Each variable of quality was tested across contexts: Urban Poor: Vidya Bridge, Hope Project Charitable Trust, Child Survival India, Deepalaya, LearningInq Trust; Resettlement Colonies: Navjyoti India Foundation, Growth for All, CASP Plan. Street and Working Children: Salaam Balak Trust, Chintan, Butterflies. Rural Poor: Fabindia Schools, Edelgive, Janani. Special Children: Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, International Deaf Children’s Society (U.K), Direct Government: Pratham Delhi Education Initiative, Absolute Return for Kids, ILO, SCF (UK, Spain), MHRD EE, SSA U.P. Private Hi-End: Modern School Barakhamba Road, Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya Vasant Kunj, Butterflies, AHF, The Shriram Schools, Schoolnet; Low Cost Private: Virmani Public School
The largest numbers of schools are those run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and cost the least and therefore the most accessible for the student. However, they are also the schools in which the government invests least. Infrastructure, personnel and teaching standards are so low, those who have no other options for education refuse to use the system.
Needless to say, the worst affected are the children who study in the local Primary MCD School. Dependent on a service to which they can walk unaccompanied or with friends from the neighborhood, they are at the mercy of the teachers who rule the school. Children lose years to roaming the streets, as they are unlikely to be granted admission on the basis of age, not having a birth certificate or affidavit confirming age, no seats being available in the class, because it is not admission time, or because they are too old for primary school, but without a primary school certificate are ineligible for secondary school. The result of this is that, masses of children lose their only chance to access any Government school, and therefore any affordable school, secondary or higher education and inevitably, to most rights as a citizen.
There is only one condition that the school insists upon, which is that there be no other place where the learner can learn. The school at Hope must be the very last option remaining for the learner.
So, by seeking out learners, and by entertaining every application that comes in through the year, the Hope school succeeds in drawing to itself children and adults who are difficult to keep in school for every possible reason you can imagine: drop-outs from the system, ostracised in the system, misfits in the system, too old, too young, unwanted, uncared for, uninterested in an education, long-term illness, thrown out of homes, runaways, every behaviour problem you can think of: from laziness, to being stubborn, rude, angry, violent.
As a community organisation it is clear that we cannot pick and choose the learners we serve. It is and always will remain a huge gamut of issues that we will try to address. The academics is the easiest and thus has the simplest solution (please refer to the section on Academic Curriculum), but the peripheral aspects that make up the human being, the part that an education must impact can hardly be solved by an Academic Curriculum.
The solutions are in the systems that are constantly tailored, so every learners who walks through the doors feels welcome and at home. Whether it be a team that seeks more precise ways to gauge what the learner needs, to feel comfortable enough to learn; or the team that finds the resources to meet these needs, or the team that hand holds each individual learner through the transition process; each staff member is inadvertently a part of a complex machine coping with new combinations of needs everyday.
Change is constant, as the effort to serve better the delicate tangle of lives that meet at the school, is constant.
One of the principles of the capacity building program at the Education Department at Hope has been for the teaching team to undergo the same rigor, in the same environment as they are expected to use with the students, so that the experiential learning can allow for reflection and innovation. To put ourselves through this new learning, we needed a good Driving Question, a good reason to pursue it, a conducive environment in which to consider the answer and undaunted dialogue.
By any standards ‘What is worth teaching?’ is a challenging Driving Question. The reason to pursue it seemed to have become ingrained in the space of the year’s work together as a team. The environment was created. Individual comfort zones were created along with each team member, conducive for each person to ruminate. Similarly, there were spaces and times in which consultations could occur between team members. The Education Advisor was available as mentor to inject inquiry. Several drafts, many frustrating and heated conversations, a great deal of research later, the pedagogy and the philosophical rationale for each subject digested, the teaching team has arrived at a fresh revision of the curriculum for the school. The concept lines for each subject has been streamlined and finalized. The Mathematics, Language and Pre Primary curricula have been mapped to the McRel³ curriculum. The Math curriculum has been tallied with the CBSE³ curriculum also. The teaching plans for the year have been approved.
The teachers have also received inputs on sending and receiving email. We have already seen increased collaborative work as a result.
³ Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning: http://www.mcrel.org/
³ Central Board of Secondary Education: http://www.cbse.nic.in/
A young man from the basti, who is a student and a brother of a student, is simultaneously being trained to as an Adult Educator who can go on to take on Adult Education Classes for men in the community.
For example when the Pre Bridge Class was studying Russian Revolution they studied that Lenin was one of actors in the Russian Revolution and that Marx influenced him. But they soon came to a point where they needed to know what influenced Marx. This even the teacher did not know. But she found out and answered their question. Thus using different resources and inquiry as a method both students and teachers learn to learn.
The solution that has been implemented and worked for two terms now, is neither unheralded nor brilliant in its innovation. It is different from what was done in earlier years only in that the teacher is in charge of the content. All materials available on the subject are available and well used as resource materials from which she has culled out a curriculum.
The main focus of the curriculum has shifted from the content that has to be shared to being the shifts in the awareness that the children are able to articulate. By the use of Critical Pedagogy almost a month’s time is used to generate an atmosphere of confidence and trust within the small group of students, so that the possibility of sharing reality as it is viewed by them is created. The weight of the content shared is then absorbed by the class as it begins to function as a support group. The teacher becomes the primary resource who introduces other materials as resources on demand.
The content aspect of the curriculum then emerges as a result of this interaction. It is paced by the students, as it is a response to the curiosity and inquiry of the children on the subject. The teacher does a mapping of the curriculum that emerges to the standards available at the end of each session. In the two workshops that have been taken thus far, children have exceeded expectations of content as laid down in the standard material for adolescent health and well being.
This is an opportunity to give the children pre-vocational education, so that they have some ideas on choosing their source of livelihood and skill, as they grow older. It will I hope also increase the attendance as parents see that children are also getting skills that are traditionally thought fit for the woman. Thus Henna designing, a beautician’s course, basic sewing and embroidery will be added to the existing music, yoga and art classes on Saturday.
In preparation, the Community Outreach and teaching teams worked with parents to defend the curriculum and the students’ enthusiasm to take the trip. After overcoming many hurdles related to parental consent, community consensus and even clothing and self-confidence, 28 girls travelled with two teachers to Tolma in the lower Himalayas. The exposure has also included a meeting with the organisers and the parents, and a training session with the teachers. After their return, the participants lived up to their commitment to train those who did not go. Teachers and students created an exhibition, which, the person who funds Kids in Nature, Deborah, was in town to see.
Themes central to the Social Sciences curriculum, ownership, responsibility, belongingness and compassion, were explored with respect to the school and the community. The organogram of the Project, a broad idea of the Annual Operation Plan and the Budget was shared, laying the foundations for a yearlong Math Project on calculating expenditures incurred by the students in school. The driving questions followed on from the mapping of the school building done in last year’s Workshop: ‘What do you learn when you come to school? Where do you do this? What resources do you need to do this work? What do they cost? What should you budget for?’
Similarly, taking forward the mapping exercise of the community done last year, Sudeshna Chatterjee, (PhD CandidateCommunity and Environmental Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC) conducted a three-day workshop through which the children identified their homes and places they perceived to be safe on aerial maps of Nizamuddin.
It was created because the possibility that we may never be able to anticipate every need the context presents, because as many classes as we create for children with different needs, it is foolish to think that children can be categorized. It was created because the reasons why children aren’t in school are practically uncountable, because too many are and because of the belief that if our doors remained open in warm welcome, children would find us and with us weave a future they chose. A year to the day the class began, 17 children have been made ready for graduation to mainstream government schools or to Hope non-formal school.
Over the year 37 children have been admitted. We have been unable to hold the attention of 10. They have left us for the time being. We continue to do all we can to ensure they return if that is what they would like. They are not being considered as dropouts yet as we have not given up on them. 17 have graduated the class this April. 10 will continue with us until they have learnt enough to leave.
The Hindi teacher felt that the students needed a background in poetry and literature, which was delivered at length in a workshop format so that they could be prepared academically as well as in spirit to receive the information in their course later. The timetable was adjusted such that, ince every week, the students experience recitations, exposure visits to listen to recitations and authors as well as book releases, as well as discussions on the life and times of various poets and authors. The works of Hazrat Inayat Khan were also discussed under the section of Sufi poets and Saints and their philosophy. The intervention ran three months in duration.
A volunteer taught the students of P2 the basics about the computer. They learnt enough about the computer to be able to open and close the machine and files without too much destruction. He was able to excite them enough about the machine for them to pledge to continue their visits to the school to work on the machine, as they were when he was teaching. They have thus become the first batch of students who are learning about content of a higher class through videos of classes/presentations/learning processes featuring their seniors. For the first time children will learn using material created by other children.
In Phase I, each student was asked to declare show that they had carried lunch or were going to be sent lunch later. Those who had neither arrangement were provided lunch at school. Those who could contribute were asked to pay Rs.2/- for the meal. In addition there was a list of students (including students sponsored by Room to Read) who are on a comparatively permanent list of children who are hosted regularly by the Project. These are children whose Individual Education Plans/Student Profiles are marked by the Community Outreach Department at the time of admission after considering the context of the child. The Community Outreach team then continues to work with and monitor the family to ensure that the child ultimately gets off this list.
The most important part of Phase I was to create the confidence in the children that the school was interested in making sure that they were well fed and content, and that all systems were being created to serve only that one purpose. The students first Rishtaa teacher took the lead in ensuring that the children felt welcome to eat not only as much as their bodies needed but as much as their heart’s desired.
Phase II included the students being taught how to eat from a buffet without shoving each other out of the panic of not getting at the food fast enough. This change has allowed Mrs. Batra to change her role from a disciplinarian to being able to attend to children who shirk eating, are unwell or have avoided the system in any way. It has also allowed the process to become structured in a more participatory fashion instead of resembling a hand out, where the resources continued to stay in the hands of the adult/donor/organization.
Phase III comprised of a re-evaluation of the system. We found that the number of the girls eating in the school was increasing. The Community Outreach team and the lead teacher worked with the children and their families to check for the reasons why this was happening. As a result, families have increased the responsibility they take for the nutrition of their girl children and the number of children who are eating because of careless parenting has decreased drastically.
The students of the Home Science classes made pickles, ‘paushtik parathas’, and ‘dum chai’ & sold the combination for Rs.10/- on the day of the Home Science Exhibition.
The pickles were sold out @ Rs.45/- per Kg on the same day among the staff.
The pickles are a non-labour intensive income-generating activity that can be begun. Bottles need to be collected in which to sell the pickle.
In the last two years, a department for Math has been established, run by two faculty, one of whom is the Math Subject Expert – Tasneem. They have been working on raising the levels of learning for the last two years, by reviewing the curriculum, challenging the students to move through concept clusters at the pace that is most comfortable to them without letting up on the challenge, and by constant and careful documentation of this research in the classroom.
The Math Mela was thought of as one more way to be able to check the levels of the children and raise these levels in one shot, in one day, at one event. It was visualised as a physical laying out of the whole Math concept line as far as it is taught in the school at the moment in the form of counters run by students. Peer education would ensure that the students who were teaching as well as those learning would have to check their own levels while their competencies would become clear for the two Math faculty on duty to observe.
The Mela as it was implemented however was a much more interactive edutainment event, which kept the students busy the whole day, allowing them to explore their potential independently through games that forced them to think through problem situations. It was followed up with a half-day workshop the following day, during which the student counters were set up one at a time in a full-school assembly. Each counter explained their activity in the supervision of the Math Subject Expert so that concept clarity was complete and satisfactory for all children present.
The Individual Education Plans of the students attending the school in the evening are being re-visited. Class timings have been extended to one hour per subject, taught by subject experts. The number of subjects on offer to the students has increased as the existing skeletal staff has been reinforced with more time and more people have been hired.
English, Science, Social Studies, Computers, Hindi, Business Studies, Typing, Short Hand and Math is on offer for all children. Classes start from 3PM and run through to 9.30PM. Admission criteria remains the same for the Support classes as they have been for the GNFS (Girls Non Formal School) which is that all learners who do not have the option to study elsewhere are granted admission to the school.
Worries have been in terms of the amount of time that a child now spends in school, if he does so sincerely. It would be 6 hours in school from 8AM-1PM and the another 4 or 5 hours at Hope for support and supplementary classes. That is a really long day for the child at work. However, the feedback received is that parents are glad their children are off the streets and engaged in something constructive, away from anti-social elements or rough company and drug pushers and addicts in the community.
The initiative was taken by Room to Read to celebrate World Literacy Day as it is celebrated internationally on the 8th of September, 2006 . It was celebrated on the 10 th due to schedule constraints of the donor agency, along with another NGO, Manzil, because of constraints they had.
Children follow up on an activity that had taken place in their Bal Panchayat in May, in which they identified children who lived on their street, who were out of school. During the follow up, they concentrated on their own families. They investigated, then, reported the number of members in their household and the literacy levels of each member. The follow up was done at the class level during Rishtaa periods.
The senior computer literate students enter this information into the computer using the Excel program.
Children are introduced to the World Literacy Day and the opportunity they have to contribute to this effort in the Bal Panchayat. The previous follow up exercise was put into perspective.
In another Bal Panchayat, the students analyze the community in 5 households including theirs, the literacy levels of all members therein and the reasons why those not engaged in an education are unwilling or do not have access to education.
As part of the above Bal Panchayat, the students decide that a small population of children keep away from education because they do not know all the fun it entails. Thus, they decide to invite as many of this population living in their 5 household catchment area that each child has been allotted to a World Literacy Day Celebration.
On Saturday the 2nd of September, the Bal Panchayat meets to discuss the arrangements and entertainment for their guests, to discuss solutions for the other groups with different problems that have emerged from the data and its analysis.
On Monday the 11th of September, the children meet to take a pledge that they will take on the education of one other person who has little or no education until they learn at least up to the class 5 (CBSC) level.
The guest of honor will be the Principal of the local Government Primary School at Katra.
The blog was launched on the 5th of September and is available for comment in Hindi and in English at this address: http://nizamuddinbastiblog.freeflux.net
While creating a ‘basti’ blog was the idea of the volunteers, it was taken up with a lot of enthusiasm by Kamini who was very impressed by the impact that a blog could make when it focussed on an issue that needed to be discussed at the community level. Her reference was the Nanglamachi movement against inhumane demolitions and the blog that popularised the issue and gained the protestors a lot of support. Shariq, the community worker at Hope who has had a great deal of experience working with the ‘basti’ youth on various issues of conscientization, as well as with media, was also very excited with the potential for the blog being a medium of expression for the ‘basti’ at large. The concerns were about the fact that relatively speaking very few people in the ‘basti’ are computer literate. The project went ahead inspite of this concern because there was a dependable hope that this situation had the potential to change. The students of the school would all contribute and the blog would be introduced in cybercafes across the ‘basti’ and candle-to-candle the word and activity on the blog would spread.
To supplement the instruction in the classroom, the students of the Girls Non Formal School are taken on study tours to various habitats. They visited the alpine habitat in the last academic year and this August they have visited the desert eco region. In December they hope to visit the marine habitat in Tamil Nadu. The trip was the first time that the staff planned a trip independently with decreased support from the Education Advisor. 20 girls took the trip accompanied by the Social Science and Science expert.
The children prepared for the trip by studying reviewing the basic concepts about the echonograph and habitats before the trip. The teachers were briefed and researched the NGO that would host them in one location and all the others they would visit on their tour. The excitement and trials of the selection procedure took its toll on the time and energy of the staff that mentored the children, but the values taught and learnt are integral to the curriculum implemented by the project.
Similarly, the flash floods in Rajasthan while the trip was in progress forced the group to make many decisions about changes in plan which contributed to learning. An exhibition will be held in September by the participants to share their learning. This will be supported by an exhibition of the research done on the Jodhpur region by the students who did not travel.
 The teaching team at the Project wrote a list of values and ideals that they wish their students to graduate with. We call this the Critical Curriculum.
The email exchange project has been an activity that the school has tried to work on in fits and starts for more than a year without much success or consistency. Setting up and maintaining an exchange with another school/ class in another location can be a logistical nightmare, especially as, conventionally, it involves scanning students’ work, taking and sending digital images and a matching of schedules. Given the nascent computer skills of the teachers and students at present, the focus of the project then gets diverted toward logistics and coordination rather than language learning. Thus, it has now been decided that the email exchange board will become an extension of the Student’s Parliament.
The board will become one more avenue of exchange between the students and teachers or management. Students’ questions received in the letter box will be answered here. The minutes of the Bal Panchayat meetings will be posted here. Interesting news and urgent announcements concerning students will be posted here. It will be like a wall newspaper, in terms of content so that the interest in reading it is kept alive in the students. Meanwhile, teachers’ skills are being developed further so that an inter-cultural exchange project can begin very soon.