization. Being an NGO it was run through funds donated by various distinguished and eminent persons of the society. Each one contributed as per their capacity. Some wanted to celebrate their child’s birthday, some wanted to celebrate the anniversary of their parents. A lot of food, clothes got distributed. In general, the hostel never ran short of food. In all these activities our teaching time table used to get disturbed. The classes were held irregularly, the teaching schedules and targets were not met, the children lost interest in studies – these were the few visible outcomes. But the serious and more long term effects which were not noticed was on the minds of the children. The feeling of self-respect started getting damaged. Instead they started expecting free handouts as their right. Here we see some voluntary organizations too unknowingly promote this culture.

Helping out others is always good but the donation has to be for a worthy cause – it should not be because it is our need to give. Giving alms to street beggars is always wrong because it encourages the parents to send their children to beg. We have our centers in such settlements. At a certain fixed time the parents barge in the class and send the children to beg. The location and time is already finalized.

This issue needs a lot of introspection on our part – is it their need to beg or is it our need to give. Many a times after an event we have a lot of leftovers, then we remember such slums where food is always welcome. We distribute the food and then suddenly the role changes – our need to dispose the excess food takes the garb of a generous donor and we bask in the unwarranted goodness. Whenever we give alms to any beggar anywhere, either to rid of their pestering or because we feel pity for them the end result for sure is the same- people beg because we give alms

For the original article in Marathi, please visit Shikshan Sarvansathi (Education for All) - Article 4 

Rajani Paranjape

Translated by Mrs. Wasudha Korke

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thanks to the PCMC Education Department, 500 children now get school transport!

Door Step School works closely with schools in Ravet and Punavale through its program ‘Every Child Counts’. We have identified need for deeper intervention in this area since most of the children enrolled to these schools are from migrant communities like construction workers and brick-kiln workers.

These children stay in settlements which are 3-4 kms away from school. Traffic heavy roads and highways make it more difficult for children to reach school without escort and transport facility. Transport is the most basic facility required for these children’s school access and continuity.

DSS has been providing transport facility for both these schools since last 4 years. Around 100 to 125 children avail of the transport facility each month since then. Hence, there is need of consistent transport facility for children in these schools. We believed that if the Local Government takes ownership of this, it would be part of school process in the long run and thus sustainable.

As per Right to Education Act, schools have right to demand transport facility. But due to the administrative hurdles involved, schools refrain from making this demand and taking it forward. Hence, we decided to take this issue up with the Local Governement. (Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation). We spoke to the education dept. officials, additional commissioner and commissioner and local corporators through frequent meetings – to create awareness about the need and to take specific administrative decisions. It was tough to motivate them to take the necessary actions.
We took a group of children, parents and Shikshan Mitras to PCMC Education Department to meet the education officers, education committee members and standing committee members. Following all these meetings the PCMC took ownership of the school transport in these schools

This has helped 400+ children not only in Ravet, Punawale but also 90+ children from other remote areas like Wadmukhwadi and Charholi.

This is indeed a significant step towards schools and local Govt. being sensitive towards needs of children from migrant / marginalized families and taking responsibility to fulfil the same.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Door Step School’s little scientists!

 Door Step School in collaboration with Quest Science and Math Lab organized its Annual Science Exhibition on account of National Science Day on 16th February 2019.

 Since more than 10 years, Mrs. Malati Kelkar and her team at the Quest Science lab have been conducting science workshops for the children from our Community Learning Centres and construction sites. Apart from this, they have also provided science kits for our children at construction sites and conduct training for our teachers on how to explain science concepts to the children with help of science experiments. 

A total of 130 children from our various construction site study classes participated with full enthusiasm and showcased around 60 science experiments and fun activities related to science and maths. More than 1000 children from a few schools in Aundh like Dr. Kalmadi Shamrao School,  Golwalkar Prathamik School, etc and around 150 visitors from various institutes and organisation paid a visit to the exhibition. 

The children not only showcased the experiments taught to them by Quest or DSS teachers but they also searched for newer experiments on YouTube and tried to explain the concepts to the visitors. The science activities were started by DSS with the objective to help increase their interest in the subject thereby increasing their curiosity. 

Article 3: The seed was sown, it sprouted and was nurtured, grew into a tree and now bore the fruit.

We bring you the 3rd Article by Rajani tai from Chaturanga, a supplement of the local newspaper - Loksatta.

This experience is also about twenty years ago. In those days Senapati Bapat Road in Pune was not crowded with the structures as of today. There was the Chaturshringi temple and few buildings around it. Rest were all open spaces. Adjacent to the temple were many hutments where families whose main occupation was begging lived. We used to take our “School on Wheels” bus there, for the children living there.

These children were professional beggars. Their skill sets were different. Living on the streets day in and day out, and maneuvering through the crowd and traffic, and earning a livelihood is not an easy task. The younger you are, and the more pathetic, dirty, shabby appearance you have added to the capital of your business. 

The first step before we started the class was to get the children cleaned up. On the first day our teachers and Volunteers got everything ready – new clothes, bathing soap, towels etc. They used the nearby public bath and toilets. The children were given their new clothes, soap and towels and were asked to go and take a shower. They came out soaking wet including the towel - they did not know the use of a towel! – Our volunteers and teachers were dumbfounded not exactly knowing whether to laugh or feel sad.

Our class used to be for about three hours. After class, the children went home, changed into their working attire and reported to work on the streets. Many a times, when we passed through that area and waited at the traffic signal a child would come forward with hands spread for begging and before we could register his presence he would disappear – most probably he had recognized us but for us to recognize him was next to impossible due to a complete change of attire and demeanor. His “makeover” was an essential part of his business strategy – this truth he had understood at an early age. We understood it so late in life.

To get these children enrolled in schools is a difficult task as these children are the main means of income generation. The children earn much more while begging, than seniors. Therefore, the parents are most reluctant to send the children to school.  Festive season is the prime time when the children have to be at home. We tried putting these children at a Boarding school nearby. The children liked it there. Suddenly, one day we got a message from the hostel saying that the children have run away. After enquiring at their homes we found that the children were at home. On questioning them as to why they ran away, the parents replied that the festive season was the prime earning season and if the children were away, how they would fend for the whole year?

Many people advise us that we should insist that the children should stop begging. But, if these children are the main source of earning for the family then how can we insist on such a thing? Can we provide them with any alternate occupation or any other source of earning? If we sincerely feel we need to stop these children from begging then as a first step we have to stop giving alms to them. When the parents realize that this business is not working, they would try to find some something else. It is simple logic based on demand and supply. But unfortunately, to give alms to beggars is our need and we create the demand because somewhere it satisfies us.

Then how do we go about educating these children? - How do we prevent them from begging? Just recently, residents of an Apartment complex nearby, volunteered to offer their community hall to start this process. They provided all facilities like bathrooms, toilets, food, T.V. and other entertainment equipment and a teacher to teach. We worked along with them, basically to keep the children occupied for the whole day, make them learn to sit in one place. We appointed two trained and experienced teachers. Unfortunately, this project didn’t last long. The reason being the expectations of people with no experience in such projects were not met, which were very basic for people like us but totally out of the familiarity of the children- things like discipline, daily attendance, cleanliness, not quarrelling with each other, eating properly etc. The response from the children was not as per the anticipation of the Apartment owners, so slowly the facilities were withdrawn and the project ended. By and by the settlement was removed and the families shifted elsewhere. This is a common feature with such settlements. But many a times the people come back again to the same place, but then once the routine is disturbed it is difficult to set up again.

The families in this settlement however didn’t come back. They settled in a slum called “Poolachi Wadi”. Our work with such children is still going on but it is like an obstacle race. The children are irregular in their attendance, but very regular in being absent during festivals. Then is it worth working with such children? – YES IT IS.  Our very recent experience endorses this – one of our teachers who had worked at Chaturshringi project met a man on the road a few days ago. He recognized her, though she couldn’t place him. He was one of the children at the Chaturshringi project. He stopped her and talked very emotionally about the old days- the art classes, the songs which he had learnt, the “School on Wheels”. On being asked how he was and how he was fending for himself now, he very sadly said that he was as he was before but he had made sure that his children were not brought to the city and were studying at school in his native place! He wanted them to have a better life than his!

The seed which was sown twenty years ago at Chaturshringi, had sprouted, nurtured and had grown into a tree, was now bearing fruits. What else does one want?

For the original article in Marathi, please visit Shikshan Sarvansathi (Education for all) - Article 3

Rajani Paranjape

Translated by Wasudha Korke

Friday, February 8, 2019

Unconcerned or helpless,ignorant or constrained?

We bring you the 2nd article from the series of articles that Rajani tai will be writing fortnightly for Chaturang, supplement of our local newspaper - Loksatta.

About twenty years ago, we started a class near Spicer College which was then the outskirts of the city and new roads were under construction. Obviously the labour force working there stayed in a nearby hutment, comprising of twenty huts, which meant twenty families and about thirty children. We used to conduct classes for the children living there.

As there was no place to start a physical center, we used our “School on Wheels” bus. This bus is specially designed like a classroom, with seating arrangement, cupboards for storing books and equipment, a blackboard and drinking water to name a few. We conducted classes of two and a half hours with children of all ages attending the class. Parents worked nearby so they could keep a watch and moreover those children with young siblings could both study and take care of the young ones.

The classes were held daily. Routines were set, the children too, started enjoying the experience and learnt to sit at one place. As per our normal schedule we had planned to enroll the children in a nearby school after they were familiarized with the basic alphabets, arrange for their transport if required and help them with their homework after school- in short take up the role of their parents. But it was not to be.

One morning when the bus reached the destination there was no one around – neither the parents nor the children. The empty huts stood as silent sentinels.We tried finding out the whereabouts of these people. There were no cell phones to speed up communication. Then we decided to be there early in the morning and the mystery was solved. A truck was there to pick them up and take them to another work site at the other end of the town and drop them back after a day’s work.  We requested the parents to leave the children behind, but the question put up by the parents was very cogent – “who would take care of the children once the class is over? If, we were willing to take the responsibility of looking after them for the whole day then they would leave the children behind.”

We now had a problem on hand. We had no infrastructure to take care of the children for the whole day. Enrolling them at school meant only half day engaged. Here we were eulogizing about education and when the need arose shirking the responsibility by saying it doesn’t fit in our rules – it just didn’t seem right.

The parents took a step forward and offered to take the younger children along with them, and give packed meals to the older children who were to study and spend the day with us. Now we had to take up the responsibility. There were about ten to twelve children above six years. We decided to take them to our office.

Now our office was very small – just two rooms and that to in a private house with a garden around. We were worried how the children would behave – will they pluck the flowers, make noise, misuse the toilets, will the owners object? And many such qualms.

But no such thing happened. They were very quiet, they played with whatever material we gave them, ate their food quietly and after the heat reduced stood on the terrace watching the road. No shouting, no quarrelling. We were very curious to know what food they had brought with them. It was a very pleasant surprise to see each one of them having similar brand new stainless steel double decker lunch boxes with rice and curry in it. The parents had specially made this purchase!

After a few days the parents were again transferred to Aundh at Spicer College. We started planning to prepare the children, to take the school entrance test in March. Accordingly, we sounded out the school authorities of a nearby school. And once again, one morning when we reached the site, there was no sign of the people, their huts. We had no clue about where they had gone, no messages, no notes, no farewell, and no nothing. 

Our teachers were greatly disappointed. But we had nothing to fall back on to trace their whereabouts. Therefore the only way to console ourselves was to believe in the teachings of the Gita –“Putting in efforts to the utmost of our ability is our responsibility, expecting the results as per our aspirations is not in our hands. 

What was the take home from this experience? The children of the road construction workers is a group of children who are deprived of education. Hence, wherever it was possible we set up classes for them. The main shortcoming of the parents was their work pattern. They didn’t stay in one place for a long time. As the work progressed they had to shift their dwellings. Many a times their settlements were away from the cities with no proper access, roads which turned into sludge during the rains. How do we teach such children? What does the behavior of the parents near Spicer College reveal? – Their disinterest in their child’s education – then what do you make of the preparation they did to send their children to the day care? What does their leaving, without informing us tell? – Their unconcern or their ignorance or is it plain compulsion.

For the original article in Marathi please visit Shikshan Sarvansathi-Article 2

Rajani Paranjape

Translated by: Wasudha Korke