Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Eenadu: Press release

It’s for the second time that Eenadu covered Education For Free; the article had been released on 29th July’12, in RR district edition.  The post is in regard to the virtual teaching at ZPHS, Gandeed, with feedback from a  few students.
Here is the paper cutting of the edition – 
For those who are not able to read Telugu, here is the translation of the article…courtesy - Sudha teacher J
Online Education…students’ reception..!
Every year there is a substantial increase in the number of students joining private schools. Government schools are struggling to retain their students. Even though they have implemented a particular program named “success” which was introduced to improve their language skills, especially English. It has started two years ago but the students could not get acquainted to it. In such situation a private organization has thought it essential and came up with dedication to provide online teaching system for the schools.
      In the year 2008 in Hyderabad, a city-based Software Company named “PurpleTalk Inc” collaborated with Masab tank Red Cross Government Girls High School and established this unique system of online teaching. Since last 4 years from that particular school, students were imparted language skills and vocabulary which provided great results. Presently the management is planning to introduce this online teaching to government schools in rural areas and reach out to the underprivileged children. Mr. Sridhar Muppidi (founder) of PurpleTalk Inc, Mr.Rama Krishna, Mr. Hari, Mr. Sateesh,  Mr. Neelakanta and Mr. Suresh, Mr. Bhanu have worked hard together to develop this software without any help from other networks. They have used the latest technology to make this program a success. They have selected a locality which is 130 kms away from Hyderabad city, viz, Gandeed and spent more than a lakh to arrange a big screen, video projector, Internet, camera and audio system.
        From 11th 29th October 2011, the higher standard classes are directly reached through video conference online teaching. The students interact with teachers through bi-directional video and audio. There will be approx 2 to 3 sessions per day based on the convenience of the students. Apart from concentrating in English, they are bringing importance for subjects like math and other subjects too, with ample examples and videos. Every month exams are conducted to test the knowledge and understanding of the students. Recently the volunteers of the company has renovated a few rooms in the school, which was in a damaged condition, in order to continue classes.     

Response of the students about online education:

Rajesh – 8th standard
                       “I lost the fear of English”
I have joined the “Success school” which was a Telugu medium, when the management has introduced English medium, I found it very difficult to cope up with the teachings in English, gradually the new method of teaching through video conference interested and encouraged me to continue studying in English medium without any fear. I have improved my language skills, vocabulary and grammar too. And moreover I am gaining knowledge in lot of other subjects through this online system of education…!    
 Sravani – 7th Standard
                  “Better than the usual classes”
 The power point teachings (visual displays) through this success school has helped me in grasping knowledge on various subjects such as language, communication skills and English because the online teaching has attracted us, which is different from other regular teachings. The teachers repeat the lessons until we are thorough with the topic- by this method of online teaching we have learnt to use the English language fluently.

 It is our purpose to develop the language skills and to boost the talents of the students, particularly children belonging to downtrodden and underprivileged sections living in villages. Our determination in providing well qualified faculty to train these children through this online teaching program have reached many students. Thus far, it is an encouragement for those people, especially teachers who are basically service oriented, to achieve satisfaction by getting acquainted to this environment of online teaching program.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Visit to remember: Lessons and memories created

EFF team visits its rural schools once in three months to check the progress of the students. The trip is arranged with some volunteers on 24th Nov'12. PurpleTalk employees - Sheik Khaleel Babu, Mr.Siva Sankar and Mallesh volunteered; travelled with us more than 270 Km. We spent the whole day with students and shared their views & suggestions. 
Volunteers turned teachers
For some time the volunteers turned teachers-conducted classroom games and activities, which gave them a welcome break from their routine lives. To be a teacher is not an easy job, as people think; in fact it needs a lot of ground work to be called a good teacher. Pupils watch our movements and gauge how well we are able to connect with them emotionally-What we wear, what we speak, our body language, our behavior-everything counts. Pupils imitate teachers, so care should be taken by the teachers that there is no flaw in presenting themselves in front of the children.
Mr.Khaleel, giving a small speech –“pursue your studies with love but not as a duty”. Occasionally, words we spell out are so touching and inspiring unknowingly. 
Mr.Siva Sankar, interacting with eighth standard students
EFF teacher, Sudha, conducting classroom games
And that’s me, with sixth standard students. They were so cute and lovable, that I couldn't leave the class.
Mallesh turned cameraman clicking snaps of us J
Coming to the actual progress of the students through virtual classroom teaching- the students of vernacular medium did not make much progress in speaking English. On the other hand, English medium students of high school are much better. They've made a lot of improvement. The main goal of virtual classroom teaching is to make them focus not just on studies but also, on social issues, environment problems, current affairs, intelligence, general knowledge etc. The visit enlightened us in some areas to work on, mainly the method of teaching for vernacular medium with different lesson plans.
 It’s a known fact that students from a rural background are not as outgoing as urban folks. Though they have talent, they just keep quite owing to fear and dare not disclose their talent in front of everybody. We are trying to introduce them to the pleasures of being liberal in thought and speech. 
Prizes for the winners
The visit had one more purpose, to distribute the prizes for GK quiz winners, conducted on the occasion of Children’s day. The competition was held between two schools- ZPHS Boys’ and ZPHS Girls’ schools of Gandeed village and Mandal.

At last we thanked the school managements for giving us warm welcome and coordinating with us in taking sessions with the children. Grateful to the volunteers who took time out of their busy schedules for EFF.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The soul is healed by being with children – an English proverb

Children are akin to buds sprouting from branches. When they blossom into flowers, their scent and colours will help us enjoy the entire world-Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Well said by the first prime minister of an honour we celebrate his [Nehru’s] birthday as Children’s day. He was fond of children and was known as ‘chacha’ (Uncle) Nehru among them. 
On 14th November we celebrate Children’s day in every school throughout India. Children’s day was one of the favourite celebrations in my school life. Teachers used to entertain us in many ways, they used to dance, sing, play skits etc. Hilarious TV ad ‘all-out’ was released in those days, where the machine eats away all the mosquitoes like a frog. We rolled on the floor laughing when our strict Hindi teacher acted like ‘all-out’ machine eating all the mosquitoes. That was really unforgettable. School memories rejuvenate us all the time. 
Children's day celebrations @Red cross Government Girls’ High school, Hyderabad.
On the event of children’s day, Lions Club organized some competitions and distributed prizes to the winners.
The cute little angels from primary-performing a dance in front of the chief guests

A devotional song, performed by high school students.
They are upper primary students, was performing ‘Pankida’ dance with sticks. Though they are too small to handle the sticks, their coordination and timing was impeccable throughout the song. I must learn from them for next Navarathri ; -)
Fancy dress competition: A traditional Kashmiri girl

 Miss Goa
Gujrathi girls

The day concluded with refreshments. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Innovative way of sourcing urban things to rural folks...

Clothing is one of the basic necessities for our social survival. Buying clothes is imperative on occasions as well as out of need. An average income earner buys clothes three or four times a year. Gross 60% of the population in a country like India buys clothes twice a year, and 20% buy just once. It is during festivals like Diwali, Dussehra or EID that they buy clothes. A corporate employee buys clothes every fortnight or less (a survey revealed) mainly on weekends. Approximately, he/she will buy at least or minimum 24 pairs a year. That’s no comparison with a common person or a daily wage earner. So where do these clothes go? Closets or cupboards and stay there long after the user moves on to newer clothes, rendering them useless.
During one of my visits to ‘Seva Mela’ (an exhibition showcasing various NGOs in the city) last year, I encountered an interesting NGO named ‘Goonj’. It is a Delhi-based organization, which works towards eradicating various issues.

 About Goonj - 
Goonj is providing clothes & other basic amenities to millions in the far-flung villages by turning urban wastage into resourceful supply for rural India. Every month, over 80 tones of material reaches various parts of the 21 states of India through a nationwide network of over 250 grassroot organizations, panchayats, Ashoka Fellows & social activists. 
You can contribute: old/new clothes (washed), woolens, blankets, utensils, footwear (in pairs), dry ration, sewing machines, umbrellas, school material, books, bicycle, spectacles, toys, newspapers, magazines, used papers (only one face utilized) and money.
The clothes people donate to Goonj are given to the rural and economically backward populace. But they don’t give it for free, they are given as a reward to rural/slum communities who come together to undertake various development activities such as road repair, well digging, pond cleaning, constructing bamboo bridges, plantations etc. That sounds really dignified isn’t it! Things which are easily grabbed are not valued, unless some sort of worth is imparted to it.

After sorting, the unwearable /unusable materials are used to create employment by converting them into more than 35 different products.
 Bags and backpacks made out of jeans.

Strong pencil pouches for students made out of jeans.
Mobile pouches made from reels of audio/video cassettes, a good handicraft work.
'Shaadi ka Joda' (bridal wear)
Goonj, supplies ‘Shaadi ka Joda’ (bridal wear) for orphan couples without any rent. I was astonished to see that they donate four to five dresses to both brides and grooms to perform the wedding rituals; after all, it’s everyone’s dream to make his/her wedding an occasion to be remembered for life...

Donation drive in the office

To support Goonj, and as a part of “Joy of giving week” we organized a donation drive in the office. Placed huge cartons in our reception; within a period of one week we collected a pile of things, that’s really a great response! I thank all my Purpletalk* colleagues for contributing towards a noble cause.  Especially, I appreciate Sachindra Pandey, a senior software engineer at Purpletalk, who initiated this drive.  The collection includes – clothes, books, bags, shoes, electronic playing kits, stationary items, and monetary contribution as well.

That’s a car full of things we received from the collection. Cheers to all J

Monday, October 15, 2012

Milestone in the schooling segment – the Tenth std.

‘SSC’ the other name of Tenth std. in A.P., India
Schooling is an important phase in an individual’s life. You can play, enjoy, and have fun along with studies in this period. However, things are not the same always; you have to really slog it out towards the end of the segment, viz in tenth std.  “Tenth std (SSC) is the turning point in your life, you have to cut down on your recreations and devote 100% time to studies.”, say parents in a strict tone. At school, SSC students don’t have games/pt period. They won’t take part in cultural activities; “if they participate in all the cultural programmes like dance, drama/skit, singing etc, their precious time will be wasted, so, it’s better to curb all entertainment for SSC students”, assert the teachers.  Some crazy parents challenge the tutor – sir, if you make my child score at least 85%, I will reward you with 10k bucks. “It’s a prestigious issue, my daughter and my colleague’s daughter are in tenth standard; if my child gets a low score, how can I show my face to her?” says a working mother. “Do or die, you must score above 90% in the final exams otherwise it’s really difficult to get admission in a good senior secondary school”, says a middle class father.
Private schools progression -
Some or many private schools have moved a step forward – in the ninth standard itself they start teaching tenth std. syllabus. Actually, in the ninth standard, the academic year is somewhat like this – the first 4 months they will teach the 9th std syllabus (term end exams are omitted or skipped), then remaining year they are taught tenth std syllabus. They almost finish teaching the syllabus of tenth in the 9th standard itself. So, the question is, what do they do in the tenth standard? Here, is an interesting answer – in the entire academic year (10th standard) they’ll be revising the entire syllabus at least four times. Conduct so many tests, term-end exams, mock board exams etc. It’s all fair in the race for grades in this competitive generation- ascertain the [corporate] school managements.

But, 9th standard syllabi has plenty of aspects which are useful to students in higher standards. Omission of these topics lead them to suffer later for the lack of knowledge. It’s nothing but a gamble on the students’ future in favor of just one exam (SSC)
The Board Exam
Tenth std students have to appear for board exams in the month of March every year. Though the government has been planning to change the exam system for more than a decade, we hardly see any changes in it. There is tight security in the exam halls with ample invigilators; however, malpractice cases are on the high every year. It’s a known bitter fact, that due to pressure from parents and teachers, certain number of tenth std students are ending their lives after failing to reach their parents’ assigned targets. It is not unusual to hear reports of  suicides the very next day after the declaration of results.

I wonder, is SSC that tough, to sacrifice all the happiest moments of our beautiful childhood...? Well, this is the scene in almost all the schools in A.P.  No limits to expectations. Parents, teachers and students, everyone wants scores, grades; this rat race is making the child an entity rather than a citizen. The need of the hour is to change the exam system, syllabus and approach to teaching as well. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

65 years of independence!

Mere desh ki dharthi…Mere desh ki dharthi, sona uglee, uglee hire moti…! What a great song! Penned by Gulshan Bawara! I just love this song, but I happen to listen to it only during national festivals. I am sure it would be a great experience for the residents of metros to drive to the countryside once in a while, enjoy the breeze and the greenery, the aroma of the soil, reminding us that we belong Mother India. We, the EFF team, celebrated Independence Day in Gandeed village; it was indeed a great experience! Green fields, fresh morning air, black clouds and the cool climate rejuvenated us.
On the way we came across a parade by school students on the roads of Mahboobnagar.  In the midst of the road, pupils were performing stunts and dances. Slogans of ‘Vandemataram’ ‘Bharatmata ki Jai’ etc reverberated through the air. Little girls in traditional attire were looking so pretty. The processions were an exercise in showcasing their schools.
Pupils performing folk dance in traditional attire.
Also promoting their school in the neighboring areas:

Students carrying national flag.
 I was fascinated to see the longest ‘Tiranga’ (The Indian Tricolor) carried by the pupils of a school in the same area. It was nice! Made my childhood days flash in my mind for a moment.
In the school I had to give a speech. I was not tense as I should have been, since it was my first time standing in front of the podium, but I was wondering how to start. I made it simple by choosing the topic, ‘India in London Olympics 2012’, with some statistics of the Indian population versus medals won.  Sudha, my colleague, had done good homework on the speech and presented it well on the stage.

Kondamma(C) has bagged the cash award who topped the school in SSC.

We had collected a sum of money from our PurpleTalk* friends to give cash prizes to the 10th class toppers of the March 2012 batch. I convey my thanks to all the contributors, who made the children happy for their achievements, and expect same support from them and others in future. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seasoned in teaching, new to blogging

I’m new to this site as a writer. Hope you will like my posts! This post is all about my journey with EFF. I've been associated with EFF since 2008 and successfully completed four years on August 21st. It all started when I came to volunteer with EFF. I was a call center executive in a well known BPO at that time. The day I was introduced to EFF is a memorable one in my life. On a heavily drenched rainy day, I with an umbrella, enjoying the monsoon, was searching for the address of EFF research center. After searching for an hour amidst heavy rain, I found it at last with a phone call. That was the first time ever I came up to volunteer for something. I was amazed to see Amongla, Sridhar and Nilesh, working for such a great cause. I was excited as I expressed my passion for teaching and shared my past teaching experiences. After a week I got a call from Amongla, I literally jumped with joy to receive her call; she asked me to come again. I was interviewed, had to give a demonstration class-Trigonometry was the topic chosen for the demo class- and I got through :) Appointed as full time teacher with EFF!.

Virtual classroom is an inspiring software. So user friendly that newbies to technology can easily learn all about it and get started. I got used to the software within no time. While teaching through virtual classroom, you listen your voice back [echo]. Initially it confused me but day by day I got used to it and now I cannot teach without echo :P.

My way of teaching:

Basically I’m a Mathematics teacher. I completed my professional degree ‘Bachelors of Education’ in methodologies Math & English, but I can teach General science and Social studies as well. Here I would like to thank Sridhar for encouraging me. Sometimes we’ve to go beyond our expertise. I follow Socratic way of teaching. Start a topic with a barrage of questions. I feel probing is an effective tool to introduce a lesson. And I believe in giving ample examples for a topic for all aspects of the subject. Provide opportunity for speaking – a classroom should be child-centered, a teacher has to give freedom for them to speak and express their ideas and doubts without hesitation or shyness. Praise your students, it’s a catalyzing factor. In and out of the class a teacher should clear all doubts, irrespective of them being intellectual or absolutely silly. 

 I listen to the radio; it’s my favorite leisure activity. ‘RJ’ Prathika in Red FM is my favorite. I often copy her (copy cat :P) presentation style in my virtual teaching. I’ll take care to talk about only informative topics laced with a touch of humor at times . We’ve got to be pleasant and put a big smile on the kids’ faces while teaching virtually. This reflects a positive approach to pupils. People appreciate me for being energetic and enthusiastic while teaching [beating my own drums] :D 

EFF teachers have to do a lot of research for any lesson – go through sample ppt’s, sites related, videos, images etc. I feel lucky. Researching gives you lot of information, data, and unknown facts and in depth perspectives on the topic. Sometimes, it takes days and weeks to prepare one presentation effectively. I gained so much preparing lesson plans for virtual teaching.

Hayathnagar, Thorur, Koheda, Suraram, Shapurnagar, Ibrahim patnam, Thandoor, Choutuppal, Gandeed, Doma, Chaderghat, Chanchalguda, Yakatpura and the list goes on and on. These are the places I visited to survey schools; totally in three districts of Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Nalgonda.
Talking with Math teachers of ZPHS in Suraram Village
With English teacher Mrs.Meeraj of Govt Girls High School, Yakatpura
Discussing with KGBV Principal, at Choutuppal

Visiting schools in different places gives us a lot of information – small classrooms, no toilets or play grounds, insufficient space, good and bad faculty, passionate teachers, infrastructure, students, discipline etc.

RTI, has been implemented as a law in India since 2005. But I hardly observe people using it. I did take the help of RTI to get the information about govt. schools in AP from DSE [Director of School Education] office. Felt proud to receive the data, from the additional director of DSE.

I’ve paid plenty of visits to Doorsanchar Bhavan, BSNL Bhavan, Collectorate bhavan and DSE office; with regards to seek permission for virtual classes in government schools. I can’t forget how I struggled to get it done. Truly, government offices in India are the same everywhere; we need immense patience to get our work done. I prefer non-corrupt officials and dislike recommendation; so far I never bribed anyone.

Personally I didn’t receive any awards; but students recognize me as synonymous to virtual teaching, that’s a big achievement.

Real achievement is that virtual classroom reached rural India, and I played a pivotal role in it. 

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