Monday, April 23, 2018

The magic of Science

2:50:00 PM

14-year-old Anubhav Bagh is an all-rounder. He stood first in his school in drawing and secured the second position in his class in academics. And to add to these achievements, he came second at the block-level running competition! But apart from all these feathers added to his cap, there is one thing that Anubhav enjoys the most, and that is Science!

Anubhav hails from the Bankbija village in the Sonepur district of Orissa. This district is one of the 250 most backward districts of the country, and like the majority of the people here, his family earns its living by working as labourers.  So how did young Anubhav develop an inclination towards Science?

“My son was interested in Science since he was in 5th grade”, Janaki Bagh, Anubhav’s mother recalls. “He used to open our radio box, play with the wires and spent a lot of time probing them”, she says with a smile.


When we enter Anubhav’s house, we find that a small corner is reserved for Abhinav’s models. Apart from the models, we can see some wires; a couple of switches, plug points, bulbs and the place looks like a small laboratory. His family members greet us and tell us about themselves. Anubhav’s brother, the breadwinner for the family, works as an agriculture labourer. Despite the fluctuation in the income, the family happily supports Anubhav in his experiments. This support and encouragement have allowed him to dream of a career working with machines and creating something new.

But there is one person in the house who has always helped Anubhav in his experiments. And that person is his niece – Karishma Bagh.  

Karishma goes to the neighbouring households and collects bulbs, wires, small gadgets, machines etc. from them. “Do not throw these things; instead give them to us”, she tells them.  And once Anubhav creates something out of this material, she happily shows the models to them. “I feel delighted when I see the completed model. It’s like magic!” she says.  

However, since the past few months, Anubhav has begun to use the Tablet, and the scientific content in the ‘PraDigi’ App installed in the Tablet keeps him busy and engaged. He has conducted a few experiments and made a few models by referring the videos in the App. “The tablet has widened his range of experiments. Some models which he thought were difficult seem doable now”, his mother said.

Now in 8th grade, Anubhav wants to volunteer at the Library Program next year and explain his projects to every participant from the program.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A place where I feel good

12:45:00 PM

When Basant Sahu saw his friend working as an electrician in his village, he wished he could do something on similar lines, but was clueless where to pursue it. However, his joy knew no bounds when he came to know that such a course exists at Thathaithangar, not so far away from his village. He immediately made up his mind, convinced his mother and took admission at the centre.

Pratham’s vocational training centre at Thathaithangar (Dist: Simdega) offers a course in the Electrical vertical. Students from Simdega and Gumla districts take admission at this centre and after getting trained as electricians enter the job market.

Basant’s initial aim was to get enrolled in the police force. However, due to family commitments, he could not attend the first round of selection. “My father died when I was very young, and since then I live with my mother”, he begins his story. He values the fact that his mother worked very hard so that he could go to school and study until 10th grade in his village school. However, after completing 10th grade, he started working and began earning for the family. However, he did not secure a permanent job. Instead, he worked as a labourer, which made him earn some money but at irregular intervals.

While his motivation was his friend who works as an electrician, he was also attracted to life outside his village because of Hindi movies. “In our village, we speak in Sadri, and hence it was difficult for me to adjust to Hindi in my school. Thanks to the movies, I can understand Hindi and now I can speak it quite well”, he says. However, neither there is a television at home, nor has he been to a theatre. He has watched all the movies on his mobile phone. “I like the movies, but I do not know the name of any actor or actresses”, he says with a smile.

Adjusting to the new schedule at the centre took some time, his friends never made him feel homesick. “We discuss a lot of things during lunch and dinner. Most of the times, the discussion is about our job after this course, our work and the plans ahead.” While many of his friends want to work as an electrician in their village, Basant has higher ambitions. “I want to work in a big city…like Mumbai or Delhi”, he says. And why does he want to stay in a big city? “There are a lot of opportunities...and I will feel good”, is his candid reply. However, before moving to a big city, he has some plans for his village as well. “After I start earning, I will improve the agriculture in my house. I have to build a new house and also construct a well. And before all this, I want to buy something for my mother”, he says with a smile.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sombari Singh’s Pathagar

1:35:00 PM
Mayurbhanj district in Orissa is one of the most backward districts in the country. The majority of the population here is dependent on agriculture for their survival, and a large number of people are either small-scale farmers or labourers.  Some of them also survive by doing jobs that are generated through different government schemes enacted for the district.  Despite this background, the village of Solarapada is experiencing an increase in awareness about education, thanks to the initiatives of women like Sombari.

Two years back, when team members from Pratham went to Solarapada to initiate the library program, they found Sombari who wanted to do something for the village. “The first thing that I thought was education”, she says. Solarapada was experiencing a good enrollment of children in school, but they were hardly learning anything. On many occasions, Sombari would see children roaming around in the village after school and doing nothing. “There was nothing to do, and it disturbed me a lot”, she recalls.
Being a graduate, Sombari could understand that there was nothing in the village to monitor if the children were learning well. “They were enrolled in school. But there are many obstacles in their learning”, she says.

The major obstacle here is the language. Majority of the people in Mayurbhanj speak Ho and Santhali, whereas the medium of instruction is Odia. When children are enrolled in school, the teachers have to translate the teaching from Odia to the dialect, and this practice continues for some years till the former become comfortable in Odia.
When the team members at Pratham explained her about the library program, she liked the concept of group learning and use of activities, songs and games to aid learning. And in no time, the library program became active in the village.

“It was amazing to see the participation of women in this program, and it made the entire community know about it”, she said. However, Sombari had already thought of the next step. If we collect books from everyone in the village and maintain a library, the whole village would benefit. She shared this concept with a few mothers she knew, and they gladly agreed! The drive for collecting books began, and as this concept reached the village Panchayat, they arranged for a small place in the village where these books could be kept. A ‘Pathagar’ was soon formed, Sombari Singh’s Pathagar!
“Every child in the village can come here, sit and read books. They can also borrow books and take them home. But if any adult wants to borrow them, they have to pay”, she says, explaining the rules of the place. The money collected in this way is used to buy new books and other miscellaneous expenses.  However, she credits the library program for initiating the activity of reading and learning in the village. “It is because of the program, parents and children are aware of reading books, and hence they come to the Pathagar to read”, she says with a smile.

In the village, Sombari is synonymous with learning. The Pathagar gives her a chance to interact with many mothers. They talk to her about what their children are learning in school and discuss their learning levels. But there is a marked difference in their awareness. “Initially, many of them thought that children should learn until the 5th grade. But now many of them are aware that children should opt for higher studies as there are many opportunities ahead”, she says. The Pathagar at Solarapada is the reason community members meet and discuss their children’s education.   

Monday, April 2, 2018

Kabita and Lily - the mother-daughter duo of Second Chance Program

12:23:00 PM
Kabita lives in the Rajendrapur village in the Jajpur district of Orissa. She works as an ASHA worker and also cooks the mid-day meal for children in the nearby school. Her story is one of the fascinating stories that Pratham’s Second Chance Program has to offer. She not only got back to school after twenty-eight long years but also had her daughter Lily as her classmate!
Kabita was born in 1977 in a family of seven, her parents and four siblings. Her father worked at Kolkata, and he sent a fixed amount of money by monthly money order. Kabita being the eldest had to take up the responsibility of the house. As a consequence, she had to drop out of school when she was in 7th grade and despite having a keen interest to study further, could not pursue it further. She got married in 1994, at 17 years of age and thus began a new phase in her life. Lily, her daughter, was born three years later, in 1997. However, owing to the financial difficulties, she too had to drop out of school in 2012. She was in 9th grade then.
Kabita and Lily
Hence, when Kabita came to know of Pratham’s Second Chance Program, she refused to believe that such a class would exist! She asked Lily to go and check the place from where the course was to become operational. In fact, her initial decision was to enrol Lily in the class so that she could complete education until the 10th grade.  But she too had not completed her 10th grade and remained occupied with this thought for the next few days. In fact, as an ASHA worker in 2006, she had thought of completing her 10th grade to get a promotion in the workplace. But now, in 2016, the academic gap in her life was of 28 years!
 Meanwhile, she convinced Lily, and the latter was enrolled in the program. Kabita started to accompany Lily to her classes and sat at the door for the first few days to witness the teaching. And in those days, she decided to be a part of this program and attend classes with Lily.
“It was a bit awkward for both of us to be a part of the same class”, she said. “Will people laugh at us?” “Will Lily’s friends laugh at her?” “What will our neighbours say?” “Will I be able to study after 28 years?” – a series of questions drew their attention.  “But we overcame them. We decided to help each other and study together”, said Lily.  
In the initial days, it was difficult for both of them to adjust to the new routine. Kabita had her job and also the daily household chores to look after. Lily also had her share of household chores, and now classes and homework had occupied a section in their day. Hence, both of them decided to start their day very early. This new routine enabled them to complete all their work before attending classes. The first few weeks in the class were spent in revising the basic concepts and building a strong foundation for the final exam. This phase was critical as both of them had got back to books after a long gap.
“Initially, we all were new. But we became friends because of the games, group activities and interactions. I used to forget that I was the eldest in class and was studying with my daughter. This group work helped us become friends”, said Kabita.  
These activities also helped both of them to develop a liking for the subject and understand the concepts. The teachers at the program also played an essential role in this transformation. “They always answered our questions, no matter how many times we asked”, recalled Lily.
“How was this experience different from your school?” we asked, to which Kabita replied,” In school, we never got an opportunity to write on the board. It was always a one-way interaction. But here we were asked to come forward and write on the board. It increased our confidence, and it felt different!”
Kabita and Lily passed their 10th-grade examinations in 2017, and this milestone has helped them to plan their life ahead. While Kabita eyes her promotion at the workplace, Lily, on the other hand, wants to work and earn some money for her higher studies. Both of them thank the Second Chance Program as it was indeed a turning point in their life.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Chasing bigger dreams

12:36:00 PM
18-year-old Shiv hails from Joda village in the Keonjhar district of Orissa, which is one of the country's 250 most backward districts. He belongs to a family of farmers, and his father owns a small piece of land where they cultivate rice. Shiv completed his 10th grade from the school in his village and for the next two years, he helped his family in farming but did not take an active interest in pursuing it further.

"Ours is a small piece of land, and we do not spend much time on the field ...we have to sit idle most of the time. However, I wanted to do something different", he says.

When he was in 10th grade, Shiv developed an interest towards working in a hotel. He recalls watching hotels on television serials and films. "Initially I did not know they were hotels. I just looked at them as huge buildings. But later I realised that they were hotels", he admits. He further stresses that he was impressed seeing the guests in these hotels and always wanted to talk them.

"However I was very shy. I was used to the quiet life in my village, and I had never travelled much", he recalls. Around the same time, he came to know of Pratham's hospitality program from an acquaintance in his village and decided to inform his father of his aspirations. After initial discussions, his father agreed, and Shiv enrolled himself as a student at Pratham's hospitality centre at Sheragada in Ganjam district.

Shiv chose to be a chef and thus joined the food production department. However, he took some time to overcome his shyness. "It was a slow transformation", he says. "I remained quiet for the first few days. But it was fascinating to witness many people like me, and most of them had a similar background. I started talking to them and slowly opened up", he recalls. "Now I can interact with many people."

But he gives credit to his teachers for this change. "The teachers here answer our questions, no matter how many times we ask them and this makes us feel that we are not asking anything wrong", he adds. He has learned a lot of new dishes. "I can boast about it when I go back to my village", he says with a smile.

When we ask him where he wants to work, he replies,"Mumbai or these cities have tall buildings and hotels...!" But after a pause, with a mischievous smile, he adds, " I also want to work in Dubai...I have heard many things about that place."

Apart from his dream of working in a hotel, Shiv has many plans for his family. From his first salary, he plans to buy new clothes for his parents and also spend some money on house repairs.



Pratham Education Foundation

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