Monday, March 18, 2019

Sarika Pahu's Anganwadi

11:27:00 AM
Kawada is a slow-moving, peaceful village near Talasari in the Palghar district of Maharashtra. A tribal region, it consists of 7 tribal padas, and the total population of the village is close to 8000. The people here practice seasonal agriculture. On the days when there is no farming, they work as labourers in the construction and fisheries sector. Some of them also work in factories in Gujarat as this place is merely 20 km from the Gujarat border.



Since the past few years, there is an increase in awareness of education. Parents have begun to understand the importance of education, and there is an increase in the enrollment of children in schools. There is also an increase in awareness of pre-school education and it is reflected in a rise in enrollment of children in all the six Anganwadis of the village. The Anganwadi at Patil Pada is one such vibrant unit, and Sarika Pahu is happy to be associated with it. Sarika, in her fourth month of working with Pratham, is well aware of the difference the Anganwadi has created in the village.

"I was told by Manisha who worked here before. She left the job, and I joined. I knew about the Anganwadi. It is in our village since the past four years", she says. "When I came here, children looked delighted and sang songs. I felt happy seeing this and decided to join immediately. It was last year in October", she continues. The Anganwadi has children from 3 years old to 6 years old, and Sarika has to ensure they play games, are indulged in activities, offer prayers and sing songs. We then ask Sarika if she observed any marked difference in children. "Yes", she replies.

"The younger kids get delighted if we ask them their name. They know how to pronounce their name properly and always begin by telling their name in a full sentence. In fact, the children who are not from the Anganwadi reply just by telling their name but children from here reply by saying my name is and then tell their name", she says. It has been achieved because of repeated interactions with children and also their parents. Sarika insists that parents should talk to children when they are at home. "We ask them to narrate what they did at work or how did they spend the day on the field. The idea is that they should talk to the children", she says.

Sarika recalls an incident which convinced her that children had begun to acquire the skills of imagination and narration. "Mayuri was a silent kid when she came here. But the activities and conversation with her parents were creating a difference in her. Her mother catches fish and sells it in the market, and once Mayuri was with her the whole day. Next day she narrated how her mother caught fish and enacted all the steps perfectly", she says with a smile. 

Sarika says working with kids gives her satisfaction and happiness. She thanks Pratham for giving her this opportunity and wants to continue this association further. "I want to see these kids excel in primary school. And it is my job to create a strong base for them here", she says with a smile. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The dream of Tapas Kumar

10:18:00 AM
Tapas Kumar belongs to Taraikela village in Odisha's Sonepur district. He greets us with a smile and talks to us during our visit to Pratham Institute's automotive training centre at Sonepur. The training centre targets two backward districts of Odisha - Boudh and Sonepur. Both these districts are characterised by a population that is economically very poor and less literate as compared to other districts. Pratham is the only training centre here that provides training in automotive. Pratham has collaborated with Odisha Skill Development Authority where the infrastructure is provided by the latter, and the implementation is done by the former. 





Tapas's uncle works as a peon at an ITI near his village, and he recommended him Pratham's course. His uncle knew that Tapas loved cars and this course would give proper justice to his career. Since he was a child, Tapas had a keen interest in cars and watched them on television. "My favourite bike is Yamaha whereas I like BMW the most among cars. 

"But I did not like the course for the first 10 to 15 days. I felt I was learning only theory. But later my interests grew", he says. However, Tapas made new friends, and he liked chatting with them for long hours. "It was for the first time that I interacted with friends from other districts", he says. Tapas further mentions that his life was restricted to his village and hence he liked spending time at the centre. Practical training started soon, and then the entire batch began working with the numerous spare parts of vehicles. "It was a different feeling", he begins. "I had never imagined that I would do this job one day.  The joy of fitting a part to a car is difficult to explain."  

Tapas is happy as he feels that he has developed an identity. Moreover, the work and process learned here gives him immense joy. He likes to learn from friends and loves to witness that many of them have come from different background and places. After getting placed, he wishes to work in Haryana and Rajasthan as he has seen these places quite often on television. He belongs to a family of farmers, and he lives with three sisters, one brother, his parents and his grandfather. "What will you do with your first salary?" "I want to buy a saree for my mother, and I want to go on a tour with my family. I also want to take my grandfather as he is very old", he replies with a smile.   




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Ajra Shaikh - a tale of grit, determination and dedication.

12:26:00 AM
Ajra Shaikh passed the 10th-grade examination in 2018, after a gap of 13 years, and with it, she came closer to her dream of studying and what she says in Hindi - "Kuch Karna Hain" ("I want to do something in life.") We met Ajra in December 2017, when she was attending the 10th grade classes at Pratham's 'Second Chance' program's centre in Bhopal.  The Second Chance program provides an opportunity for girls and women who drop out of school due to various reasons and offers them a platform to complete education till 10th grade. Once they clear 10th grade, a lot of opportunities open up - they can study further, or work somewhere (or get promoted at an existed workplace) or even help their children in their studies.



The first thing Ajra shares with us is her childhood. "My studies stopped in 2005, and I got married when I was only 13", she begins. "In fact, my marriage took place much before my elder sister's, and my parents were not bothered to know what my husband was doing for a living." After marriage, she had to adjust to the new house which was a joint family. But owing to the differences with other members, her husband decided that they will live separate. Both of them moved to a new locality in Bhopal, and soon Ajra was to find out that it would provide her with the trigger to change her mind and build a resolve that she would get back to studies.

"I met Rubina, and we became friends. While talking to her, I realised that she was living alone and her husband did not like that she studied. But she chose to follow her dreams and risked living alone. Meanwhile, I used to observe many working women who were independent and also managed their house. I felt that I should also be like them", she narrates. Then once Ajra asked Rubina from where did she complete her 10th-grade studies. "She then told me about the Second Chance program", she says.

The next task was to convince her husband. "He was not ready to listen!" Ajra recalls the conservative nature of her husband who refused to send her to classes as she would have to talk to boys and men. But, there was hope! Ajra found out that one of the teachers at the centre was her sister's friend. She then arranged his meeting with her husband, but despite this, her husband remained adamant. Finally, I shouted, " I will leave you, but I will study!" My sister supported me and even paid the fees.

While leaving the centre, we asked her if she had thought of anything after 10th grade. "No", she said. "I will think and then take a decision. But I am sure I will do something better in life. I have seen women work and in many cases, they are much ahead than their husbands. I begged and quarrelled at home to reach here. And I am sure that this is just a beginning."    

Monday, February 18, 2019

Induben's plans for her village

1:28:00 AM
"Some children who did not understand anything had developed a tendency of disturbing others. But when they realised that they understand the concept, they began to look inward, and this tendency declined." We are at Sinugra village in the Anjar taluka of Gujarat's Kutch district. And we are the home of Indu ben, the village Sarpanch since May last year. However, she is associated with Pratham for the past five years. She was a government school teacher at the village primary school.



Indu ben recalls that almost thirty years back, no one in the village studied till matriculation. The village population indulges itself in agriculture, and some of them work as daily wage labourers. Many of them also work as rickshaw drivers and seek employment opportunities at Anjar. Also, Kutch is a place where one forms a lot of migrant workers, and all this affects the schools learning levels. "Many children here are first-generation school-goers, and they do not have an environment of learning at home. Because of the nature of their work, parents also do not find much time to know what they are learning in school", she says.

Indu Ben observed that children entering school did not know how to read and write. Owing to the migrating families, some children leave school in between and in some cases, new children join in. And soon she realised that the learning levels are low because the fundamentals are weak. "If children cannot read a sentence properly, how will they read the textbook and progress ahead?" This is the reason she aligned herself with Pratham's 'Read India' program for children in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and the association has lasted for five years now.

"I could observe a difference in children at the end of the learning camp. They could read better, count well and there was an overall improvement in the learning level", she says. "All this is very important for 5th-grade children. The syllabus in 6th-grade becomes lengthier, and the teacher guidance slowly diminishes. I observed that children who finished the learning camp and then entered 6th-grade could better understand and grasp the new syllabus." Indu ben was also a part of Pratham's 'school readiness' camp conducted in the village in May last year. An assessment of mothers and children was undertaken, and a kit was given which the mothers had to follow while working with children. Indu ben feels that the camp ensured that children were better prepared to enter school.

There are two schools in Sinugra, one for the girls and the other for the boys, and Pratham works in both of them. Indu ben has a lot of hopes from the educational activities in these schools. As a Sarpanch, she has some plans as well! "I want to collaborate with different organisations to start a tuition initiative for children from poor families. This will ensure that they will continue with their studies even after 8th grade. "Education", she says, "...is a long term investment for people in this village. They want to work and get employed. Quality education is a must, and the children here deserve it", she ends with a smile.
     

            

Monday, February 11, 2019

From a farmer to an electrician

1:00:00 AM

"I belong to a family of farmers. We grow rice, cabbage and tomato. But ours is a small farm." Surya Mani Das introduces himself by talking about his family. After a few minutes, we realise that he is from Agiriya village which is in Kendujhar district of Odisha. Like many youths in his village and also in the district, he dreams to shift from the traditional family occupation of agriculture to a job delivering stable income. We are at Pratham Institute's vocational training centre at Cuttack where students get trained in the electrical vertical. 



Kendujhar district is one of the 250 most backward districts of the country. As a consequence, a large population here belong to the agriculture sector. Many of them work on the farms, or they work as unorganised labour elsewhere. Many families in the district live with no steady income, and their finances fluctuate as per the fluctuations in agriculture. Surya studied till 10th grade and felt that he should change the way of living, and it brought him to the centre at Cuttack.  

"My parents liked the idea. They felt that I should work and earn additional income as I have studied till 10th grade." He is the first generation school-goer from his family that has till now spent life earning income from agriculture. "They have hopes from me", he says. Besides this, Surya says his village needs electricians. Owing to a lack of industrial activity, there is no availability of skilled labour in his village that will maintain the electricity supply of the village. "If there is a problem in the supply of electricity or there is an interruption, we do not have enough people who are trained to solve it. I want to change this situation", he says. 

Surya came to Cuttack with an intention to solve this problem and earn money. "I did not know much about this course till I came here", he admits. "But I thought I should give it a try." Surya happily adjusted to the course, made new friends and is now keen to enter the job market.  "I am part of a Whatsapp group that has previous students from this centre who share photos of different cities where they are working. As Pune has the best reviews, I want to work there", he says. "But..", he begins, " Mumbai will also do." He then confesses that he wants to work in Mumbai because of his love for Salman Khan and Bollywood movies. "My favourite movie is Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun as it shows a family", he says. 

As we leave, we ask him what are his plans when he gets his first salary. "I will undertake house repairs, and I will also start saving money as I have to buy a smartphone", he says with a smile.  



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