Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana : A Community program
"Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana" - Akshara's effort to work with the Community in Hoskote. The program is aimed at increasing the demand for schooling and improving the quality of education in Government Schools
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana : A Community program
Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana – “Our Children, Our Pride” Akshara Foundation Begins a Community Initiative in HoskoteA Journey has Begun • Akshara Foundation has begun a unique community initiative called Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana – “Our Children, Our Pride” – in the Hoskote Educational Block in Bangalore Rural District. An initiative in keeping with its goal of increasing the demand for schooling and improving the quality of education in government schools. The choice of location is determined by Akshara’s vigorous presence in the Hoskote Block, its in- school programmes being implemented in over 250 schools here. • Akshara believes that the community has a decisive role in education; they can bring pressure to bear on delivery and impact and exercise influence that directs its course. Akshara has an energetic team in place, full of verve and bustle, eager for action. As Akshara’s Project Coordinator, Srinivas, says, “Our aim is quality education in the classroom. How to involve the community in making that happen, how to achieve it with community support – these are the pillars of the programme.” Akshara’s Cluster Coordinator, Ravichandra, adds, “Our mandate is to bring change to education, to community attitudes towards education.” • “The journey has just begun,” says Shilpa Diwakar of Phicus, with whom Akshara is collaborating to design a calendar of community engagement in the villages of Hoskote. As a preliminary step, Akshara’s 10 Cluster Coordinators headed by a Project Coordinator have assumed responsibility for one village in each of Hoskote Block’s 20 clusters. Attired in smart T-shirts conceived to motivate and inspire collective action, imprinted with the logo, Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana, the team surveyed 20 households in each of the 10 villages, armed with techniques imparted by Phicus. • Phicus, which works in the social impact space, has a successful model that field staff can use for social uplift in multiple realms. Says Shilpa, “We devised a method for field staff to drip-feed the community to communicate something important.” The same concept, which will be re-tooled along the way as ground necessities dictate, applies to the Akshara programme. It is a work-in-progress, taking a year, at the end of which estimation will be made of what was sown and what reaped.
Phicus’s TrainingPhicus’s training has emboldened the Akshara team, who say that they can now confront anysituation, be it weak ambivalence or downright cynicism, even failed hope. They say theyovercame their occasional timidity, the hesitation with a new assignment, the I-don’t-know-how-to-do-this feeling. Ravichandra says, “We know now how to interact with the community, whatto expect and how to confront it, how to make an impression.” Srinivas adds, “We now have thequestioning skills, the compassion and empathy our job demands. We know that we have to askmore, say less.” The training taught team members to take pride in their role as change agentsand look on their work with respect and find satisfaction in it, have the confidence for it. Most ofall, they say, they have the courage for accountability. Right or wrong they will own up and beresponsible. --------------------------------------------Knowing the Challenges • Says Ravichandra, “The real challenge will be to work with people who do not know what education is, or its value. People who don’t know anything very much. We have to develop strategies to work with them.” Even the seasoned, worldly-wise villager with education fundamentals, having made it up to Std. X, will have to be counselled that their children are better off without the instant, short-term gain of working on their farms, that there is larger good in the distant but infallible goals of education. • The School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC), already involved in the day-to-day affairs of school, like organizing the midday meal, water or electricity, will need to orient themselves towards education. A shift in emphasis and outlook is called for. The team will have to prevail over SDMCs to strategize and lay down definitive educational targets at every meeting, which will be followed through to finishing posts. • Srinivas is seriously mulling the idea of persuading government to nominate a member of a non-governmental organization in every SDMC. “So that their thinking will veer towards ours, their views merge with ours.” ------------------------------------------A Work PlanThe team has a time-bound work plan organized in conjunction with Phicus. Visit communitiesand schools every first and third Saturday of the month. Hold discussions with parents, Gram
Panchayats, SDMCs, the teacher community, self-help group members, youth groups, andconvince them of the cause and enlist their support for education. It is a wide and variegatedbody of stakeholders and a kaleidoscope of responses is being formulated to expand the canvasof education, each group to be addressed with a different exhortation, each to be won over with adifferent argument. The target the team has set itself is an ambitious 25,000 household visits by March 2013. Akshara’s senior resource team and Phicus will be there to support them at every juncture of this journey. ------------------------------------------------Cheemandahalli, a Village in the ProgrammeIt is an unpretentious entry into Cheemandahalli, in an autorickshaw bouncing along a thin stripof tar that is barely there. Cheemandahalli is a village on the Akshara team’s map for communityinvigoration. It is six kilometres from Hoskote and seems like a suburban extension of the town.At first sight there are none of the bucolic images that an Indian village can sometimes summon.Hoskote is Bangalore’s vegetable and rose garden, about thirty kilometres away, a feeder-townburgeoning on the city’s needs. It seems like an unlikely place for roses; one sees no flowersanywhere, but it is quietly booming. Most of Bangalore’s cut roses and vegetables come in fromHoskote’s surrounding villages.This prosperity rubs off on Cheemandahalli, colours its milieu. The houses are solid andeverlasting, all mortar and concrete, painted in vibrant shades of green, blue and pink. No signsof dereliction around, no wasting away, no lassitude or lethargy. People are buying into thissuccess and growth, moving away from traditional agricultural crops and sending in tractor loadsof vegetables and roses, on the verge of bloom, to Hoskote’s main market. The economic hightide has also made unconventional space in Cheemandahalli for realty, trade and smallenterprises. AGC Bricks Co. is a big employer. --------------------------------------------------
Education in CheemandahalliIn a habitation of not more than 1500 people, Akshara’s survey team did not find any ostensiblyout-of-school children. The village has a lower primary and a higher primary school. But where does education stand in Cheemandahalli? The village offers a two- faced response; there are contrasts, depending on the demographic composition. There are those who value education – a sizeable number, says Cluster Coordinator Thimmarayappa who is in charge of the village – and those who do not. Those who grasp its value, and those who see it as a transitory phase of childhood, schools viewed more as child-minding places, somewhere safe to park their children while they are at work. Cheemandahalli has a floating population of migrant workers, mostly from Odisha, who do a three or four month stint at the tile and brick factories or on farmlands and disappear for the next six months to their native homes, returning only when they find that money is running out. Their children wander in and out of school as it pleases their parents who exhibit no real resolve to educate them. The core population of the village, however, has a stable commitment to education even if their understanding of school-going is limited to the everyday, not the greater possibilities. Most of them have studied up to Std. X; they have roots here; their lives are lived here. -------------------------------------------------- Jyoti – “My Children Should Study Well”The prelude to Jyoti’s home is a pointer to a functioning Gram Panchayat - neat, tarred roads, nota scrap of paper or plastic anywhere, and circumspect prosperity. Cheemandahalli consolidatesits success by building large homes. Jyoti’s has a kind of transcendental green all over, with competitive blues and pinks. Bright, full blown artificial flowers garland her threshold; the white marble on the porch and hall is embellished with geometrical designs in contrasting shades. A television hums in a corner, a 21-inch LG set. Jyoti discreetly shuts it down. Smells of an afternoon meal, being painstakingly prepared, waft out of the kitchen. Jyoti wears a flowery housecoat, her hair in a soberly stylish twist at the back. She has her youngest child in her arms. Her older daughters, Meghana and Bhavana, are in the government school, in Std. V and II. Jyoti has been a member of the school’s School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) for two years. Her training in Hoskote prepared her for the role, she says. “I learnt that I have to maintain hygiene in school, ensure that children’s midday meal is hygienically prepared, see to the water
situation and the school building, monitor attendance. I visit the school every fortnight to see that teaching is going on well. My concern is that my children should study well. Jyoti and her husband own a farm, but there is no water in it. With sound commercial instinct her husband collects vegetables grown in other farms and sells them in Hoskote for a commission. Jyoti says matter-of-factly that she is a housewife, but she has her hands full. She is also a member of the women’s self-help group in Cheemandahalli – the Sree Lakshmi Raita Mahila Swasahaya Sangha. An evolving trend in Cheemandahalli is the growing dissolution of gender differentiation, Jyoti notes. “I will educate my girls as far as they want to go. I want to see them achieve something, get to a good stage in life.” Though gender insensitivity does not always cloud Cheemandahalli’s increasingly progressive environment it does at times overshadow Jyoti’s engagement with the SDMC. She shrugs it off with a dismissive smile. “At home there are no problems, but outside sometimes…..” She leaves it trailing, unsaid. --------------------------------------------- Shekhar – “We the SDMC Should do Things Together”It is a small white-painted house, an anomaly in a village of vivid hues, and unambitious forCheemandahalli. Shekhar sits at his sewing machine in a constricted, semi-dark room, the onlylight there slanting in from the half-door leading to the road. The signage on it reads MBS Tailorsin English. A picture of Ganesha on the front wall adds an auspicious touch. Fully finishedblouses and trousers, immaculately tailored, hang in rows above. A Kannada film is playing onthe television in a dark inner sanctum at which Shekhar casts a casual look from time to time. Agleaming motorcycle stands opposite, a symbol of hard work, hard-won success. Shekhar has two daughters, Varshita and Usharani, who study in Std. III and Std. I in the village’s lower primary school. Like Jyoti, Shekhar has been a member of the SDMC for two years. He did not go through the preparatory training. “I go to school and ask how things are, what the problems are. I attend SDMC meetings but don’t know exactly what happens or what goes on. But I do ask about the children and try and participate in the discussions. I find the government school to be suitable for my means. They provide textbooks, uniforms and food to the children. It keeps my expenses low. I don’t have a budget for the private school close by.”
Shekhar’s daily earnings are usually around Rs. 300 a day. “It must be more than that,” promptsThimmarayappa. “I have never seen you idle, you’re always busy. There are always clotheshanging in your shop.” “I know the fashion trends in Cheemandahalli,” says Shekhar, not quitemotivated. “I can give what the village wants. But I have no land, only this house and this shop.” “I have studied up to Std. X. Education is important. If you study well you can get a government job. I am doing this. See.” He points in faint disgust to his work, running seams along a trouser-in-the-making at breakneck speed. “This job is a risk, a headache. I don’t like this work. I do it because we have to eat.” “I will get my girls married only after they are eighteen. They can study as much as they want to, but I won’t send them to work in the fields. But some big job in town – YES.” Shekhar is determined to invest time and effort in the school, to see that his children do well. “I go once in two or three days to the school. The children seem to be studying well, so I think teaching is going on. I don’t know my roles and responsibilities as a member of the SDMC, but I go when I am called. On our own we cannot do anything. We the SDMC should do things together.” -------------------------------------------
The Village School • The Government Kannada Lower Primary School (GKLPS) is in a scenic part of Cheemandahalli, a squat, shrinking building sheltered by a sprawling banyan, next to what seems like the village square. The road has disintegrated into a mud track. It is a pretty picture here, though, with ponds and a lake and tethered cows feeding peacefully from troughs of grass. • The school has 38 children, Std. I-V. Among them are 20 students who are the children of migrant workers. It might be mentioned here that 20 children, Std. I-V, from the village go to a private school close by. Cheemandahalli has an anganwadi with 11 children. Five children transited to the Government Lower Primary School last year. At the sight of visitors the students of Std. IV and V who sit together in a combined class, stand up, fold their hands in prayer and sing the invocation, “Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu…..,” the solemn notes resonating in the cool sun, the mild air. There are only two boys in a classroom dominated by girls – 4 in Std. IV and 3 in Std. V. They have benches and desks. They are all in uniform, no one shabby or unkempt, their hair combed, an innocence on pleasant, smiling faces. --------------------------------------------Change in Cheemandahalli • Ramanna is the teacher at the school, a teacher for all classes, Std. I to V. “I’ve been here for eighteen years,” he says. “I come every day from Hoskote. Nobody from Cheemandahalli went to college those days,” he reminisces. “They stopped at SSLC. Now 10 children from the village are in college. Before, girls were never sent to school. That has changed. Now they go to college, though I know of a girl who got a seat in a medical college in North Karnataka and could not go because her parents objected, saying it was too far away. Girls usually get married after college, while the boys continue to study. A student of mine is currently doing his engineering.” ------------------------------------------------
Larger Issues “But the trouble with education is that no one wants to go back to farming after that,” says Ramanna. • He touches on a broader issue. Not all of Cheemandahalli’s children get into college. Most of them drop out when they reach Std. X, SSLC a Board exam they do not often clear. Farming then becomes an unworthy occupation, somehow infra dig in their eyes, after the sheen and awakened hopes of schooling. But it is Cheemandahalli’s traditional, long-standing, staple profession, no longer a means of mere livelihood, or a treacherous struggle with the elements, not with the increased scope and status it enjoys today, the diversification into cash-rich crops and the challenges of innovation and ingenuity in an area prone to water shortages. Does a little education therefore make misfits of Cheemandahalli’s children, leaving them stranded in no-man’s land? • There are other unanswered questions. How does Ramanna manage to teach the children of two levels, Std. IV and V, in the same classroom? What about the multi-grade teaching required? Is he equipped to cope? Does he have the training, the skills for the separate syllabuses, the textbooks? Is it feasible for government to employ teachers for classes with three and four students? More importantly, what about the children of Cheemandahalli’s migrant workers? In today, gone tomorrow? ------------------------------------- Pushpanjali – “I Enjoy Studying” •Pushpanjali stands up with dignity and a cautious smile, wary of discomfiting questions. “I am an Odiya girl,” she says in fluent Hindi. With the right inputs and steadfastness Pushpanjali could go places. “My parents work in the brick factory. My older brother also works there. I have been studying here since Std. I. I know arithmetic and Kannada. At home I speak Hindi and Kannada. When my parents go back to Odisha I will go with them, sometimes for six months at a time. But I will come back when they come back. When I go there I do household work, I
don’t go to school like this. I don’t know how old I am. I don’t know which class I am in but I enjoy studying. I want to become a doctor.” • Ramanna: “When Pushpanjali and children like her go back, all the learning instilled in them vanishes. They forget all about it. They become low performers. I have to start from scratch. I repeat the experience often enough. It is difficult. They forget Kannada completely, and this is a Kannada medium school. How do I teach? All over again?” -------------------------------------------The Nali-Kali Class The Nali-Kali class in an adjoining room of the Government Lower Primary School is brimming – 27 children, Std. I-III, seated on the floor, in a room methodically arranged, learning material stacked on shelves and in cupboards, the walls, every inch of space, alive with charts. The Nali-Kali pedagogy was designed by government for the children of Std. I- III, all to be addressed together in a multi-grade-multi-level system of teaching, also called MGML. It is meant for schools like this where there are not too many children in a class.There are children of migrant workers here too, 16 in Std. I and II, and 5 of them, both boys andgirls, are absent. Another dimension of the problem emerges. It is not just the long spells of leavethat disrupt study, but the short two to three day absences as well when parents take theirchildren to the factories and engage them in work for the additional income child labour fetches.The girls are pulled out of school to work alongside their parents or manage siblings. • When Akshara’s survey team visited a brick factory to talk to a few migrant workers, the owner denied them access citing employment rules that prevented employees from social mingling and interaction while at work. ------------------------------------------- Yamini – “I Want to Study” • Yamini is in Std. III. Her flashy red dress is iridescent, studded with metallic embossments. Her younger sister Chandini sits huddled against a wall, in a fit of temper. Yamini and Chandini are here because to their parents school is a temporary shelter with someone accountable in charge, a system the two girls can fit into for a while when they are at work.
•Yamini who speaks good Hindi has just rejoined after a long absence. Her parents work in the brick factory, she says. “I want to study, but I will keep going back to Odisha. I like being here because I can study. When I go back there, I work. I wash vessels at home. I don’t know how old I am, but it feels good to be learning Kannada.” ------------------------------------------------ Akshara’s Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana team has its work cut out. They will have to take their campaign to thesefrontiers of ignorance and lack of awareness, give disenfranchised children an opportunity andembed in poor, largely illiterate constituencies the meaning and benefit of education, the hope itoffers. The photographs in this report were taken by the Namma Makkalu Namma Abhimaana team on a different occasion, not on the day of the visit.