Friday, April 4, 2014

Election Fever


With the 16th general elections coming ahead, every party is busy to raise their flag as high as they can. Media is working on the exit polls, airing big fights and debates to increase their TRPs. Farmers and daily labours gave a short break for their work to campaign with the party members. Of course, they are getting good pay package from each party. Senior citizens are debating on – is it BJP or Congress or AAP or something else who is going to rule our 1.2 billion people… This summer is heating up more with the election fever everywhere.

Election manifesto is the key thing in any election campaign. Parties are working hard on their manifestos to woo the voters. Sometime ago, I heard that in Tamilnadu, a party’s manifesto include ‘free color TV’ for every family. In A.P. a party has come up with Rs.1000 salary/month to the economically backward families in their manifesto. Isn't it crazy! whatever, the party needs votes and get into the seat to rule.

To catch-up this heat, I tried a small activity on ‘Elections’ with the middle school pupils of Red Cross Govt Girls High School at Masab Tank, Hyd. Each student has to come up with a unique party name, symbol and manifesto to contest in the elections. 
Here are some nominees -


Name: Sirisha
Class: 7
Party name: M.G. Party
Party symbol: Tree
Manifesto: Free electricity for every family, provides pensions for senior citizens, jobs for 10th pass pupils, free medical treatment for the poor, scholarships for the economically backward.





Name: Keerthi Priya
Class: 7
Party name: Praja Yudham (Public War)
Party symbol: Girl and boy symbol
Manifesto: Mineral water supply for every family. A cycle for every student to go to school. Special act on girl protection. Free education in private schools. One TV per family. Will stop corruption and ban alcohol.






Name: Zaitoon 
Class : 7
Party name: Rythu Seva (Farmers service)
Party symbol: Rice
Manifesto: Free houses, medicines, education, a salary of Rs.200/month to farmers.








Name: Nikitha
Class : 7
Party name: Please save plant
Party symbol: Plant
Manifesto: Free - ration, drinking water supply, electricity, admission, bags & books for the poor. Renovate roads and maintain it regularly.






Name: G. Pooja
Class: 7
Party name: Water party
Party symbol: Rose
Manifesto: Free rice, 11 hours electricity for farmers, free jobs, a salary of Rs.5000/month to the economically backward families.




Every contestant is wooing their voter with freebies. Obviously, Indian mentality has tuned to Free goods, subsidized services, reservations for caste and creed etc etc. We see our country's progress until or unless our rigid mind set transforms.


Education For Free team wishes every nominee a big luck! Public will decide the fate of each candidate.
Cast your vote for a better governance.
Happy vote day to all the citizens of India.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Annual Visit


                                      
This time the visit to ZPH School, Gandweed came after a long wait as the dates kept changing due to certain circumstances. Finally we left on a very special day, Valentine’s Day! Until the last moment, we weren't sure how many volunteers were accompanying us to the school but to our surprise, we had 7 volunteers who were willing to take part in it and celebrate Valentine’s Day with the children. And that made this trip even more special. We as a team were able to make a fun filled educational day for the kids. For a change, they were not bored about having to sit in the classroom but were rather excited about the activities and the learning time.
When we made our first visit to this school, we had noticed that the students were very poor in speaking and reading English, but after a year of tutoring them through the Virtual Classroom we noticed that there is a lot of improvement in their speaking, reading and writing skills now. It was really amazing to see the growth in the students. In fact each of the volunteers report regarding the performance of the students development was satisfactory. Most of the students this time volunteered to participate in all the activities including giving little speeches on the stage.
But there were still a few students who needed personal care and individual attention to overcome their fear and shyness, at least for that day. We are hoping that the schools would continue to encourage the students to be aware and eager to learn.

Volunteers Report:
This was my second trip to this School. The first time I was accompanying the team but this time I was entrusted with the responsibility of teaching the standard 9th EM students. To my surprise the topic was on “DOWRY”. In response to the teaching, I got wonderful opinions of various kinds from the students but most importantly their opinion on how the Dowry system might be gradually going away from their homes and the society. The students participated in different activities like quiz, speeches, writing and reading. Most of them performed very well and were very well behaved as well. I had a wonderful time and experience with the students and the team of volunteers too.-         Vinai David

This was my first visit to the school and without a thought it was amazing trip and I had a good time with the kids. I was given class 8th EM and a few activities like a written test, discussion about the Dowry system, running dictation and storytelling. It was a fun time and also very educational for them. Few of the kids especially among the boys were gems! They were very active and enthusiastic especially Vinay, Bharath and Manikanta. Girls on the other side, with a little more encouragement and support can perform very well too.

One request is that teachers should encourage the kids in their respective area of interests as I had come across one boy, Rama Krishna who was very talented in drawing. There might be a lot of hidden talents among the kids. Few were very excited about rendering the movie dialogues as well which proves their confidence and no stage fear, such people should be encouraged too. On the whole it was a fun time for me too as a volunteer. I would love to be a part of more such activities.-         Hephzibah

Pursuing my B. Tech final year in JNAFAU spa, this was my first visit to the school and I loved it a lot and I really loved the views of EFF and proud to say that I’m part of it. I really had a good time with the children. I attended 7th EM, the children in the class were really talented –Honestly I was expecting it. I began by conducting an exam in which few children had problems in understanding the question, some of them performed well. After the exam the next activity was “act out an activity, child labor, chain spelling and word game. The children were really good at this chain spelling I really enjoyed the time spent with the class and certainly would want to continue my contribution to EFF.

Few girls in the class were really active: Akhila, Anusha, Shreshta except a few boys remaining all were good as well- They just needed a little push. I loved being a part of it and would love to continue being a part of it.

-  Dinesh
 
I’m a degree final year student at Nizam’s Degree College. I really like the efforts being made by EFF to provide education for children in remote areas. It was really great that I was part of it, even if it was just for a day! And I would like to be part of it for many more events. I went to two classes and the children were very well behaved.  I was asked to conduct written test and some other activities. The students responded to the best of their ability, though there were many mistakes grammatically while communicating in English, yet they tried to speak in English. So as a whole all of them need to make a lot of improvement in learning the English language and I feel they are all have enough enthusiasm not just to learn the language but to do so much in life.  -      Abhinay
I attended Classes 9th TM, 8th TM, 7th TM, and 6th TM. Students were asked to pick up a chit from a set of scheduled topics and Draw on the topic. The students were explained about the purpose of studying, drawing and its use for the academic purposes and career prospects. I Efforts was made towards developing their drawing skills using basic shapes and perspective techniques. It was good to see the progress from my last visit.-      Santosh
This was my second trip to the School. I went to 7th class and conducted many activities like quiz, speaking skills and reading skills, each student has a vision to improve themselves, but most of the pupils are having stage fear. I felt that an extra attention towards the students will help them train well to be free from stage fear and perform their best in speaking English. If the students are provided with English to Telugu and Telugu to English dictionaries they would perhaps put extra interest in learning and knowing the meaning of the new words and formation of sentences. -       Anupama
This was my first visit and it was a wonderful experience with the kids of class VI EM. Since they are from Telugu medium back ground it was very hard for them to speak and write in English, however they did to the best of their abilities. According to my observation, since they are beginners to English medium, students need to put extra interest especially in learning English language. -     Rakesh
I began my session with 9th TM students with different activities like: Dowry system, storytelling, running dictation, ‘what is your aim in life’ and G.K. Most of the students were very active in the class and each one tried to speak in English. It was surprising for me to see Telugu medium students speaking in English. During our first visit to this school, after EFF adopted it, the most kids would respond Madam don’t speak to us in English we don’t understand”. But today I’m proud of their progress.

A huge thank you from EFF  to  our wonderful volunteers for coming with us all the way and doing what you did there! The students were charmed and motivated and we are sure, they will start to dream bigger. Thank you once again for making the first Valentine’s Day so special for the kids! 
Dictionaries and general knowledge books were given as gifts  to the students who performed well in the class room activities.
                   

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year is here

First of all, EFF team wishes a very happy new year to all the teachers, students, volunteers and readers! Every year begins with new hopes and wishes. It feels great to start a year with new ideas and rules set by ourselves to get succeed in our life. In other words we call ‘resolution’. New Year resolution is very much popular in all squares of the world.
As a part of new year activity, I made some students of Red Cross Govt Girls High School to speak about their ‘new year’s resolution’. Here are some interesting ones from classes 7th to 9th.
-          “I will not watch T.V. in this New Year” (are you serious!). – Sowjanyna, Class 9
-          “I will not speak bad words in this New Year.” – Ashwinin, Class 7
-          “I will speak in English with my friends at school.” – Sony, class 9
-          “I will help my mother in household chores.” – Radhika, class  7
-          “I will give water to birds on our terrace.” – Anitha, class 7
-          “I will not bite my nails.” – Shruthi, class 8
-          “I will start writing a diary.” – Bhargavi, Class 7
-          “I will not waste food.” – Yasmine, Class 8
-          “I will help the poor” (don’t know what help) – Tahniyath, class 8
-          “I will participate in the activities conducted by Ambica teacher” (is it true?)– Hamida, class 8
-          “I will not hurt people with my words when I become angry!” (is that possible?) – summaiya, class 9 

Well these are some of the notable resolutions which seem to be so easy but really challenging to practice.
One more important thing in New Year is Greetings! In this gadget world we wish each other through electronic greetings i.e., by sms or email. But wishing each other by giving a greeting card is a traditional way of wishing the New Year. As a part of New Year activity, I gave home work to prepare a greeting card for my 7th and 8th class students. On a condition – the greeting card should be prepared with used or waste things at home, no buying stuff. Within a day, these pupils have come up with innovative cards. Some of them are here –




That's a great start for the year 2014. Once again wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year 2014!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Achievement of Education for all

It’s a known fact that peasants in the country are facing many problems since ages, they are in debts, can’t repay the loans, interest on the taken loans growing day by day and much more. Hopeless peasants are committing suicide and others are migrating in search of work. The migrant labours are mostly employed in construction work. According to 2010 census, there are 29.8% population living with less than $1.25 wage per day.
Children of laborers:
There is a saying - ‘doctor child becomes a doctor, actor child becomes an actor and a labor child will become a labor’. The kid of a laborer is exposed to sand and cement at an early age, as their parents accompany their children to the work place. As a result, these kids get used to construction work environment, which in turn leads them to future labours at early teens. Some elder kids stay at home to take care of their younger siblings and doing household chores.

Considering some sample families of migrant labours - a 2 dozen families live in a tin shed dwelling near Hitech city, Hyderabad. The sheds were laid by a construction group as temporary shelter for the labourers. People in this community range from North to South of India who came to Hyderabad in search of work. Kids of these people are out of school; they’re spending their childhood on the roads or doing household chores. When I approached their parents, I realised that some parents want their children to support the family by doing the same labour work.
Last from right is Bittu of 10 years old. 
They are migrants from MP state. Bittu’s parents are labours, they go to work at 8am and return at 5pm. Meanwhile, he looks after his two siblings of age 5 years and 2 years. He also cooks, washes utensils, cleans the house etc. However, he never been to school; his parents are not interested to send him school.

 But there are some parents want to send their kids to school; they want to give their children good quality of living. It’s really good to see a positive mindset in few parents though.
 From first left is Yasmine, age 10 years. 
She is a school dropout and a single parent. I urged and guided her mother to give her child good education she deserves. She came forward to join her girl in the school.
The New Blue Dress’, a beautiful story of a pretty girl who inspires everyone in her community. Similarly, Yasmine, inspired other kids in the neighbourhood. Two more kids have joined the school with little guidance and information provided by us.

Government is pumping a lot funds through a number of schemes for educating the kids under RTE. Most the people in the country are unaware of the benefits they deserve. It’s the duty of every responsible citizen, that if they encounter any boy or girl out of school approach their parents and tell them the benefits of going to school. With little research give some list of schools nearby. It might inspire them; perhaps they will send the child to school. It’ll cost some productive time of your daily schedule, but you can make a difference in the lives of the little buds of our nation. 
We need to inspire and stimulate the parents of  so many Bittu's in this world. I agree, there are some NGO's working towards it. But it's the part of every citizen to work towards the achievement of Education for all*

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Learning strategies

What is learning?
“Learning is change in behavioral process” – Psychology

“Learning is acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught” – Wikipedia dictionary

Everyone processes and learns new information in different ways. There are three main cognitive learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The common characteristic of each learning style is listed below –

Visual:


  • Uses visual objects such as graphs, charts, pictures and seeing information
  • Can read body language well and has  a good perception of aesthetics
  • Able to memorize and recall various information
  • Tends to remember things that are written down
  • Learns better in lecture by watching them

Auditory:


  • Retains information through hearing and speaking
  • Often prefers to be told how  to do things and then summarizes the main points out loud to help with memorization
  • Notices different aspects of speaking
  • Often has talents in music and may concentrate better with soft music playing in the background

Kinesthetic:


  • Likes to use  the hands-on use in learning new material
  • Is generally good in math and science
  • Would rather demonstrate how to do something rather than verbally explain it
  • Usually prefers group work more than others

General Learning strategies menu:

Task based strategies: USE WHAT YOU KNOW
Strategy
Description
Use background knowledge
I know


àthink about and use what you already know to help you do the task

àmake associations
Make inferences
Use clues
àUse context and what you know to figure out meaning.

àRead and listen between the lines

Make predictions
Crystal ball

àAnticipate information to come

àMake logical guesses about what will happen
Personalize
Me

àRelate new concepts to your own life, that is, to your experiences, knowledge, beliefs and feelings
Transfer / use cognates
Telephone/

Telepfono/
Telefon
Telefon

àapply your linguistic knowledge of other languages (including your native language) to the target knowledge

àRecognize cognates
Substitute paraphrase
Spare tire

àThink of a similar word or descriptive phrase of words you do not know in the target language

Monday, September 30, 2013

Seasonal visit with new volunteers

We, EFF team, visit our distant schools once in 3 months, to check the progress of our virtual classroom teaching. This year, the first visit was paid on 21st Sep’13. The trip was wonderful with our new set of volunteers from different backgrounds. Here is the list:
  • Sai Sudher - Sr.Software Engg.
  • Santosh  - Graphic designer
  • Basha - Works with Telecommunications
  • Azeez - Works with Telecommunications
  • Bharadwaj - Graphic desinger
  • Anupama - a BTech student
Probably, students won’t get a chance to meet people from various work fields in the school. It’s our privilege to offer the guidance of these techies to the students, at least once a while. The students and volunteers, gained knowledge and had fun together.
Bharadwaj, with class-7TM students. He was so attached to the students that he continued the class from morning to evening.

Sai Sudheer, interacting with 8EM students about careers guidance.

Basha, with 9EM students, engaged in a classroom activity – “What will you do if you become the C.M.?”

Santosh, with 8TM - introducing 2D art with simple cylinders, cones and circles.

Anupama, engaged in a classroom activity with 8TM. 

Sudha, teacher, with 6EM students; giving rating for their speaking skills.

Me with 6TM students; pupils giving a speech on self introduction!

The students of 6th std are lagging too far behind in comprehending English. It’s obvious, they are from vernacular medium. We make our teaching child-centered which enhance their speaking skills in English. I am sure that these students will pick up English communication by the end of the year.

 EFF team wishes to convey a big THANKS to all the volunteers for spending their valuable time and sharing knowledge with the students.

Abbreviations:
TM – Telugu medium
EM – English medium

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fear of Public Speaking

Veena is a girl of class VI. Her mind is no less than an active volcano-her ideas flow out like hot magma, , she has creative thoughts and comes up with numerous solutions to the problems in the society.  She is a courageous girl but there is something which is holding her back-her nervousness! She is afraid of speaking in public, raising her voice against the odds in the community.   There was an occasion in the school; pupils from each class were invited to give a speech at a school function. Veena wanted to take part in it, but her stage fear kept her from it.


There are so many Veenas in each school, who are willing to be a speaker, however, their nervousness is a thing of major concern. Need of the hour is to motivate and inspire the pupils. After all, it’s the duty of the teachers and parents to make their children overcome social anxiety. Teachers can share some great inspiring stories, videos of famous speakers, does and don’ts in a speech etc.

Elocution competition @ Red Cross Govt Girls High School
Whenever, I announce ‘elocution’ competition in the school, just two or three pupils sign up for it, or they convert it to essay writing. But for this Independence Day, I was seriously committed to draw more students to speak up. We’d taken a session prior to the competition, on ‘what is elocution?’ with does and don’ts. The YouTube videos shown to them were inspiring and made 35 students sign up for the competition (Link for the video). 

Common mistakes in elocution:

  • By-heart - Pupils often mug up the content of the speech, which leads to pauses in between in efforts to recollect.
  • Middle drop - Some pupils forget the content and drop the speech midway.
  • Appealing - some folks start to speak with full promise but fail to end the speech on a high note.
  • Voice – Non audible voice leads to poor grades, especially in rooms without a microphone.
  • Body language – pupils lean to the table with slightly crossed legs, fold their hands, which gives a poor gesture. Eye contact – pupils stare at pillars, windows, doors or some students will close their eyes, these show poor confidence levels of speakers.
  • Hesitation – when we call a pupil’s name, they request the teacher to postpone their number after two students. It shows their lack of readiness as a speaker.
  • Anxiety – Inspired students come with full enthusiasm, they start the speech with high pitch, however, the anxiety develops in them more than required, which leads to sweating and nervousness that makes them drop the speech abruptly.
  • Irrelevant – over confident students come without any preparation. Initially the speech may seem to be good, but later, they resort to irrelevant points in an attempt to make up for lack of ideas.
  • Imitate – some pupils have tried to imitate the girl shown in the video. However, it didn’t work after 30 seconds. They had to fall back on their individual styles. To learn from a motivational speech is good but we shouldn’t attempt to blindly copy and go against our unique approaches.
  • Statistics – gathering information about a topic needs a lot of homework. Statistical data, though difficult to remember at times, are important while substantiating a claim.
  • Time-limit – some students prepare so well that they go on speaking with no regards to the time limit. This causes the audience to get bored and lose interest.
  • Stage fear* –Stage Fear is common irrespective of whether it’s an LKG or a Ph.D student. It is quite prevalent in famous personalities as well. Even we teachers feel anxious while addressing a school gathering. There is no ointment for this fear, but practice and presence of mind.

Here are some snaps of the elocution competition:

Faseeha Noor, class-7; she is the first girl to come forward and initiate the competition.

Nikitha Bai, Class-X. She started her speech with high pitch and good diction. However, she dropped off in the middle owing to anxiety and nervousness.

Sony, Class-IX.

Shaima, Class-VIII. She gave a brief speech with good data.

Related posts:


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Child marriage

Summer vacation is a long rest for teachers as everyone says, but it is not so. As a teacher, it’s a really boring phase of the year as teachers are always concerned about their students – teaching, interacting and conducting activities etc. All the summer vacation I was waiting for the month of June to meet my students… went to the school on a Saturday with lots of enthusiasm. However, the visit made me sad and disheartened. I heard that five of our students from ninth and tenth standards got married in summer. “It’s all due to parental pressure that they had to agree for the wedding” explained their classmates sadly.

One of the girls has got married before board exams; however, she fought with her in-laws and wrote the exams. It shows how challenging it is for these girls to pursue higher studies in the future.
 Most of the students belong to families where the parents are illiterates and slum dwellers. In a typical Indian lower middle-class family, girl children are seen as “bojh” (burdens) on the parents’ shoulders. They want to get off their girl child by making them tie the knot with a person who would give them security. Parents hardly care about the opinions of girls about marriage, thus they often have to sacrifice their happiness to satisfy their parents and be a good, obedient daughter.

 Parental views on girl child marriage –
  • We are worried about the society. They point fingers at us if we do not marry off our girl child even after her schooling.
  • I have five children, my daughter is the oldest, and we have to perform her wedding immediately after seventh standard. We have four more daughters lined up for wedding.
  • We really want to send our girl child to pursue higher studies, but we are afraid that she might side-track, fall in love or marry against our wishes etc. To be on safer side it would be good to perform her wedding after tenth standard. If her in-laws agree, she will continue her studies.
  • My daughter got a nice match (groom). So though she is in tenth standard, we are ready to perform her wedding. She might not get a guy like this, and they are asking nominal (two – three lakhs cash+ home appliances + a motorbike) dowry.

Majority of Indians belong to the above-mentioned category. Child marriage is still prevalent in every corner of the state and this is the reason we are seeing constant child mortality rate from past many years (for more info). Also Indian women are more anemic compared to other countries. 

These all are known facts and are being debated since ages, but the reformation of perception is very slow. The only missile to dismantle these social evils is education. If every parent is educated, we wouldn’t see such cases. Here’s hoping the future generation, being more educated, would take an active role in doing away with such practices.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Toilets are a must for every school


Recently, the Supreme Court has ordered all the schools to provide basic infrastructure in less than 6 months. For more info - Toilets must in all govt schools.

It means that we still have no proper basic infrastructure in our schools or educational institutes even after 66 years of independence. Central and state governments are pumping money through several schemes every year; but where is the fund going (into scams)?

Well, here I would like to jot down some experiences since my childhood –
Being a student of a government institution, I can explain the conditions first hand. The school which I studied in was an aided school, but the standards were equal to any other govt school. I can’t find words to explain the condition of our washrooms. It was more horrific than any horror movie I have seen. We used to consume less water in order to avoid going to the toilets. We never dared to complain about the situation to our school management (as they already knew). For them, all that mattered were taking classes and completing the syllabus which, in themselves, were big challenges.

Coming to some local private schools - they collect five to six hundred rupees as fee from each student per month, but the basic amenities are not up to the mark. I worked as a teacher in a private school; the school has a big building but devoid of  playgrounds or campus area. The school has good strength with four hundred plus students. Pupils often fight among themselves during intervals or break times. If you say it is quite common for fights to break out over petty issues in every school, you would be surprised to know the reason here. They fight for toilets! The school has constructed just three washrooms for 400+ students. Being a co-ed school, there’s only one toilet for boys, one for girls and the third is for the staff. 

Private schools have at least three washrooms with 200:1 ratio, but there are some govt schools which are running successfully without toilets in the school campus. Here, I draw the example from one of my friend, Mrs.Shyamala, an SGT (Secondary Grade Teacher) at a Govt Primary school, near LB Nagar, a few kilometers from Hyderabad. “Children are sent to their homes to answer nature’s calls, but students, especially girls, coming from faraway places have to reign in their bladders till evening.  Though we repeatedly asked the area MEO (Mandal Revenue Officer) and sent letters to DEO (District Education Officer) to sanction funds to construct toilets, the response is not satisfying”, she sadly explained.
Well, it's ridiculous that we teachers have to train girl children on how to control their bladders in order to avoid nature's calls. I appeal to actress, Vidya Balan , to produce an ad to show the importance of sanitation not only at home but also in the school.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A school on the foot path


It seems strange when we hear about schools on the footpaths; but there are some schools running successfully this way, educating the kids of poor families. One such school is ‘Alpha school’, located near Jubilee Hills. The school caters to the underprivileged children with primary school education for free of cost. Parents of these children work as maids in the nearby bungalows and some work as laborers at construction sites.
The school has no pucca roof but a small shed on the footpath to shelter the kids from sun and rain.

The school emerged from the thought of a woman, Ms.Shoba Rani. The school is running successfully with good number of students and teachers for 12 long years.

An age old saying, “Helping hands are better than praying lips”; truly implemented by Ms.Shoba Rani. Daily we pass by so many kids on the roadside, feel pity for them or blame the government, but hardly think of any instant solution. This is a live example to solve things in possible ways…