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47 kids from poor families studying at JNV crack JEE Main 2016

A remarkable 47 out of the 58 students studying at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Pipersand, have qualified for the JEE Mains and are optimistic of cracking the advanced stage as well. “These students mostly hailing from rural humble backgrounds have proved that facilities alone do not matter. It

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When the Government of India set up the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) for rural children, it must not have dreamed that some of the JNVs would turn into breeding grounds for students who would crack the JEE Mains.

A remarkable 47 out of the 58 students studying at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Pipersand, have qualified for the JEE Mains and are optimistic of cracking the advanced stage as well.

For the uninitiated, JNVs are co-educational residential schools 100% financed and administered by the GOI through an autonomous organisation, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti. “These students mostly hailing from rural humble backgrounds have proved that facilities alone do not matter. It is the perseverance that counts,” said Principal JC Gupta.

Whenever 17-year-old Mayank saw his father, a farmer toiling away in the scorching heat, he hoped to someday change his family’s fortune. Youngest among his 4 siblings, the Sultanpur lad scored 136 marks in JEE Mains this year. Scoring well has given this young boy the confidence of cracking the JEE Advanced as well. He said, “I have worked very hard for the last 2 years. The onus of changing my family’s fortune is on me.”

JNV Lucknow too holds a good record of students cracking the prestigious exam. In 2014, 47 out of the 50 students cracked JEE Mains while 34 went on to clear the JEE Advanced. However, in 2015 only 8 students cracked the exam. This year, there is a high anticipation from this year’s school topper in JEE Mains Amit Yadav who scored a total of 210 marks with 74 in mathematics.

“We are hopeful that all the 47 students who will appear in JEE Advanced on May 22 will do well. Amit is very bright and we are confident that he will make it to one of the IITs in the country, said vice-principal of JNV Neeta Upadhyay.

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Much of the credit goes to the Dakshina foundation which has played an important role in theses students’ success. It signed a MoU with Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti under which specialised teachers helped students prepare for the JEE Mains and Advanced.

For most students, JNV is like a home away from home where senior students not only guide their juniors in academics but also look after them like their family. Stanzin Angmo of Class 11 says, “We feel so proud of our seniors who cracked the exam. They have always been there to guide us.”

Inspiration

Teacher Warriors 2022: Ranjitsingh Disale – The Accidental Teacher

When he was appointed for his first post as a teacher, he found himself in a remote village, looking for a school that did not exist. This is the story of Ranjitsinh Disale, the accidental teacher.

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A young student pursuing an IT engineering degree was starting to lose interest in it. Perplexed, he went to his father for advice. The retired headmaster did not convince his son, he asked him to enroll in a teacher-training college. Teaching was never his interest but, he respectfully followed his father’s advice and joined the college. He was taught to empathize with children, understand their questions and solve their problems. He wasn’t very sure at the beginning about this profession. Especially, because when he was appointed for his first post as a teacher, he found himself in a remote village, and the school did not exist. This is the story of Ranjitsinh Disale, the accidental teacher.

In 2009, he was sent to Paritewadi Zilla Parishad Primary School in Solapur, Maharashtra for his first teaching experience. When he entered the quiet village, he realized neither the children nor the parents were interested in the concept of school. Not even a handful of students were going to the school and there were no female students enrolled. So, for the first six months, Disale did not even mention textbooks to them. He would have conversations and share facts and stories on his laptop and mobile phone. This started having a magical effect on the local children of the village. They wanted to spend more time around him, learning without having the fear to be scolded or punished. He would teach the students through their observations and with the help of videos, audio, and sometimes field trips.

In 2014, Disale came up with an innovative idea that enabled easy access to learning resources. He knew that the children enjoyed audio-visual aid to study. So, he created QR code-enabled textbooks that were embedded with audio poems, video lectures, stories, and assignments. He curated the content for each of the children he was teaching so that they could learn at their own pace.

The word spread fast and in 2015, the Maharashtra government adopted Disale’s idea and made QR codes available in Balbharti textbooks. As a result of these efforts, the school was awarded Best School for the district in 2016, and 98 percent of students achieved their expected learning outcomes before completing the school year. The Ministry of Human Resource & Development (MHRD) encouraged the use of QR codes and in 2017, launched the project ‘Diksha’, which used an open-source platform called Sunbird to produce the content. Subsequently in 2018, the then Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that all National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks will have embedded QR codes. Even with schools closed, 20 lakh students in Maharashtra used QR-code learning to continue with their studies.

Innovative method of teaching

The students of the Zilla Parshad school in Solapur’s Paritewadi study with Disale where he teaches grades 3 and 4. The school is only until grade 4 but, there is a possibility of introducing higher grades in the school. They follow Marathi as their medium of teaching. The students often study with the help of visual aid. “I don’t have a single method of teaching. I try to use multiple methods for the same topic. We also have guest lecturers and expert teachers for different subjects so the children don’t lose interest by studying all subjects from just one teacher,” he said.

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Disale made the transition from entertainment to edutainment very smooth for the children. He understood the learning style of each student, whether it was visual media, face-to-face explanations, or others, and grouped the children accordingly. He would modify his teaching methods according to each group. Within a year and a half, the school had achieved 100 percent attendance and the children were performing excellently in their academics.

Challenges on the way

The tribal people of the village were the local inhabitants. Due to poor economic conditions, and backward thinking, not many children were sent to school. Attendance was as low as two percent. The parents did not seem to mind that too much. This also led to the conversion of the school rooms into cowsheds and storerooms. However, this did not break the spirit of this teacher who was determined to make a change.

His first step involved visiting the families of the village. He would initiate informal dialogue with them and spend time trying to understand their perspective on education. Gradually, he established polite friendships with the people. To persuade them, he would share the achievements of the children living in the nearby villages and ask a simple question – wouldn’t you want to see your child reach great heights? It took about six months for Disale to gain their trust and convince them.

His second step was to be friends with the children and come up with an idea to make the classroom interesting. So, for the first semester, he did not even mention textbooks. Disale borrowed money from his father and bought a laptop for the class where children would watch movies, interesting videos, and presentations. With this technique, he was sending a message to the children – a school is a place of fun and enjoyment, just as much as it is a place of education. The remaining few students who were yet to start school were soon sitting amongst the rest of the children. His method had worked.

School closures had devastating consequences on children’s learning during the covid-19 pandemic. In these, most vulnerable children come from remote areas which have do not have access to learning and are at risk of never returning to classrooms and even being forced into child marriage or child labor. According to a report by UNESCO, the education of more than 888 million children worldwide faced disruptions due to full or partial school closures. In India, most government and rural students rely on schools for peers, support, access to a safe environment, and a nutritious meal. The shutdown of schools affected these children the most.

For Disale, the biggest challenge during the pandemic was to stay connected with the students. He appealed to people through social media and requested to donate old mobile phones. He collected 67 devices and distributed them amongst his students, convincing their parents to buy an internet pack to ensure effective learning. However, in the post-pandemic era, the effect of the intense two years can be seen in the progress of the students. While some have been able to maintain their level of learning, many students have to struggle because the online method of teaching wasn’t the easiest to adapt.

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NEP 2020

This National Education Policy 2020 is the first education coverage of the 21st century and aims to increase the growth and development of the education sector. The new policy proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects including regulation and governance, to create a brand new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st-century education including SDG4 while building upon India’s traditions and value system. Along with appreciation, there is also criticism that focuses on the drawbacks of this new education policy.

In an article written by Disale on the recruitment, training, and assessment of teachers, he highlighted challenges that teachers face and said, “considering the diversity and different socio-economic strata in the society, there is a need for tailored teachers training. The training should be customized/need-based, continuous, practical, and more focused.”

“The NEP looks promising as it rightly highlights the changes necessary in the 21st century. With the addition of some more alterations to teachers’ training program and their implementation, the system will achieve greater goals, assist teachers to think out of the box to attain great heights,” he added.

Pat on the back

Ranjitsinh Disale was the first Indian teacher to win the Global Teacher Prize 2020. He was among 12,000 educators from 140 countries, who were nominated for the prize, which was set up to recognize teachers making outstanding contributions to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. He promptly shared half of his $1 million win with the nine other finalists.

With his share of the prize, he has been able to provide scholarships of Rs 1 lakh each to 10 girls who are completing their graduation. Currently, he is particularly focused on the teachers of the country. “The country needs to invest more in its teachers. We are not respecting their work and status in society. There is also no system to support teachers for their innovative teaching projects. So, I am trying to give incentives to teachers and support their initiatives towards education and especially for rural education,” he said. He has also invested in his ‘Let’s Cross the Borders’ project, which connects young people from India and Pakistan, Palestine and Israel, Iraq and Iran, and other conflict zones.

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The CEO of Microsoft (Satya Nadella) has recognized Ranjitsinh’s work as one of three stories from India in his book Hit Refresh. The central government named Ranjitsinh 2016 Innovative Researcher of the Year, and he also won the National Innovation Foundation’s Innovator of the Year award in 2018. He has communicated his methods by writing more than 500 newspaper articles and blogs, as well as participating in television discussions on educational topics.

Disale spends a lot of time with fellow teachers to keep himself motivated. He believes in sharing his methods of teaching and also appreciates critical feedback on them to improve every day.

Call for action

From sharing knowledge and skills to contributing to the school’s infrastructure, and contributing to children’s resources like bicycles, mobile devices, or stationary, Disale’s school accepts donations in both, cash and kind. Whether you would like to support them or become a volunteer, we would urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: Richa Prasant’s journey from Corporate world to Classrooms

In 2009, Richa Prasant started Sunaayy Foundation to help underprivileged children.

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A lady was heading home after a long day at work. Corporate jobs can be exhausting especially when the heart doesn’t feel satisfied working 9 to 5 every day. As she waited for the traffic lights to turn green, a little boy knocked on her car’s window. In unkempt hair and tattered clothes, he requested her to buy a box of pens so he could eat something. She looked at the boy holding the pen and felt helpless; he did not belong here, on the streets. He deserved a safe environment and he deserved to use that pen to write his dreams and aspirations. The loud honking of cars broke her chain of thoughts. The light was green and the boy was still standing by the window, with hope in his eyes. That night, she decided to follow her calling. In 2009, Richa Prasant started Sunaayy Foundation to help underprivileged children. It was not an easy decision for Richa. She would have to answer any questions and at the same time, address doubts of her own.

“I was clueless. I did not know anyone who would support me, I did not know how to find beneficiaries, and I did not even know the correct terms. Often, people would ask me why I left a well-paying job or what is my NGO bringing to the table? I had a simple answer – blessings. That was my earning, and that was my reward. It all happened in a very organic way like I was meant to do this,” Richa said.

Richa was brought up in a family that deeply valued community service. During British rule, when Indians were not allowed to receive education, her great-grandfather ran a school for adults. Her great-grandmother would visit the women’s jail and teach embroidery to the inmates. Her father was a bureaucrat who touched many lives by going above and beyond. From getting them jobs to providing financial aid from his own pocket, he used his power for the benefit of those around him. He was also awarded Padma Shri for his work. Richa draws her inspiration and strength from the works of her family.

Challenges along the way

Every eighth urban child in India lives in a slum, according to a report by the Union Government. At least 35 million children aged 6-14 years do not attend school. 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate. In a study conducted to understand the nonenrolment and dropout of children living in slums, it was seen that only 22.63% of children between the age group of 6-14 years had enrolled in various schools (much below the national average) and also found that 43.76% had never enrolled.

When Richa was faced with the challenge of convincing people to take a step in the direction of education, she took to the women of the village for help. “I knew that it would be difficult for both, children and parents to relate with me because our perspectives and experiences were very different. So, I reached out to a few women from nearby slums and spent time upskilling and training them. The women were able to explain how the learning centre worked and within days, we had a new enrolment,” she said. “When a woman from their neighborhood wakes up in the morning, brings 30 children to the centre, and helps them to reach home safely, the parents are persuaded to take a leap of faith and send their child with her. This strategy had a very positive impact on children,” she added.

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“I remember desperately looking for funds in the early years of NGO. Just when I was thinking of giving up on the whole idea, one of my friends donated 5 lakh rupees. He was saving for his parents’ medical operation but, decided to invest in my organization instead. That day, I knew I had to do whatever it took to bring this idea to life. We’ve completed over a decade and we continue to grow stronger with every passing day,” Richa said.

“When pandemic hit, it felt like everything was going to get wiped out; all the efforts, the funds, the learning center, everything. However, we were lucky that people were still willing to come forward and contribute. We also changed our ways of working; we tried to help the people who needed medical support, and we also tried to arrange resources to conduct online lessons,” she said.

Sunaayy Foundation organized an old gadgets drive to collect outdated electronics and donate them to kids in need. They also distributed hygiene goods as well as food ingredients and rationed, and prepared food for over 2500 migrant workers’ families during the lockdown. Richa and her NGO were felicitated with the ‘Corona Yoddha Samman Patra’ for her dedication and contribution towards the covid-19 safety drive that continues to engage in several activities for the welfare of society.

Innovative method of teaching

The learning centre is a pre-school and a creche. Children from 2 years of age to 17 years of age are a part of the centre. In the beginning, Richa was apprehensive to have teenage students but, she realized that the students were growing with the organization. So, she did not abandon them. Instead, she prepared them for board exams and taught them skills that could be used to access employment opportunities.

“We follow a multi-graded system of learning. Because students may know how to speak English but not how to read and write. So, we don’t filter children according to their age and put them in grades as happens in regular schools. We assess their learning abilities and teach them accordingly. Our main motive is to keep them safe and well fed,” Richa said.

When the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota was announced, it was an aid for students who could not access quality education. The students were now free to enroll in government schools, and many from the learning centre also moved to schools around the area and excelled in their academics. “We are not a school. We are a bridge trying to deliver our government’s efforts to the underprivileged,” she said. areas.

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During the pandemic, the foundation was forced to suspend classes. Many teachers returned to their villages. However, that did not hinder the growth of the children. The teachers opened their own little centre and used the training provided at the foundation to teach the children of their respective villages. “Empower one woman and she will open a learning centre and employ two more women from the village. We are not displacing them; we are training and educating them for free. This is why I support female participation in the organization; one woman has the power to feed the whole family. They must be given the opportunity to do that,” she said.

The teachers also stayed in regular touch with the students and parents and conducted online classes as well as one-to-one whenever possible. Students too shared their knowledge with their peers, and everybody continued to learn. This is why the volunteers of the foundation are as young as 6 years old and as old as 80.

NEP 2020

The New Education Policy 2020 of the Government of India identifies education and institutional capacity building as two programs that could support the implementation of sustainable development of the country and also make it self-reliant (atma nirbhar). The revised curriculum and its multi-disciplinary approach aim to impart not only relevant knowledge and skills but, also to develop the vast potential inherent in every citizen.

While it is a positive initiative to improve the current education system, it also has a few shortcomings. “Yes, we must start online learning but we must also realize that it is something that only privileged schools can afford. The pandemic was proof that it was very difficult for the government and rural schools to adapt to the digitization of education. We could, for example, have the MNCs donate their discarded laptops to assist the children who cannot afford an electronic device but still wants to study,” she said.

Pat on the back

Sunaayy Foundation not only provides free and quality education, but they also provide free books, stationery uniforms, and fresh meals twice a day to the students. During the harsh winters of Delhi, the team distributed one lakh meals, 1,000 blankets, and over 1,500 uniforms, to young students. The foundation has its learning centers in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and West Bengal. There is also a skill development centre in Kolkata and it also helps the victims of sex trafficking.

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When asked about her achievements, Richa said, “75% of our kids got enrolled into the mainstream education institutes; this is one of our biggest achievements. Even after the pandemic, we survived, and our organization survive all the hardships. We also continued getting support from well-wishers, from beneficiaries when everything around us was coming to a standstill. We also continue to adapt to the changes, working for as many causes as we can and helping as many children as the time and space allow us. To achieve this flexibility with the organization and the volunteers is also a big success.”

“We need more people like us; like you and me. People like you help us by amplifying our voice and that in turn keeps us going. Similarly, we need more volunteers and teachers to contribute to this sector of the society where the help seldom reaches people,” she said in a message for educators who are trying to follow the same path as her.

Call for action

Sunaayy foundation is always on look for old or discarded gadgets for the students to continue online learning, and also welcomes sponsoring a student for their academic year. One could also sponsor refreshments and meals for the students of the learning centre. The organization is always open to volunteers and helping hands in all the centres. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: Fighting Goons to Educate Children

This is Neetu Singh, founder of Sab ki Paathshala. Hers is a story that must be shared, for the sake of hundreds of neglected children out on the streets.

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A little girl lived with her family in a slum of Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Her parents worked as labourers earning minimum wage. They moved to Delhi in her early years in search of better opportunities. However, the struggle only increased. Bare minimum civic amenities like safe drinking water, sanitation and waste disposal, were luxuries that she could never experience.

Life in an Indian slum is no secret. The partial shade of high-rise buildings barely hides the poor living conditions of people living there. Amongst millions of people living in such informal settlements lived a girl who was building skyscraper of or in her dreams.

Looking at her family grapple under tin-sheet houses, compromising on safety and peace, the girl swore to get educated and help not only her family but also those who continued to live the same life as her. This is Neetu Singh, founder of Sab ki Paathshala. Hers is a story that must be shared, for the sake of hundreds of neglected children out on the streets.

Challenges along the way

Neetu worked hard to finish school and battled every challenge with her strong willpower. She pursued her Bachelors in Education from Kurukshetra University and masters from Hansraj College of Delhi University. She worked as a guest teacher in a government school for two good years, until she lost the job.

While sitting idle at home, the itch to make a difference only grew stronger. She came up with a plan to start teaching the little children living around her house till she found another job. She began by meeting the parents of the children she would spot begging near the traffic signals. “I was surprised that I was conversing with parents who had made a four-year-old boy responsible for bringing money to the house. That little boy would wake up at 5 a.m. and work in unsafe, harsh conditions, while a healthy father sat at home doing nothing,” Neetu said. “The kids were forced into the world before they could even understand it. My simple question to the parents was, what would they do after these kids would be able to distinguish between right and wrong and refuse to beg or engage in illegal activities? Wouldn’t it be better that they study, get skills that can help them lead a dignified life?”

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The straight talk stirred a positive change in only a few families. Nevertheless, she started teaching the four-five students who came to her. Her focus was primarily on girls but, she invited any student who wanted to study. The plan that was only designed for a few months has completed eight years now. Started in 2014, Sab ki Paathshala was her initiative of contributing to society and working towards improving the lives of as many as she could.

Neetu conducted the classes on a small piece of ground near a temple. The temple was located opposite gate number one of Pragati Maidan, Delhi. She thought it would not only be a safe place but, people of the temple or visitors might notice and help this noble cause. Instead, she was only met with unfriendly and troublesome people. The staff of the temple would often dump water, intentionally just before she was to take the class. The ground would take almost two days to dry, in which case, she would either call off the class or the students had to sit on the damp ground to study. She was denied the request for bringing seating mats or tying a plastic sheet roof over the seating area to protect the children from heat. As a result, the teachers and students, both fought through the harsh weather of the city to study. The people living in the neighbourhood demanded she stops ruining the atmosphere. The comments did not distract Neetu; she continued to teach on the same piece of land and began writing to the government for aid to deal with the troublemakers.

Neetu was relentlessly trying to explain the positive aspects of education to the parents to encourage them. If that wasn’t a challenge big enough, goons were sent to threaten her and stop her from educating the children. The police did not provide any assistance for a long time.

“When I think about that day, I feel grateful as ever for being alive,” Neetu said. “Some of these young children used to steal, some were sent to deliver drugs, and run errands, only because police would never doubt kids. With me, they were learning the difference between good and bad. So, the goons came knocking on my door, not only threatening me but also some of the little girls who were studying with me. I stood my ground because I knew that neither my actions, nor intentions were wrong. To look at them in the eye and ask them to leave while they went on warning and swearing at us, I never knew I had that kind of courage. It was the faces of these children that motivated me to continue working with them,” she added.

After the incident, Neetu sent letters to Mahila Ayog Delhi, the commissioner and the public grievance portal of the Prime Minister. It took two years for the threats to stop. The replies to her letters were sent directly to the police station of the responsible area, explaining her work and stating that she had no other intention but to teach the children. It was then that the police went to her, this time with no harsh words, and assured her of protection.

Just when the challenges seemed to be coming to end, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, and Sab ki Paathshala. Teachers who would conduct classes stopped coming, the number of volunteers reduced and children were confined to their houses. Yet, the thought of giving up never crossed her mind.

Now, in the post-pandemic era, she shares her resources and time with anyone who visits the school. She organizes festive activities and annual days for the students to strike a balance between education and extra-curricular activities. She also engages with teachers of other schools who come as guest lecturers for the students.

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Innovative method of teaching

“In the beginning years, I had as many as fifty students coming to study. They were used to temporary initiatives and thought that I was doing the same. With time, they understood that I am very serious and here to stay. So, the number of students reduced after some time. Those who wanted to study, are still associated with our school. Some have been with us from grade 2 and have just given grade 10 state board exams,” Neetu said.

In the beginning years at Sab ki Paathshala, the children are not taught subjects like in regular schools. They start by learning the basics of reading and writing in Hindi. Any Hindi language book is helpful to carry out the exercises. The children also learned English the same way. They are made to read out paragraphs, discuss the difficult words and their use in a sentence, and write letters or essays in the same language. When the students reaches higher grade 9, Math has been introduced because the students aim to appear for the grade 10 exams. With their basics strong, they are able to understand what is taught and enrol in government schools around the neighbourhood, continuing to take the two-hour class at Sab ki Paathshala. In extra-curricular activities too, Neetu’s students are shining bright in their respective schools.

“I was never allowed to be a part of the annual dance shows or performances when I was in school. My parents were already going above and beyond to let me study. Any extra-curricular activities were only a distraction, according to them. So, I taught my children the beauty of arts and expression. This has led them to confidently get on stage and bag prizes and medals for both, themselves and the school,” Neetu said. “A group of my students go to the nearby school and they tell me how the teachers insist that the students of Sab ki Paathshala go for inter-school competitions and performances. I live my school life all over again when I see the excitement in their eyes.”

Sab ki Paathshala, with the help of professional volunteer teachers, engage in teaching yoga, gardening, poster making, drawing, theatre and dance to the students of the school.

Views on NEP 2020

“I have high hopes for the new policy. Earlier the education system was based on memorization i.e. you teach the students while they learn just enough to pass the exams. The grades in exams were the overall report of the student, the teachers or the government was not bothered by anything else. I know this because I have also been a part of the same education system,” Neetu said. “The policy is very beneficial for the overall development of the students and I wish it had been applied sooner. I also like how the Fundamental Right of Education that was set at 14 years of age has now been changed to 18 years. This was a very necessary step. The students will now learn more about our culture and will be able to pursue their interests. However, I would request the government to also consider the growth of underprivileged children. The government could collaborate with NGOs to develop schools in the nearby slums. I would often ask the reason for not going to school and many children were not even aware what schools were or how they functioned,” she added.

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Pat on the back

“One has to be extremely patient; there is no other way to do this,” Neetu said, in a message for educators who are following the same path as her. “Perform at your full, follow your intuitions and, in the end, let your work speak for you. I could only explain so much to the parents of these children. It was the change in their behaviour, attitude and understanding of the child that convinced them.”

A teacher once visited Sab ki Paathshala and observed the children and staff of the school. With many people visiting the school, Neetu thought the teacher was also a well-wisher like others. Soon, she found herself receiving an award from The Rotary Club of Delhi. The teacher had seen her efforts and the growth of the children and had nominated her for the award. This helped in spreading the good word for Sab ki Paathshala and people started contributing to the school as volunteers, with a donation or bringing students to her for quality education. Every time a student performs well, she adds it as an achievement to her list.

“I understood very early in my life that education was the only way to change my life. However, it was not a cakewalk to get here. I have clear pictures in my mind of a few incidents. Like, my first day at school; the day I was slapped and humiliated by my teacher for not being able to read and write; the days I went to school without food and sometimes survived only on a fruit given during the mid-day meals,” Neetu said. “When I look back at the eight-year-long journey of Sab ki Paathshala, it motivates me to keep going. I have taught my students the impact and importance of education. I also remember the first girl I took as my student, the first time my students won a prize or scored well in their academics, and their smiles when they felt the rush of energy talking to me about their dreams. I am working towards my goal of educating one-lakh students of the country and I hope I achieve that soon because I cannot wait to see these children join the army, join the government and become great artists.”

Call for action

From being on the streets to helping those on the streets now, Neetu’s journey has been an incredible one.

Sab ki Paathshala takes donations in both, cash and kind. One could offer to be a volunteer teacher for the children, donate uniforms and stationery, sponsor a student or contribute to the infrastructure of the one-classroom school. Their website has information on fund links as well as the goals they are trying to reach. Neetu urges people to visit the school, meet the children and then decide how they can help them. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to engage with this cause for change. 

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Teacher Warriors 2022: AROH Foundation striving for Women Empowerment

This is the story of Neelam Gupta, founder of AROH foundation, responsible for positively impacting more than 5 lakh women of India.

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A strong-willed woman stepped out to improve the lives of the underprivileged women in India. On her way, she encountered many challenges. If breaking through the narrow-minded mentality was not enough, she battled through a pandemic too. The hiccups only caused enough turbulence for her and the team; they overcame the hurdle with resilience. This is the story of Neelam Gupta, founder of AROH foundation responsible for positively impacting more than 5 lakh women in over 18 states of India.

Neelam and her foundation have been closely working with the Government of India and implementing many projects in the sector of Health & Sanitation, Education & School Infra Development, Holistic Rural Development Programs, Water & Natural Resource Management, Skill Development and Livelihood Generation projects. A great emphasis is laid on the empowerment of women and is a cross-cutting agenda within all its interventions.

Every woman associated with the NGO shares the vision of Neelam Gupta, who always saw herself as an entrepreneur. “I always wanted to become a social entrepreneur only. It was my dream to serve back to my people,” she said. “But to be self-sufficient and economically confident before venturing into this nonprofit venture, I started a printing and design venture to have sufficient funds for initial investments. I continued with this stop-over arrangement for around a decade and, finally, within the advent of the new millennium in 2001, I founded AROH Foundation in Delhi. Looking back, the journey of 20 years has been nothing but rewarding,” she added.

Challenges along the way

“It is our work that keeps each one of us motivated. The smiles, the blessings and the words of heartfelt appreciation by each and every beneficiary of ours pump adrenaline in us and I guess that’s why we are here in the education sector in the first place,” Neelam said when asked about how she kept herself and the staff motivated during the pandemic.

The covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on women’s jobs and livelihoods. In a 2021 report by The Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), it was noted that women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s globally, accounting for some 54% of overall job losses. Therefore, the urgency to work towards addressing this detrimental impact only increased. The lockdown during the pandemic was a challenge for the organisation and Neelam.

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“COVID came as a test for AROH and its development process. The lockdown forced a stop on the development work in the field, it also hampered the funding of the organization to an extent,” she said. Many of the unprepared and unequipped staff had to suffer during the digital shift of the work, and several opted out of work because of the unmanageable conditions. “The disease not only took a toll on everyone’s health, subsequent economic crisis and psychological stress were also evidently impacting,” she added.

During the pandemic, domestic violence observed a rise. The country was already struggling with the declining participation of women in the labour force, standing at a distressing 21 per cent, according to a study conducted on Covid-19 and the increase of domestic violence against women. The prevalence of domestic violence in India has always been troublesome, and unfortunately, it worsened at an alarming rate due to the strict indoor confinement. Some even referred to this hike as a ‘hidden epidemic.’

“Our women beneficiaries were overburdened with household work during covid, with all sources of support coming to a halt. Since men were out of jobs, the cases of domestic abuse increased noticeably among families. Women were forced to move back to their home town or were stuck on the road during the commute for days. They struggled for food, and water and no safety measures were in place to protect them from the deadly disease,” Neelam said. “The men were left struggling to find daily-wage jobs, some could not even manage a single meal. Stress was reflected in every member of the family. The children were lacking behind in their studies. With schools shut down, the promised meals couldn’t reach them; causing hunger, malnutrition, increase vulnerability towards the disease, lack of shelter and psychological depression”, she added.

Women’s organisations played a vital role in the upliftment of those affected by the pandemic in any way. This NGO was also one of them. The foundation has been able to reach out to the most vulnerable sections of the society for women, such as in Naxalite areas, tribal communities of Chhattisgarh, terrains of Meghalaya, and amidst the challenging demographics of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttrakhand, Bengal etc. “We used the time of lockdown to create extensive awareness, develop online fund-raising platforms, and conduct online counselling and support centres to fight fund crunch. As always, AROH acted as an extended wing of government in relief work. AROH joined hands with district administration, state government and health departments from every possible capacity,” she said.

AROH has always been hailed for its technology-driven planning, implementation and reporting methodology, which eventually helped them to get through the implications of COVID-19. Many employees were facilitated to be trained in the necessary skills to adopt the digital mode of working. Others were helped with pre-used digital gadget support to continue access to the services. “All these measures have helped us increase our reach and footprints while covering many virtual beneficiaries through online media, social media and our support platforms,” she added.

Innovative method of teaching

“AROH has been a part of the most critical foundational years of learning for a child for almost 12 years. Launched in 2009, our flagship project Padho aur Badho (PAB), focused on enhancing learning outcomes and retention of children in schools with a unique Post Based Learning Curriculum, which was easy to grasp and stayed longer in children’s memory. PAB model was a hot cake among Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) stakeholders and was funded by leading CSR funders like GAIL, RECL, AICL etc. This benefited more than 10,000 children to improvise their learning outcomes through our trained educators,” she explained. “But with the advent of RTE, PAB was improvised and rebranded as RISE, which hails for catering to the holistic growth of a child while focusing on enhancing their learning outcomes through uniquely developed Blended Learning Modules (BLMs). These BLMs were developed by experts, who co-related day-to-day activities and posts with NCERT curriculum and drafted comprehensive, coherent modules which enabled teaching and learning through both online and offline mode,” she added.

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Blended Learning Modules increased engagement towards RISE. Neelam said, “by far RISE proudly claims to improvise learning outcomes in the lives of over 5000 children in urban slums. Similarly, emphasis is laid on developing age-appropriate skill-based curricula, which integrates socio-emotional learning and universal values.”

“In an attempt to improve the capacity of teachers, AROH has installed SMART classes in more than 200 schools in rural setups. Digital Libraries have been set up and more than 500 Aanganwadis were provided infrastructural support. All these interventions have been possible due to user-friendly interfaces, which delivered the curriculum through audio-video mode. Taking these tiny but buoyant steps together, AROH has been able to benefit more than 50,000 children so far in urban slums and rural setups,” she added.

Views on NEP 2020

The National Education Policy of India 2020, as approved by the Union Cabinet of India on 29 July 2020, outlined the vision of the new education system of India. The new policy has been getting the attention of both critics as well as supporters. “NEP, perhaps, arrived a little too late but is still in place. Skill-based education and holistic, digital learning is the need of the hour and NEP speaks at large about it,” Neelam said. “It does have few implementational gaps but the new policy has given a 360-degree view on the problem of dropouts in schools by addressing issues of infrastructures, participation of students and the delivery of quality education. Overall, the policy is a game changer and with careful implementation of the ideas, it can transform school education in India,” she added.

Pat on the back

AROH and Neelam work tirelessly to empower women by providing skills that make them industry-ready, along with necessary entrepreneurial skills. The aim is to prepare them for opportunities in the business sector. The lessons also include traditional skills, and farm and non-farm-based activities focused on enhancing their livelihood. The foundation incorporates women-friendly policies and practices that are followed all through the programmes – from mobilisation to counselling, training and placement. There are women counsellors also; with placement focused on gender-sensitive employers, who have safe and secure systems, and have the provision of safe accommodation for women. About 33 per cent placement guarantee and reserved quota for women beneficiaries have proved to be an effective tool for women’s economic empowerment.

The women are trained in many areas of the workforce, such as computer applications, retail, hospitality, sewing machine operators, nursing assistant, Industrial electricians, etc., after which they are placed in suitable jobs. When asked about the top achievements for Neelam, she said, “at present, I can say, being proactive and switching to online mode of teaching-learning, our remedial education project has been able to continue education for 1000 kids during and after COVID.”

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“More than 5000 children were assisted with holistic development, and we helped in enhancing learning outcomes for over 1000 children. Facilitating safe drinking water and sanitation, upgrading infrastructure, installing laboratories, libraries and SMART learning in 500 government schools and benefiting more than 50,000 students while up-skilling more than 500 staff members, has been our biggest achievements as educators. This also led to improvement in attendance and student retention, with healthy children and empowered school staff around us, which itself is a sustainable change,” she added.

Call for action

Neelam has a vision for the children associated with the foundation. Every child should be empowered with the right information, knowledge and skills to survive and thrive in the global competition in the later stages of life. “We are building our knowledge and human resource credit, on which we are betting for being a trillion-dollar economy,” she said.

“Perseverance is the key. Do not lose hope or stop trying. Children often do not respond in our decided time frames but they need you. And please be relevant in your skills as per time and need. Upgrade and restart whenever needed,” she said, sending a message to educators following the same path as her.

Neelam started AROH with a simple thought that she lives by till today, after completing 20 years in the field of education and empowerment. She said, “the value of human dignity, equality and equity cannot be understated. Human life is born not merely to survive but to thrive! Empowering people is the key to their progress and prosperity.”

AROH Foundation has a crowdfunding link through which anyone can extend support and contribute. One could also help in sharing new skills, contacts, information or resources with the team that could be beneficial in their endeavours. One could also fund a child’s education, become a mentor to them, or spare a little time to be a friend to them. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: Anubha Sharma shares the story of AngelXpress Foundation

After investing twenty years of her life in financial services, she decided to take a turn that changed her life.

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After investing twenty years of her life in financial services, she decided to take a turn that changed her life. Over a period of time, she had overserved the decline in the quality of education that the underprivileged children received in India. After volunteering extensively with the children, she realised that people around her were interested in making a difference in the life of these children. In 2012, she posted a request for clothes and stationery on a social media platform and generated over three-thousand phone calls from people ready to contribute. This is the story of Anubha Sharma, founder of Angel Xpress Foundation (AXF).

“I never planned to work in the field of education; I firmly believe that it is destiny that brought me here. I say this because the sequence of events and the ease with which everything came together right in the initial phases of AXF will convince the biggest of non-believers in the concept of a preordained destiny,” she said. Anubha mentions her friend and co-founder Beenaa Advani, who also gave up her career to dedicate her life to the betterment of education.

The covid-19 lockdown had tested everyone’s willpower. When asked Anubha about how she kept herself and the staff motivated, she said, “I am not someone who finds it easy to quit something before giving it my all and on this journey, I have found a number of people who are equally self-motivated. We have fought past hurdles and difficulties as a team that is unwilling to give up. I think our pride prevents us from allowing anything we create to die down and I speak here for the entire 100+ AXF leadership team who have braved odds and challenges on multiple levels. While we constantly fight to hold our positions, we have been willing to allow events to flow through and we help each other to find solutions,” she added.

The team at AXF took to the co-existing slums around the high-rises in the city of Mumbai and promoted ‘learning centres in parks.’ This initiative was designed to bridge the gap between the first-generation learners who reside in slums and their educated neighbours who have the social and are willing to contribute to the community.

Challenges along the way

The pandemic brought great disadvantages, particularly to children from underprivileged backgrounds. Remote learning was barely an option for them, with no access to phones or digital platforms. This led to many students giving up on schools, causing great damage to the overall growth and quality of education. The school and students of AXF also encountered problems but, they were focused on finding solutions. So, when the school experienced a drop in attendance, regular interactions were encouraged between volunteers and students/parents to keep them informed of changes and provide aid wherever possible. The lack of devices, as well as internet data packs, were a concern too, for which, regular donation drives were conducted which helped many of the students to continue regular access to their classes. During the pandemic, a few students relocated or moved back to their village. This disrupted the access to their study material and resources. The volunteers found a solution to it by learning to share materials online with them.

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Now, in the post-pandemic era, the teachers work rigorously with the students. The disruption in their studies has caused a gap. Students were unable to grasp the lessons online, they were not able to study on regular basis, and therefore, a revision or bridge course was introduced at the beginning of the academic year 2022. There is also a shortage of online volunteers as well as in-person since some are still apprehensive about the pandemic. For the time being, senior classes are to be scheduled according to the hybrid model.  But the post-pandemic era also had a positive impact on the AXF Foundation.

With the commencement of offline teaching at the centres, students have started attending the school regularly, a social connection is slowly getting established with children and volunteers and there is now ease in using online resources. The centre hosts various activities and workshops for children and the curriculum has now become more focused on life skills as well as introducing new subjects apart from English and Maths. With help of the WhatsApp groups that were formed during the pandemic, volunteers now communicate with students on an ongoing basis, not limited to face-to-face interactions.

Innovative method of teaching

When asked about the medium and method of teaching, Anubha said, “Our medium of teaching is English. We truly believe that we play the role of facilitators rather than teachers. This means that we help the child learn inherently and organically from the inside rather than teaching from the outside. When the child is invested in his/her learning they retain the information for life.”

“For instance, if a difficult word pops out of the lesson, we do not instantly share the meaning. Instead, we give a context and use that word in several sentences, allowing the child to comprehend the meaning. This way, they remember it better and it makes them feel like they have contributed to the class,” she added.

Views on NEP 2020

In a conclave on ‘Transformational Reforms in Higher Education under National Education Policy’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the new National Education Policy (NEP) will be the foundation of the new India. Anubha expressed her positive views on the policy too. “The new policy emphasizes holistic and multidisciplinary education instead of rote learning. The promise of reducing the school syllabus and making learning a fun-based and complete experience for school students is appreciable. The policy also focuses on providing vocational and technical education to students so that they are better equipped to enter the workforce,” she said. “Students will now be tested on their abilities to apply concepts to solving real problems rather than on how well they remember things from books. This syncs with the philosophy of AXF. I hope the gap between urban and rural areas will gradually reduce, with policy focussing on using technology in education to make it more accessible and effective,” she added.

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Pat on the back

With the help of volunteers and teachers, almost 700 students receive lessons at centres that operate out of parks in six locations across Mumbai city. The Angel Xpress Foundation proudly calls itself ‘a free service provider for Mumbaikars who want to help children in their neighbourhood’. They train the volunteers free of cost and encourage engagement with this cause.

The NGO counts adaptability and their spoken English module as one of its main achievements. With adaptability, they have been able to maintain a robust English language program and the spoken English modules that increased one-to-one interaction between student and volunteer was successfully achieved.

Anubha’s dream and vision for the students of AXF are that every child should be empowered to be their best selves so that they can confidently interact with the environment outside the foundation. In her message for educators who are trying to follow the same path, she emphasises giving every child an opportunity to learn and grasp a model which can be easily adapted by others. “We always tell the kids that making mistakes is a good thing because it means that they are trying. If they are treading on the wrong path or are unable to solve problems, then we are there to help. The effort will surely reap benefits over time. It is our confidence in them that enhances their confidence in themselves,” she shared her message to the students.

Call for action

“I have seen many near-miraculous recoveries and inexplicable melting away of barriers. This helps in maintaining a firm belief that we must give our best, no matter how tough the time may be,” she said.

Angel Xpress Foundation seeks employee engagement for mentorship, soft skills career engagement and teaching in their centres. Professional assistance in sectors like understanding and using digital platforms, training, contribution to academic innovation and data analysis are welcome. One could also sponsor a centre or sponsor a student of the NGO. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: The story of Kaliyuva Mane, ‘home for learning’

This is the story of Ananth Kumar, an engineer who decided to dedicate his life to researching and developing an alternate model of education for rural opportunity-deprived children.

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On the evening of August 1992, a man walked into the city of Mysore. He was stationed in a tiny village called Srirampura and rented a compact sheet-roofed house for himself. He observed that there were many children in his neighbourhood. One Sunday, he decided to host outdoor games for them. The children flocked around the house, slowly getting acquainted with him. As they were playing, one of them called out for the man and said “brother!”. Soon, he was known as the brother who hosted games on Sundays.

One day, three students from grade 10 approached Brother with quadratic equations. While helping them, he realised that the students were unaware of the basics of numbers and equations; they had not come across the term square root or square while studying Math. Thankfully, the three students cleared the board exams with his help. This increased the demand for his supplementary classes and one morning, he found sixty students waiting at 6’o clock outside his house.

This is the story of Ananth Kumar, an engineer who decided to dedicate his life to researching and developing an alternate model of education for rural opportunity-deprived children. He built Kaliyuva Mane which means ‘home for learning’ and this home was open to students of all ages and grades with no fixed period of admission or tedious procedures. The school is fuelled by the vision of transforming children into self-sufficient citizens by sharing love, empathy, and quality education.

Challenges along the way

According to a report by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, literacy in rural areas was 64.7 percent, as opposed to 79.5 percent in urban areas. This went further down when the country went into lockdown. In a survey tabled in the Parliament, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the ASER (rural) reports. During the pandemic, children between the age of 6 to 14 years who were ‘not currently enrolled in schools’ increased from 2.5 percent in 2018 to 4.6 percent in 2021.

The COVID-19 induced lockdown is remembered differently by each one of us. Ananth Kumar remembers it having a more positive impact than negative. “Our school was converted into a complete residential school and the staff members stayed on campus with the children. This helped in keeping all our focus on the children and I feel that we have come out stronger as a team,” he said. “The only negative impact in my opinion is that our operating cost has hiked due to the escalation in the price of commodities,” he added.

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While a lot of schools shut down, Kaliyuva Mane was not only taking care of the education but, also the health and well-being of the students and staff. The teachers motivated each other as they would in a family. The students stayed on campus and any new member of the school was first observed for two weeks in quarantine before being granted permission to enter the school. Both teaching and non-teaching staff stayed on campus and the children spent most of their time in open areas. The three-acre campus hosted open-space classes and for the first time, the gates of Kaliyuva Mane were shut to outsiders. The rule was simple – sanitise, thermal scan, and wait in the visitor’s lounge before the school any interaction was allowed. Any material bought from the stores was put in isolation for at least 12 hours. The students performed yoga asanas in the morning and pranayama in the evening to maintain a healthy regime. They were provided with vitamin tablets and protein powder to maintain strong immunity. Everyone would come together for a prayer for the pandemic to end before going to bed. Call it God’s grace or thorough care, not a single child came in contact with the deadly disease.

An innovative method of teaching

The school follows an interesting method of teaching. “Kaliyuva Mane is neither a conventional English medium school nor a Kannada medium school. Most of the children come from rural, uneducated houses, where English is an alien language. Therefore, when a child joins Kaliyuva Mane, lessons are taught only in their native language, Kannada. Gradually, English is introduced to the child according to their understanding and comfort level. Core subjects are taught in both languages to the children. For instance, in a science class, the teacher teaches the English component of the lesson first. The focus is on teaching spelling, meaning, pronunciation, and usage of new and difficult words to the children before teaching the science component. Later, children appear for grade 10 board exam in English medium,” he said. “We follow this because if core subjects are taught only in English, children may fail to comprehend. However, if English is not taught, children will miss out on an important life skill. Without basic English, chances of getting into science and technical courses are very bleak. So, we try to strike a balance in order to optimise the learning process,” he added.

Views on NEP 2020

The new National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP) has divided people into the category of supporters and critics. Ananth Kumar shared his suggestion with the Union Government that invited stakeholders to contribute to the policy during ‘The Draft of NEP’. He highlighted the need of creating alternative schools to educate out-of-school children and other opportunity-deprived children by illustrating live examples. This was included in the final National Education Policy of 2020 that encourages the setting up of alternative schools. The extract reads:

“To make it easier for both governments as well as non-governmental philanthropic organizations to build schools, to encourage local variations on account of culture, geography, and demographics, and to allow alternative models of education, the requirements for schools will be made less restrictive. The focus will be to have less emphasis on input and greater emphasis on output potential concerning desired learning outcomes….” Para 3.6 of NEP 2020

Pat on the back

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Ananth Kumar looks back at the journey rather fondly. In 2005, when the school came into existence, it was built on two acres of land in the village, fifteen kilometres away from the heart of the city. The connecting roads were full of potholes and the transformer powering the school was two kilometres away that supplied 120 volts instead of 240 volts for 8 hours a day.

They would refill the water in school at midnight because the voltage used to be reasonably good during the night. The only building on the land around the school was a 50’x30’ size dilapidated structure, that was inhabited by owls, beautiful birds, snakes, mosquitoes, bandicoots, bats and six human beings (four children and two life-term volunteers of Divyadeepa trust). The land looked green full of mulberry bushes, coconut trees, silver oak trees, teak trees, and parthenium shrubs. The rest was covered in a carpet of ‘touch me not’ plants.

When thinking about his achievements, he notes a few. “We were able to create a new learning alternative education system for out-of-system children like child labourers, school dropouts, children with academic lag, children from broken families, children from rural BPL families, dyslexic children, etc. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) produced a documentary film on our school model,” he said. “And, in the year 2011, when the automobile giant Mahindra & Mahindra launched the ‘Spark the Rise’ contest, inviting ideas from the Indians for the development of India, our project, ‘Education of Rural out of system Children’, emerged as runners up in the grand finale among 1346 projects which were featured and won a grant of ₹20 lakhs,” he added.

“The land used to reverberate with the sounds of nightingales, chirping of birds, stridulations of the insects, and swaying songs of the trees. Nobody had stayed there for three years! Whether it was to run errands or go to a doctor in an emergency, there was no vehicle except an old Kinetic Honda scooter. Divyadeepa’s bank balance was ₹5334/- Until the end of 2007, they would manage the finances through personal funds. There was not even a single computer, the internet was just a dream. The team prepared and dedicated one room of the building for the children’s stay. No sleeping cots, no beds; children slept on mats. “There was no hot water, no proper infrastructure, too many ‘no’s’. A ‘yes’ that played a big role in maintaining our faith in the school was God. We took a step forward helped us to keep going,” he added.

Call for action

Rural education can be a huge challenge and Kaliyuva Mane sends a message of strength to all the educators following this path. The vision and dream for the students are that each of them must get a chance to get educated so that they become self-reliant. “Study well, develop a good attitude, stand on your own feet and contribute to the development of the society, find happiness in it,” said Ananth Kumar in a message for his students.

“As I conclude this interview, my mind goes back 30 years when I was living a very different life. Lakshmi Didi, the president of Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari used to take classes for us on Vivekananda, in the yoga hall, every day at 8.30 morning.  Her words still linger in my heart, “If a problem haunts you and makes you restless then feel, feel and feel till your heart bleeds, think, think and think till your brain reels. Find out a solution. Don’t wait for money and men. Put your hands on the wheels of work. Money WILL come, Men WILL come & God’s Grace WILL come”. This is a well-known quote by Swami Vivekananda. For me, this is not a mere quote from Vivekananda, but a truth directly experienced by me,” he said.

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Ananth Kumar seeks dedicated volunteers for Kaliyuva Mane. They accept donations in both, cash and kind. We urge the readers to visit their website and reach out to the members to contribute and engage in this cause for change.

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Teacher Warriors 2022: The Inspiration We Need

This year, we bring stories of nine Teachers Warriors for our readers. These are ordinary men and women who have attempted and accomplished the extraordinary.

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If statistics are to be believed, about 360 million students in India experienced disrupted access to education.

Teachers decided to brave it all, adapting to the latest education technology (edtech), with the aim of providing quality education to those in need.

We at ScooNews, annually felicitate Teacher Warriors who set a strong example for the rest of the world.

These teachers are the inspiration and encouragement the education world needs today.

This year, we bring nine Teachers Warriors to our readers. These stories are of ordinary men and women who have accomplished the extraordinary. They did not set out to change the world, become saviors, or power a movement. But unwittingly they have done just that, one mighty challenge, one dogged endeavor at a time.

Their driving inspiration? Quality education is the key to social transformation and the fundamental right of every child – not just every advantaged child.

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Our Teacher Warriors cohort for 2022 includes:

Stay tuned as we share their inspirational stories over the next few days.

 

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10 Professional Development Books Teachers Can Read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription

Here are 10 of our favorite books for teachers that are available to read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription (right now).

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Kindle Unlimited is a monthly subscription that offers unlimited access to over 2 million digital titles including popular novels, new releases, magazine subscriptions, and more.

Teachers can access Kindle Unlimited’s books, magazines, and audiobooks on any device — you don’t need to own a Kindle. Download the books on your phone, tablet, or computer and access up to 10 titles at a time.

Kindle Unlimited is free for the first month and costs Rs. 169 per month after your free trial ends. Click here to check out Kindle Unlimited.

Here are 10 of our favorite books for teachers that are available to read for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription (right now).

Why Don’t Students Like School?

Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom (2nd Edition) by Daniel T. Willingham turns his research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning into workable teaching techniques. This is a valuable resource for both veteran and novice teachers, teachers-in-training, and for principals, administrators, and staff development.

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Virus vs. the Internet

Virus vs. the Internet: A practical handbook for schooling during and after the pandemic by Prof. Sugata Mitra is for parents, teachers, educators, and people interested in children and learning. It is a practical and usable handbook of 15 ideas that will help you to enable children to learn, at home, at school, or virtually over the Internet. These ideas are developed from Prof. Mitra’s work over the last 22 years on how and what children can learn by themselves.

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How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen

How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber deals with struggles familiar to every parent, relative, teacher, and childminder. How do you respond to a toddler who won’t brush his teeth? The preschooler who pinches the baby? The child who throws everything she can reach?

Organized according to everyday challenges and conflicts, and including real-life examples and the series’ trademark cartoons, this book is a survival manual of communication tools, including a chapter that addresses the special needs of children with sensory processing or autism spectrum disorders.

Read here

Design Your Mind

Design Your Mind: Everyday Tools to Make Every Day Better by B.W. Cribb is a guide to mastering your mind – to boost creativity, improve decision-making, enhance happiness, authenticity, and reduce stress. Backed by 30 years of involvement in sensory biology and behaviour, science communication, and a lifetime of experience with the weird and wonderful, BW Cribb empowers us with new ways of thinking and being.

Read here

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Introducing Artificial Intelligence

Introducing Artificial Intelligence: A Graphic Guide 4th Edition by Henry Brighton & Howard Selina is an illustrated introduction to this fascinating area of science.

Read here

The Essentials of Vedic Mathematics

The Essentials Of Vedic Mathematics is a book that shows you how to master Vedic mathematics independently, without the help of an expert. The book is designed in such a way that it is useful and understandable to a wide audience.

Read here

Introducing Psychology

Introducing Psychology: A Graphic Guide 4th Edition is an illustrated introduction to the main “schools” of thought and the sections within psychology including Introspection, Biopsychology, Psychoanalysis, Behaviourism, Comparative (Animal) Psychology, Cognitive Approaches (including the Gestalt movement), Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Humanism. The key figures covered include Freud, Pavlov, Skinner, Bandura, Piaget, Bowlby, Maslow, and Rogers, as well as many lesser-known but important psychologists.

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How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a well-researched and comprehensive guide that will help you through these everyday problems and make success look easier. You can learn to expand your social circle, polish your skill set, find ways to put forward your thoughts more clearly and build mental strength to counter all hurdles that you may come across on the path to success.

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The Hole in the Wall

The “Hole in the wall” experiment of 1999, where a computer connected to the internet was embedded into a wall in a slum in New Delhi is well known. This is a new and updated edition of Prof. Sugata Mitra’s work between 1999 and 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic, having all but destroyed the existing and decaying system of education from the past centuries, created an intense interest in the ability of children to take charge of their own learning. The hole in the wall was now appearing in every home. This book contains the entire text of the original book as well as an update to subsequent work.

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Rumi’s Little Book of Life

Translated by Marayam H Mafi & Azima Melita Kolin, Rumi’s Little Book of Life is a beautiful collection of 196 poems by Rumi, previously unavailable in English. Translated by native Persian speakers, this collection will appeal to Rumi lovers everywhere.

Read here

Hope this list helps. Please do comment and help us and our readers discover many more useful books that are available with Kindle Unlimited.

Please note the Kindle Unlimited collection is dynamic and the book availability changes with time.

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In Giving is Empowerment

The act of giving impacts the giver more than the recipient, and at various levels – social, emotional, and psychological.

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Image used for representational purpose only, courtesy: SOS Children's Village India

A famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi comes to my mind, as I write this article: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

The act of giving is, perhaps, as old as genesis, and it is the one thing that the sands of time haven’t impacted. The forms of giving may have changed with the evolution of mankind, but in its essence, it remains the same.

The act of giving impacts the giver more than the recipient, and at various levels – social, emotional, and psychological. It has been proven by research that giving enhances the feeling of self-worth, encourages healthy bonds between individuals, and evokes feelings of gratitude and happiness. It is also a known fact that many times the scale of the contribution doesn’t play a significant role, as the gesture is what counts.

The joy of giving is encouraged early on – as children, youth, and adults. I remember how as a child I would be encouraged to save, not only to contribute towards what I wanted to buy but also towards giving to others, who were not as fortunate as I was. As I grew up and giving became a part of life, I understood that giving could be in various forms – time, money, kind, attention, help, support, and so many others. Today, in the profession I am in, giving plays a very important role, as it not only helps secure the empowerment of the underserved and vulnerable but also helps the giver evolve in so many ways. In society, we see giving being celebrated, especially during festivals, special occasions, or even as a dedicated week like the Joy of Giving Week, also known as Daan Utsav.

Recently, someone narrated an incident about how giving would normally be associated between fellow human beings, when it should ideally be between living beings, including nature and its bounty. He went on to narrate the experience of giving thanks before plucking a flower, fruit or vegetable in his garden. Another incident that touched me was how a youth girl of about 15 years used to volunteer her time to spend with a senior citizen, who had been abandoned. So, as you can see, giving has countless forms. The crux remains that the act of giving gives joy to all involved, irrespective of the quantity – something that is so important in this materialistic world.

Time and again, one wonders how the world could be a better place if each one of us could give something that could change the other being’s life for the better. The next time a colleague faces a problem making a presentation, extend a helping hand; if a friend needs an ear that listens, extend it; give water to a parched bird, or help a child with her/his studies by donating your time; the list is endless since the opportunities that life provides to give are endless.

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Another very important element is that the act of giving should not have a motive embedded in it, as that dilutes the act itself. Giving without attention is the purest form, and the most difficult, as it may not always come naturally.

In Anne Frank’s words: “No one has ever become poorer from giving.”

About the author:

Mr. Sumanta Kar, the Secretary General of SOS Children’s Villages of India has over 30 years of experience in the field of alternative care. He has conceptualised and implemented several development projects at SOSCVI. He led SOSCVI’s tsunami operation in the southern states of India between 2004-2007 – it was the largest-ever emergency programme undertaken by the NGO so far. Mr. Kar was also part of the SOS International Working Group in Alternative Care. He supported a couple of member associations in Asia in shaping their emergency programmes. Born and brought up in Rourkela, Mr. Sumanta Kar belongs to the state of Odisha. He holds a postgraduate diploma from Xavier Institute and an Executive MBA from Utkal University. His motivation comes from “Working with children and SOS-mothers and caregivers in different provinces and learning new customs and cultures.”

About SOS Children’s Villages India:

Established in 1964, SOS Children’s Villages of India provides children without parental care or at the risk of losing it, a value chain of quality care services that goes beyond childcare alone, ensuring comprehensive child development. Our customized care interventions such as: Family Like Care, Family Strengthening, Kinship Care, Short Stay Homes, Foster Care, Youth Skilling, Emergency Childcare and Special Needs Childcare are aimed at transforming lives and enabling children under care into self-reliant and contributing members of society. The organization empowers vulnerable families in communities to become financially independent, thereby enabling them to create safe and nurturing spaces for children under their care. Today, over 6,500 children live in more than 440 family homes, inside 32 SOS Children’s Villages of India, in 22 States/UTs, from Srinagar to Kochi, and Bhuj to Shillong. They are lovingly cared for and nurtured by over 600 SOS Mothers and Aunts. As India’s largest self-implementing childcare NGO, SOS Children’s Villages India directly touches the lives of around 38,000 children every year.

For more information, please visit: https://www.soschildrensvillages.in

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Inspiration

Hey Teacher, Need Some Inspiration?

Teachers, Here are 10 TED Talks to keep you inspired and motivated.

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TED Talks

The difference between a good teacher and a great teacher lies in the absolute minimal changes they bring in their daily routine of teaching, the small details they give preference to, and the seemingly unimportant topic they give a second thought to. We have curated a list of TED Talks that will definitely inspire educators to be the version of themselves.

Trish Millines Dziko
How schools can nurture every student’s genius

Forget home economics and standardized tests, education visionary Trish Millines Dziko has a much more engaging and fulfilling way for students to develop real-world skills. Get schooled by Dziko as she shares how project-based learning can transform public education and unlock genius for the next generation of critical thinkers, problem solvers, ideators, and leaders.

Zach King
The trick to regaining your childlike wonder

When we ditch our assumptions, new ideas can enter the world, says filmmaker Zach King. In an entertaining talk full of props and surprises, King shows us the trick to regaining our sense of childlike wonder through the power of storytelling — and a bit of magic.

Nadia Lopez
Why open a school? To close a prison

Our kids are our future, and it’s crucial they believe it themselves. That’s why Nadia Lopez opened an academic oasis in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the most underserved and violent neighborhoods in New York — because she believes in every child’s brilliance and capabilities. In this short, energizing talk, the founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy (and a star of Humans of New York) shares how she helps her scholars envision a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Rita Pierson
Every kid needs a champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

Diana Laufenberg
How to learn? From mistakes

Diana Laufenberg shares three surprising things she has learned about teaching — including a key insight about learning from mistakes.

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Christopher Emdin
Teach teachers how to create magic

What do rap shows, barbershop banter, and Sunday services have in common? As Christopher Emdin says, they all hold the secret magic to enthrall and teach at the same time — and it’s a skill we often don’t teach to educators. A longtime teacher himself, now a science advocate and cofounder of Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. with the GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, Emdin offers a vision to make the classroom come alive.

Michelle Kuo
The Healing Power of Reading

Reading and writing can be acts of courage that bring us closer to others and ourselves. Author Michelle Kuo shares how teaching reading skills to her students in the Mississippi Delta revealed the bridging power of the written word – as well as the limitations of its power.

Emily Pilloton
Teaching Design for Change

Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She is teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state. Emily, a humanitarian design activist, wrote Design Revolution, a book about 100-plus objects and systems designed to make people’s lives better.

Heejae Lim
The most powerful yet overlooked resource in schools

“When teachers and families work together, everyone wins,” says education technology entrepreneur and TED Fellow Heejae Lim. She shines a light on an underutilized resource in US public education — a family’s love for their children — and shows that, with the right tools and tech, schools can remove language barriers, foster meaningful connections and help every student thrive.

Andreas Schleicher
Use data to build better schools

How can we measure what makes a school system work? Andreas Schleicher walks us through the PISA test, a global measurement that ranks countries against one another — then uses that same data to help schools improve. Watch to find out where your country stacks up, and learn the single factor that makes some systems outperform others.

Plenty of inspiration to get you started and going on. Need more? Head over to TED and check out this amazing playlist with Talks from Inspiring Teachers.

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