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.’