Some of you might wonder why ?? whatz the need, can't the parents get them notebooks ???
Well, that brings us to the India that you may not have seen much. It was an eye-opener for many of us when we visited some of the govt. schools. The infrastructure, the teaching resources, the economic/social background of students made us embark on notebook distribution. The govt. does provide textbooks, uniforms & (mid-day meals for the last one year). Thats wonderful. And, personally I feel the education dept. has been improving conditions in the school as much as they can. The head-masters/teachers, we have met have been very particular & enthusiastic 'bout improving their schools. These are great positives. From our side, we felt its our duty, to get as much as notebooks distributed amongst the schools. Karnataka has over 40, 000 govt. schools. Thats a tall order - 40K - the trick is to begin somewhere. So, we began in & around B'lore, and for the last couple of years have reached out to Kanankpura & Kolar.
Modus operandi: Money is raised at various offices/corporates/IT thru volunteers present in those companies. Posters, emails, physical selling of notebooks thru stalls are the key. And, the money/cheques are used to buy books from BOSCO (a street children's rehabilitation centre where book making is part of vocational training http://www.boscoban.org/) or from private manufacturers.
Meanwhile, needy govt. schools are identified
1. By personally visiting, talking with the headmaster, & getting a first hand feel of the school
2. Thru BEO - Block Educational Officer - These people know which are the needy schools.
3. Other NGO's working with schools. Eg. Sikshana trust, Paraspara etc
So, we get the number of students studying in various classes from a school. And, so we know how many books a school would need. This year we gave 2 books for a student in 1st & 2nd, 3 books for 3rd, 4th & 5th standard, and 4 books for the 6th & 7th standard students.
Okay, those were the funda's for the new. Now, lemme take you through a typical drive.
Yes, its always a saturday morning in the months of monsoon. We collect the books from the manufacturer/dealer; on this occassion some 7K books - 11 schools for the Uthralli drive (Bangalore south) loaded in the bylanes of cottonpet.
Then, if needed push them into a bus/car/tempo, which would also take the volunteers along. This a back-breaking job ;-)) Early morning exercises, on this occassion we were loading around 10K books-14 schools for the kanakpura drive, and there just some 8 of us.
A loaded bus looks like this ;-)) with volunteers from Accenture for the Kolar drive. Here the challenge was to distribute 10K books in 40 schools. It then becomes a nice logistic problem with schools, books, & volunteers. Finally, as a school approaches, the entire gang steps out, or a few of them are dropped with their quota of books.
Transfer of books from bus to a tempo.
Travelling through narrow roads, wonderful countryside, you reach the school. We typically have local teachers/volunteers guiding us. Then, a quick chat with the HM & you burst into the nearest class-room
'Gud Maaaaaarniiiiingggggg Saaaaar' or 'Gud Maaaaaarniiiiiiiinggggggg Misssss'.....U smile...say 'Namaskara' 'Good Morning' 'Hello' etc etc Sometimes, when we walk into 1st or 2nd standard we get bewildered looks!!!! The first std. kids probably are just getting used to their class-room & teachers and suddenly aliens invade!!!!
This was the look from Anganwadi(Creche) kids. This is for kids below 5 years.
Once in the school, its upto the volunteers dynamism & energy levels! You walk in, get to know the children, get them out to the ground, play with them, or take a small class in the class-room. Ask their favourite color, cricket player, subjects, ambition. Get to know them. And, itz fun. The smiles on their faces, some of them are quite shy.
Here, the gang got to play Kabaddi with the kids! Kurian attacks!!
The kids have a lot of folk songs for us. 'Padya' as they call it. And, with all their action, itz nice listening to. Here, the kids in the leftmost column from the 1st & 2nd std singing a song for us.
Another class, another school, and another song.
The schools & class rooms are brightly painted with lot of information in them. Charts are hung, lotz of facts, infact we wonder with so much info. all around, how do their exams go!
Our olympic champion, along with Ganguly besides a baya-weaver's nest!
This gory looking stuff 'bout the human body was hung in the head-master's chamber. There was a TV too, he said, the kids are shown some edu. programs & NEWS!!!
Now, for the notebook distribution. Either, we do it in the classroom itself or get them out and assemble them classwise & distribute. Based on the time we have, we talk to them, we ask for their names, class studying, sometimes their favourite color/player. Ask, what his father does. Then....importantly, we ask slightly elder kids what their ambitions are.....the answers range from....no answer....to driver...conductor...teacher...police...army.....Engineer or Doctor! I suppose, most of them haven't really thought 'bout it....and so say the first thing that comes to their mind.
The school assembled for their books.
The kids have a major smile when they get the books.
Most of them are very shy. In the Kolar BEML cluster I seem to notice a lot of kids - atleast 5-6 over the day - who were blind in one eye atleast. And, the teachers said, it was congenital.
In the cities, the poorest of the poor go to the govt. schools.
In the villages, most of the times this is the only school around. And for various reasons, rural India still remains poor. And, most of the parents of these kids are from the unorganized sectors. Its good to see a lot of children coming to school, absentism is low claim the teachers. In cities, the construction worker's move from place to place, and so the education of their kids become a problem.
This kid was telling me how they use this abacus.
This is the driver of our tempo, he was pretty enthused, and at a school, he found one of the kids hand-writing pretty bad, so sat down wrote a paragraph in his 'good' handwriting!
NBD distribution in full swing.
In Govt. schools Karnataka, English has a subject is introduced 5th standard onwards. We feel this is quite late, there was a move to introduce it from the 1st std. this acad year, but opposition from some quarters have stopped the govt. from enforcing it. Itz a real shame, when educationalists opinion's matter little. Here, this gang was teaching the kids 'Twinkle twinkle little star'.
As we come to the end of the distribution, we take some group snaps with the children. On this occassion, a cine-star was obliging her delighted fans ;-))
This was a predominantly TCS volunteer group.
Some of the schools we have been looked bad. Especially, those one class-room wonders. I have been to schools - rather one class room schools - that housed 1st to 5th std in a single room, with just 2 teachers!
But then, I have seen some fantastic schools too. A school in Bangalore south (under Sikshana trust), had lotz of educational aids, a computer with good edu CD's from Azim Premji foundation, and apparently the kids from this school video-conferenced with same age group students in the United States!!!! This is what involvement of citizens can do to a govt. school.
Finally, group snaps of the volunteers, typically the group splits, distributes, & finally assembles. This was the kanakpura distribution group.
So guyz, this is how a note-book distribution program goes. Its not just 'bout the notebooks, but for us an opportunity to know the schools, the teachers, and the children. And, for many of us, it triggered us into doing something more long-term with govt. schools. For example, adopting govt. schools to improve the conditions, make that school effective in terms of education, work on improving infrastructure, better libraries, spoken english programmes, sports, games, health-camps....and so on.
As a result, Dream School Foundation was started, we have adopted a few govt. schools, and encourage other groups to do so. Govt. schools are in plenty, almost in every neighbourhood, so if U cud form a group of interested volunteers and start interacting with the school for a few hours on saturdays. This would immensly impact the quality of education and thus the future of the students.
Interested in organizing a NBD or working with govt. schools, feel free to write to our co-ordinator, Mrs. Maitreyee Kumar firstname.lastname@example.org