Wednesday, July 17, 2019

i-Saksham: Creating Awareness and Building Leaders of Tomorrow in Rural India

As a proverb says "Do not teach kids how to count, teach them what counts the most". It is very important for children in today's world to be active citizens of tomorrow. For this, efforts are required not just in academic education but towards building creativity, leadership and knowledge among children of the world. 

Such kind of efforts are mostly seen in Urban parts of the country, but the rural India still remains deprived of it. i-Saksham is bringing a wave of change by making children in rural parts of the country  aware about important events of the country and the world, thereby letting children spread the words of knowledge in their communities. 

To bring about this change, i-Saksham fellows who are teaching in government schools (part time) or learning centers of their own are celebrating important national and international events with their students and communities to make them aware of the great history associated with the events and acknowledging their creativity through celebrations. These children take part in debates, give speeches and take up marches at their learning centers and communities to sensitize everyone regarding important issues and days associated with them.

In the past few months, our fellows have celebrated World Health Day where children at few learning centers took up the march and sang slogans to spread awareness in the community regarding the importance of health and hygiene.

In the month of April, children painted on papers and saw videos on saving the planet earth during the occasion of International Mother Earth Day. 

On the other hand, International Yoga Day came up as a surprising one where i-Saksham fellows and their students across all their learning centers and schools woke up early morning and did yoga along with learning the importance of it. There were tiny tiny hands on the nostrils try to do "anulom-vilom" asanaas and kids aged about 7-8 trying their best to meditate. The kids were on cloud 9 and few have them have started with doing yoga every morning. 


Through the celebration of such events, i-Saksham is trying to make both children and their communities realize the importance of national/international days along with making them feel important as building blocks of the nation. We hope to develop children as better citizens of tomorrow and actively engage in activities important for nation building and their personal development. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

i-Saksham in Partnership with Jeevika: Empowering Communities by Providing Quality Education

i-Saksham, on 6th March 2019 singed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (BRLPS) which is an independednt and autonomous society established by the Government of Bihar. 

BRLPS aims to improve rural livelihood options and works towards social and economic empowerment of the rural poor and women and it intervenes with the communit through institution and capacity building, social development, microfinance, sanitation, health, nutrition and livelihood development. It also focuses on women and strives to create sistainable livelihoods through self managed community institutions, to provide greater access to social protection and establish strong voices in the community. 

With the partnership in action, the community based organizations (SHGs/VOs/CLFs) nurtured by BRLPS will mobilize and develop edu-leaders to enrich education experiences of children in resource deprived extremism affected regions. This will also empower women in the region by letting them choose the potential candidate who can act as edu-leader in the community and work towards bettering the life prospects of children. These women being from the same communities where other people are less bothered about education, will help spread the knowledge about the importance of education thereby sensitizing the communities towards it. 

This joint effort can lead to the improvement of grade appropriate learning outcomes among poor children and help youth in the communities to serve as role-models for others along with seeking better life opportunities. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Leslie writes about Mamta Kumari, Khairma Village

The first memory I have of Mamata Kumari is of her maintaining startling calm amidst a screeching bunch of close to 30 school going children - between ages 6 and 12. When I first visited her in her modest study centre, she ran in one of the bylanes of Khairm a, in Bihar’s Jamui district, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drink from the glass of lemonade she had offered me. For most of the two hours that I had spent at her place, I had only observed Mamata drag herself along the two lines of kids who gather every evening between 2 and 5 pm in two batches - calming a crying kid here, tidying up a messy one there, solving simple math problems on the black slates of a dozen of them in between. Sandwiched between the rickety ceiling fan and the littered floor, keeping the lemonade aside, I made a dash for home.

But even as I shared the auto ride back, I knew my metropolitan-high handedness had got the better of me. The feeling of missing out on a possible story of strife and success, was way too strong. I decided to head back to Kumari’s study centre at the next available opportunity. 

In its four year long stint at Bihar’s Jamui (and grassroots recce that easily predates by another year or so), i-Saksham has arguably managed to, among others, instill a sense of ambition in the localites here. ““Aspiration here, is almost nil,” says Shravan Kumar Jha, one of the co-founders of i-Saksham, when asked about what the organisation is trying to do in a place like Jamui. “We’re trying to instill some sort of ambition in these people.”

I happened to meet Mamata again, a couple of days after our maiden interaction. This time, she had come to i-Saksham’s Jamui centre for the i-Saksham Fellowship weekly session. She seemed a lot at ease here, at the centre. Though an ex-Fellow of the fellowship, having passed out last year, Mamata has continued attending the sessions to build on her English language skills.

The following Monday, I hitch an auto ride to Thakurwadi, to Mamata’s residence. She warns me, over a phone call that I had made to announce my plans to visit her again, “ There’s no electricity here sir. You might feel uncomfortable.”

She’s right. For the first part of the statement. Making do with just the generous rays of the sun shining through the open window of her home, Mamata’s bending over the notebooks of her students, making minor corrections. This time, I reach her place a little before the kids head home for the day - to sit Mamata down for a quick chat in her ‘me-time’. 

“I took up teaching when I was in class 6 itself,” she says. “I needed to fund my own studies.”

Kumari, the third of four siblings - two elder brothers and one younger sister, lives with her parents, one of her brothers, his wife, their daughter and her eldest brother’s son. Her father runs a vegetable stall. 

“My father had an accident, because of which he couldn’t work. Since I really wanted to study, I started taking tuitions,” says Mamata, who started with barely three to four neighbourhood children. Slowly, women who’d pass by her house, would inquire about the classes, sit even, for a couple of them and enrolled their own children for the classes. 

Mamata has never attended school on a daily basis - breaking tradition only on the days of examinations. 
Mamata lives with paraplegia - a form of paralysis where function is impeded, waist down. 

Kumari’s younger sister would assist her on her rare trips outside her house - undertaken by Mamata only when push came to shove. She’d barely even step out of the threshold for an evening stroll. According to her own confession, anxiety about what people would say about her and her disability, contributed majorly to the her self-impose house arrest. And once her sister got married, the light of social movement, seeping  through the tiniest peephole seemed to die down too. 

“For me, passing my class 12 examinations was all I wanted to do. That was my limit. Post that, I wanted to simply continue with my tuition classes,” she says.

I hit up an i-Saksham core team member, Golden, about Mamata and her condition. “We did apply for an electric motor-cycle, the one with four wheels. But her name didn’t feature on the final list of beneficiaries, issued by the local Government office,” he says. 

Couple of months after graduating from class 12, Mamata spotted on of the residents of her neighbourhood, named Manoj, loiter outside her house. For a number of days at a stretch. Finally, giving up on not being able to meet Mamata the traditional way, Manoj is reported to have shouted out her name from right outside the open doors of her house.
Manoj, who was briefly associated with i-Saksham initially, wanted to talk to Mamata about the training at offer, especially for local tutors.
Part of the reason, Mamata didn’t want to pursue a graduate degree was the possibility of colleges in Patna being assigned subsequent examination centres. 
“I’d hardly attended school mostly because there was no need to, but also because I couldn’t keep going to school because of my physical condition.”

“Since I was very keen on learning and increasing my knowledge base, I didn’t think much before taking it up,” says Kumari. The training promised to help her in her individual endeavours to study as well as to equip her better to teach other children as well. But charting the 7 km long trip to i-Saksham’s study centre was a challenge. 

Trainers at i-Saksham however, started training Mamata for the next three months at her residence itself until one day, when one of the trainers proposed otherwise. 

“They told me I’ll have to take the test, henceforth, at the centre,” recollects the Khairma resident. Boon, what seemed initially like a bane - the task of travelling all the way. 

What proposed itself to be a major deal-killer initially, turns out was in fact, hardly an obstacle. In fact, a day before she was supposed to head out for some work - one of which was visiting the i-Saksham centre - Mamata had a short platform built next to the entrance door of her home. 

The last of her the children she tutors is for some reason quite restless today. Mamatatried her best to get Adarsh to sit next to us, but for some reason the boy stays put next to the door, eyes on the street, waiting for his grandmother to arrive. 

“We’ll drop you across the street if your dadi doesn’t come along. You can go home from there, can’t you?” affirms Kumari. 

But how reluctant or willing were you to learn teaching methods different from what you had adapted at your own centre, for nearly six years before joining i-Saksham, I ask her as I sip into the lassi I’ve been offered, made using the water pumped out of the neighbour’s borewell. 

“To be honest,” reveals Mamta, “the first thought that hit me was, what’s wrong with my own technique? My kids were doing quite fine and the number of students in my classes had also increased over time.”

If not learning the correct way of teaching as opposed to her ‘incorrect ways’, Mamata learnt a number of ways she could better her teaching. For example, earlier she’s straight away teach math tables to her kids. But later, she realised teaching numbers and basic counting was fundamental. 

“It’s quite difficult to learn tables otherwise,” says Mamata as she plays a poem on her tablet to keep Adarsh distracted. 

Each of the i-Saksham fellows have been given a tablet each. This gadget serves a number of purposes in the training process and after - such as assigning tasks to fellows, helping them learn English on language applications, sharing the collective progress of all the fellows on common Whatsapp groups, updating the i-Saksham team on a daily basis on the strength of their classes, to name a few. 

“This tablet is my pathway to knowledge,” says Kumari. 

As I get things back in my bag to leave, I catch sight of a long, plastic book rack, dangling on a nail. The books in this collection, a mix or poetry, stories, colouring books and so on, find themselves in the study centre of nearly every Fellow associated with i-Saksham. In its association with Pratham - a well known non-profit in the education sector, i-Saksham has been able to source book kits, as described above. The organisation also conducts Pratham’s baseline assessment tests under the latter’s ASER (‘impact’ in Hindi) to understand the learning levels of the enrolled students in the study centres, rather than simply teaching them on the lines of the classes they are enrolled in, at school.
As I leave, Mamata says that about two years ago, she wouldn’t even think of looking at other people in the eye - forget talking to them. Shocking, especially when I’ve spent the last hour talking, laughing and introspecting her the 24-year old tutor.

 But throughout our conversation, I just can’t shake off my mind, the fact that city-dwellers like me often taken everything for granted - from the switch of the button that lights up our homes, to the water in our taps. Getting an education comes at a close second, more so because of how we crib about it. 

Mamata is in her final year of pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Jamui’s K.K.M College. It wasn’t until she met her mentors at i-Saksham, that she realised that her home centre can also be assigned as her examination centre. She is now preparing for competitive examinations. These include entrance tests for further studies and for Government jobs. 

What’s the one thing she does without fail as part of her prep?

“The first thing I do after waking up every morning, is watch the current affairs videos on YouTube, on my tablet,” she smiles. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

कितना अच्छा लगता है जब सोचा हुआ काम हो जाए! - आँचल (i-Saksham फेलो)

 आज मेरे साथ भी कुछ ऐसा ही हुआ|  करीबन एक महीने से ऊपर हो गया है,कस्तूरबा में गर्मी की छुट्टी होने से पहले मैंने एक सेशन क्राफ्ट्स का लिया था और बच्चियों को गुड़िया बनाने सिखाया  था|  मैंने उन्सहें गुड़िया बनाना सिखाया तो, मगर समय कम होने के कारण मैं उसे उनकी कक्षा में लगा नहीं पायी थी और उन्होहें ये काम होमवर्क के रूप में दे दिया था की वो कर के रखे| मैं अगले सप्ताह  आके देखूंगी| परिस्थिति कुछ ऐसी हुई कि उनलोगों की गर्मी की छुट्टी हो गयी और सेशन  ले नहीं पाए|

जब भी खैरा कस्तूरबा की बात होती, मन में ये सवाल उठता था कि पता नहीं लड़की लोग करी  होगी या नहीं?उसे अपनी कक्षा की दीवार पर लगायी होगी या नहीं ?मेरे दिमाग में ये सब ख्याल इसलिए आ रहे थे क्योंकि  वहां की लड़कियों को अभी मैं अच्छे से जानती नहीं थी| उनसे मेरी मुलाकात एक या दो बार ही हुई थी| इसलिए वे यह काम कर लेंगी या नहीं, इस तरह के ख्यालों का आना मुझे सही लग रहा था| ऊपर से मेरी मेहनत भी लगी थी| बच्चों का साथ जब एक रिश्ता बन जाए और वो अच्छे से कामयाब हो जाए, तब ही मन को सुकून मिलता हैI

अचानक ऑफिस में बात हुई कि मैं खैरा इस बार सेशन लेने जाउंगी, मेरे अंदर ख़ुशी से यह उल्लासा जागी कि इस बार देख पाउंगी कि वो गुड़िया दीवार पर लगायी या नहीं| जैसे समय हुआ ऑफिस से निकली पूरा रास्ता  मन में यही विचार चल रहे थे: कहाँ लगायी होगी? पता नहीं कैसे कर पायी होगी? लगाई भी होंगी या नहीं? सोचते सोचते मैं कस्कतूरबा पहुँच गई| वहाँ बच्चियों से मिली, उनके नीचे के क्लास रूम को देखि और मन उदास सा हो गया| फिर मैंने सोचा कि शायद वो लोग कर नहीं पायी होंगी| इतना जल्अदी शायद उनके लिए संभव ही नही हुआ होगा| यही सोच में अपने आप को सेशन की और ले चली|

                           आज खैरा में हिंदी का सेशन था जिसमे शुरुवात असेंबली से हुई| असेंबली में एक लोक गीत था जो की उनके भाषा का था| समझ में हमे तो कुछ नहीं आ रहा था लेकिन लय और आवाज काफी प्यारा लग रही थी जिसकी वजह से में भी बच्चियों के साथ साथ उसकी धुन में खो गई| जब कविता और शुशीला लोक गीत गा  रही थी तो मुझे ऐसा लग रहा था की ये पंक्तियाँ तो अब बाकि लड़की बोल नहीं पायेगी लेकिन उनके बोलने के बाद सारी लडकियां भी अच्छे लय से गा पायी और पूरा कस्तूरबा मानो गूँज उठा| मेरे लिए नामुमकिन था इसलिए मुझे ऐसा लग रहा था,फिर प्रिया (मेरी साथी)  उन्हें कर्रेंट न्यूज़ (Current News) बताई और दो लड़कियों से उनका दिन कैसा रहा ये जान पाए| सीनू  ने बताया कि "आज आप लोग बहुत दिन बाद आये ये मुझे अच्छा लगा और आज बारिश हो गयी ये भी बहुत अच्छा लग रहा है", तो दूसरी ओर पार्वती ने बताया कि दीदी एक्शन वर्ड सिखा के गयी और हम लोग उसका इस्तेमाल कर रहे हैं, ये हमे बहुत अच्छा लग रहा है| फिर बंदना के द्वारा मैडिटेशन हुआ जो कि काफी अच्छा रहा| थोड़ी बारिश और थोड़ी हवा भी थी, फिर भी जब उन्हें पूछा गया आप को क्या क्या आवाजें सुनाई दे रही थी तो एक ने कहा "दीदी मुझे तो टिक-टिक की आवाज सुनाई दी"| बहुत अच्छी बात है की थोड़े आवाज में भी वह एक छोटी सी धुन पर अपने को खींच पायी| सब ने उनके लिए छोटी ताली(चुटकी )भी बजायी|

आज की कहानी का शीर्फिषक था "सालाना बाल कटाई दिवस"| हमने अपने खुले हुए बालों से उसे कहानी के प्री रीडिंग की और उनसे कई  सवाल किये| बताओ किसको- किसको छोटा  बाल पसंद है?किसको -किसको बढ़ा बाल पसंद है?सब ने अपनी बात बताई तो मैं अपने बाल दिखा कर बोली मुझे तो छोटे बल पसंद है,और मेरे बढे बाल होते भी नहीं है,तो किसी ने बोला - दीदी ये तेल लगाओ शिकाकाई, इंदु-लेखा, बाल  बड़े  हो जायेंगेI इसी तरह थोड़ी कुछ सवाल जवाब से मैंने रीड अलाउड शुरू  किया (सालाना बाल कटाई  दिवस ) थोड़ी  एक्शन के साथ करवा पायीI सब को मैंने पूछा कैसा लगा तो सब ने कहा अच्छा लगा| फिर निशु दी ने कुछ और कहानी सम्बंधित प्रश्न पूछे| सब ने काफी अछे से प्रश्नों के जवाब दिए| फिर मैंने वर्ड एसोसिएशन (word association) बतलाया और फिर उन्हें एक एक्साम्प्ले में एक कर के दिखाया और फिर उन्ही से शब्द भी पूछे| सब बता पा रही थी और फिर पांच के समूह में उन्हें यही कार्य करने दिया| सब काफी सारे  वर्ड लिख पाएऔर  समूह में अपनी भागीदारी भी निभा पाए|  कहीं-कहीं उन्हें दिक्क्त हो रही थी तो वो पूछभी रही थी|  मैं,प्रिया ,बन्दना ,निशु दी  और अदिति दी  देख रहे थे कि कौन कर पा रही है, कौन नहीं|उनके लिए word association ka ये खेल नया था, तो काफी मजा आ रहा था| समय काफी हो रहा था तो मैंने उसे होमवर्क में यही कार्य करने दे दिया और पूरे पचास शब्द लिखने को कहा| फिर वंदना से श्रूतलेख हुआ जिसमे लड़कियों ने काफी अच्छा किया|

सभी गतिविधि समाप्त होने के बाद reflection करने पर,  सभी ने आज के गेम (वर्ड एसोसिएशन,रीड अलाउड  ) करने में बिताये पलों को आनंदमयी बताया| हम होमवर्होक पर चर्चा कर रहे थे कि डायरी  लिखने की आदत क्यों अच्छी है,  जिस पर काफी लड़कियों ने कहा "हाँ दीदी लिखूंगी पर डायरी .... ???  फिर मैंने उनसे बोला: एक कॉपी को ही हम डायरी बना कर लिखेंगे| सब ने हामी भरी और सेशन समाप्त हुआ|.....

समय जैसे ही ख़त्म हुआ तो मेरा मन किया की एक बार इनसे पूछों कि क्या उन्होंने गुड़िया बनाकर दीवार पर लगाया? पूछते ही सब ने एक आवाज़ मीन कहा: yesssssss  दी....!! ख़ुशी की मानो एक लहर सी उठ पड़ी और उन्हें देखने  सब बच्केचियों के साथ मैं, उनके ऊपर के क्लास रूम में गयी| वहां मैंने देखा कि दीवार पर बड़े ही खूबसूरत तरीके से सभी ने गुड़िया बनाकर लटकाई हुई थी|

मेरी ख़ुशी का ठिकाना ही नहीं रहा और सीढ़ी  से उतरते हुए मैंने कुछ बच्चियों को कस्बतूरबा आते समय मेरे मन में चल रहे विचारों के बारे में बताया तो उनमे से एक बोली: "दीदी हम लोगों ने तो कब का यह काम कर दिया था| मैंने उन्हें भी Thank -you  कहा और सब को bye  bye  कह कर कस्तूरबा से बाहर निकली| वहां से वापस घर पहुँचने तक वह दीवार का सुन्दर चित्र मेरे मन में मानो बस सा गया था और बार बार अंदर से एक ख़ुशी का एहसास दे रहा था|

कितना अच्छा लगता है जब सोचा हुआ काम हो जाए!