Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More schools up the alley....

It is not always easy working out the logistics when it comes to deploying our Virtual Classroom in the schools. We need immense cooperation from the school management, the principal and the teachers. We have been doing pretty good for the last 3 years (yes! our baby is three years old!!) nevertheless, we went ahead and got the DEO (District Educational Officer) give us written permission to deploy our VC in about 5-10 schools in Ranga Reddy district. It gives us the incentive of having the government by our side. The officials have always been supportive but me thinks this is a new high for us. Difficult they may, the government officials, but they are always willing to extend their helping hand. In particular, I would like to thank Mr. P.V. Srihari the DEO of Ranga Reddy district for being exceptionally supportive and encouraging. I list the following schools here:
  1. Zilla Parishad High School Vikarabad
  2. ZPHS Parigi
  3. ZPHS Doma
  4. ZPHS Gandeed
  5. ZPHS Uppal
It looks like we are going to get very busy but I'll keep you guys posted. Come back soon! :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

More schools we visited...

Zilla Parishad High School Polkampally

This building was donated by a concerned and warmhearted individual.
Shantinekithan at Polkampally
Zilla Parishad High School Raipole village
There are only three rooms that are usable in the whole building. Sad affair.

This is meant to be a school building but what we have is the unfinished building and unfulfilled dreams for many students!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Primary School in Polkampally

Our next stop was Polkampally about 8 kms from Ibrahimpatnam--30 minutes of blissful ride in good company of our fellow passengers--intrigued to the hilt about our mission. The best part about these visits are the children--the little ones...innocent stares and tugs...aww. I forget the cruel world. There is a good number of students here--majority from underprivileged families. There are a few private schools and some parents send their children to these even if they cannot afford the fees because apparently it is a prestige issue. Having said that, am very sure every parent wants to give their children the best. And they might possibly think that these private schools fare better than the Government schools. After all, nothing that comes for free is good enough. esp. when it is the Government giving. I leave here some photos:



since teachers were away on a dharna, the principal is taking care of the students.
Always ready for the shutterbugs :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

School tour in Ibrahimpatnam...










A couple of weeks back we took another tour visiting Government schools in Ibrahimpatnam about 40 kms away from Hyderabad. After a bus and a shared auto ride---we are at the premises of the school.

It was pleasant trip--we especially loved the green and lush fields on both sides of the road. Anything that takes us away from Hyderabad horrendous traffic is a music to the soul. So back to the schools now, the first school we went to was Government boys high school. The infrastructure was poor which wasn't a big surprise.

On the contrary, the Government girls school on the other side of the lane was a whole different story. The buildings were sparkling clean and stood strong and tall--you wouldn't believe it to be a government school building. The computer room was also a shocker. All the monitors are flat screens. The only glitch were the animals for company during mid day meal hours.

Both the schools have no major teacher shortage issue but they do have vacant post laying around. 


Government boys school Ibrahimpatnam through the entrance gate.
White washed as new :)

There is a new building that is getting constructed.

Computer room.
the boys in their school uniform
The girls' school









Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tutor Vista....

I don't know who I should be addressing here on this one...I'm just hoping anyone in need would be able to use this information.

Tutor Vista is an online tutoring company one of the biggest in the world. They mostly cater to the American students--with subjects such as English, Math, Geometry, Geography, the sciences, statistics, Algebra, Trigonometry and a few others. If you are looking for a job, you could apply online...you can use the trial version application for free to see how comfortable are you with it. 

If you are a parent and is looking for a private tutor for your kid, this is a good option. I actually had a few friends working for it.

If you are a student, you should totally check out their blog. They very often solve complex solutions here --you may or may not find what you are looking for but it's always a good try.

So check it out and let us know how you like it. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trophy for the girls...

We just managed to get the photos of the girls with the trophy. If you remember a few weeks back they participated in a dance competition organised by Naandi Foundation with another 100 schools. Our girls came third! Isn't that awesome? The trophy is now displayed in the make shift library cum virtual classroom. As you can see, these girls are the latest starlets of the school . :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dance workshop by Naandi Foundation....

Now that the schools are reopening after the long summer break, we have been visiting our schools and doing the necessary tweaking and testing with the Virtual classroom application. Yesterday, at Red Cross Girls Government high school, we bumped into some of the Naandi Foundation volunteers who were conducting a dance workshop as part of their summer camp program 2010. Our girls will actually be participating at Ravindra Bharathi today with other fellow students from Government schools in Hyderabad. We are excited as much as the girls are! A big 'Thank you' to the Naandi guys for their awesome work all these years!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I read two interesting articles today --ironically I read them in order. The first one was on the Government schools in Delhi, the very good pass percentage they have had this year at the X board exams and that now they are number two in the country. All good news but I wondered, how well are these kids learning.

The second article appeared in Wall Street Journal and it talks about thousand of Indian students who despite being graduates in 'flying colors' are unemployable.
 India's biggest challenge is not unemployment, but unemployability. A study by McKinsey and the National Association of Software and Services Companies a few years ago found that barely 25% of engineering graduates are employable. Last year, another survey by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the World Bank reported that 64% of the employers were not satisfied with the skills of the engineering graduates. According to biotech industry sources, barely half of the 200,000 post graduates in science are employable.
They blame New Delhi for making things worse with their Right to Education Act according to which children up to the age of 14 have the right to get free education. The actual problem is not with the act itself, even though the article seems to suggest that this new act has made things worse. The real problem is that the government continues to be in charge of all aspects of implementing this act, and spreading education.

Sometimes, it feels like there is really no end to the problems. The right approach perhaps is community-managed education, rather than government-backed education.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Child Welfare and Holistic Organization. Hyderabad

Some of us went to "say hello" to the CHORDers (Child Welfare and Holistic Organization). This is a not for profit charitable organization in Bachupally, Hyderabad. They have a bridge school for rescued child laborers and school dropouts, a regular school and a Junior college. CHORD was started by a group of warm hearted people when they saw thousands of children (3000! to be precise) working away as laborers while visiting a lime stone quarry in Piduguralla village Guntur district A.P. That was 13 years ago. And I'm reminded of the little Bridge school in Aloor run by the MV foundation.
Yesterday we couldn't meet the students at the Bridge camp they were away for their summer vacation, yes thanks to CHORD they now get to have a vacation! we met some of the volunteers and teachers and were once again overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and courage. They actually go door to door checking and when they find the children in the family working as laborers they reason with the parents and have them at the bridge camp. I'm very sure it's not as simple as I make it sound.

We are trying to see if we could help them in our own little way. Have the Virtual Classroom for these lovely children and also get some volunteer teachers teach them over the video. Will tell you guys how it works out :)

(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures...will get better ones next time)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Children...

These children lived on a street in tiny little make shift shacks. Sometimes I saw them sleeping outside and it made me wonder where they'd go when it rained. I was walking around one Sunday afternoon with my camera  I walked up to them and said hello...and then they wanted their picture taken. I showed them and they loved themselves in the photo. You should have seen their smile. So I promised that I would print it out and give it to them so they could hang it on their 'wall'. But I moved on with my life and forgot about it. After a few months as I was spring cleaning my computer I saw the pictures and remembered that afternoon and the promise I made. That evening I checked for them on the street. But they were gone. Their little shack had been destroyed by the monsoon wind.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Looking to buy Children's books?

Ever since my nephew turned 3, I've been lurking around bookstores in Hyderabad--Walden has decent collection so also is crossword. If you don't mind buying second hand books then Best Buys in Lakdikapul has very good collection for throw away prices. Better still the second hand bazaar in Abids on Sundays! You could snag books for as low as Rs.5.

The books in the photo (children's books) are all from Best Buy and Sunday secondhand book bazaar Abids.

Shopping online is another convenient option. I've bought books from First and Second, Book Depository--this one has free shipping worldwide! how awesome is that? and then the Amazon. First and Second ships from India--I usually use amazon for International shipping when books I need aren't available in India.
There a few good Indian publishers for children's books and you might want to check them out. The prices are very reasonable too.

Ratna Sagar (school textbooks)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A small survey but tells so much....

We did a survey of a few schools and collected data which we would like to share with you all here. The schools are all in Andhra Pradesh--a couple of them around Hyderabad and a few in far flung districts. The schools are all sad looking in terms of infrastructure (old story) but that doesn't stop most of the teachers from giving their best. Every visit, every story, every interaction motivates us to be able to do what we set out to do.

I tell my colleagues that visiting schools every once in a while should be mandatory for everyone including our engineers. Most of us do know that there are problems out there but unless you see and hear for yourself you remain impersonal. The whole thing has been tedious--sometimes slow but when I see the students over the video or in their classroom with smiles from ear to ear just happy that someone is trying to do something special for them. Or that's what I'd like to think :) I've heard teachers and volunteers commented many a times 'these children are not at all interested in studies' but I tell ya kids are really smart--they know when someone's doing something 'nice' for them. They make the effort to learn. There are exceptions of course.

So do check out the survey data and you'll see why making EFF a success is so crucial. Not for us but for them.




District – RR district                                                             
Mandal – Tandur
This is a survey  of  some schools in Tandur. It is 125km from Hyderabad. Tandur is a town, has BSNL broadband connectivity in the entire Mandal. We visited four schools.
Name of the school
Address
Medium
Strength
Staff
1. Govt High School No.1
Saipur, Tandur

Telugu / Urdu
Success schools(E/M)
657
19
Vacc - 20
2. Govt High School
Tandur
Telugu / Urdu
410
12+4(V.V)
Vacc – 11
3. Govt Girls High School
Kallalgally, Old Tandur
Urdu/ Success schools(E/M)
700
10
Vacc – 7
4. Govt High School
Malreddy pally
Telugu/Success school(E/M)
424
6 + 5(V.V)
Vacc – 8




























District : Ranga Reddy                                                                                                                   

Mandal : Quthbullapur
We visited 3 schools in Quthbullapur mandal.
School
Address
Medium
Strength
Staff
1.Z.P.H.S
Suraram Colony
Telugu
Boys and girls 600
17
1 vaccancy
2. Z.P.H.S
*Suraram Village
Telugu
B & G
350
12
3. Z.P.H.S
Shapoor Nagar
Telugu
B & G 450
14




District: Nalgonda                                                                                                                           
Mandal: Choutuppal
We visited 3 schools in the  Choutuppal Mandal.
School
Address
Medium
Strength
Staff

1.Z.P.H.S.
*Choutuppal
School &
Telugu
B & G
571
20

2. A.P.Residential School for Girls(Gurukul Pathashala)
Bangarigadda, Nr Govt Hospital
Choutuppal
English & Telugu
Girls
400
20

3. Kasturba Gandhi Balikala Vidyalayam
Bangarigadda, Nr Govt Hospital
Choutuppal
English
Girls
48
7
3 vacancies


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Schools for the new academic year.

A few more schools in Andhra Pradesh will have the Virtual Classroom from the coming academic year. After a tedious research, visiting schools, several meetings with Mandal heads, principals, teachers,we shortlisted a few that we thought needed our initiative the most.

I must thank our volunteers and our EFF teacher and Co-ordinator Ambica Ayla for making sure we found the right schools in terms of infrastructure--Internet, electricity, co-operation from the school and so on. They braved the 45 degree heat and dust and walked around the villages meeting teachers, parents and students--It's vacation time but they wanted to make sure they get a feel of what what they needed.

We will have more action this academic year, our engineers are geared up too. Some of their weekends would be with the Virtual Classroom as we add more schools to the EFF community--the committed and inspired lot that they are would rather give their time for EFF than the movies and Biryani ;)

Some of the schools:
Shapur Zilla Parishad School A.P


Ambica and a teacher inspecting the room for Virtual Classroom.



Suraram Village Zilla Parishad School A.P


Monday, April 5, 2010

Right to Education Act, 2010

Right to Education Act finally came through on 1st April 2010. While this is no little task, it is our hope that we are going in the right direction.

Here are a few information on the Right to Education Act:

The act was enacted by the parliament on 4th August 2009
Free and Compulsory Education for children aged between 6-14 years
This is under Article 21A of the Indian constitution
It extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir
It requires reservation of 25% seats in private schools for children from weaker section of society
The Act compels the State to provide all supplies, fees, transportation, libraries etc.
Admission to students will be allowed any time during the academic year
The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
Special training for dropouts to bring them to par with students of the same age
No birth certificate or transfer certificate is required for a student to get into a school

Therefore, India would need:

15 lakh new teachers and they are to be trained by 1st of October 2010. I can imagine the revolution the country will see even if just a fraction of the 200 million from the underprivileged families could receive their education through some of the good schools we have in the country.

References

Here, here and here