Atma

Atma's Mission: Building capacity of education NGOs to achieve organisational sustainability & scalability thereby enabling delivery of quality education. Atma Values are: o Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. (~Helen Keller) o Excellence is never an accident. (~Aristotle) o Strength lies in differences not in similarities. (~Stephen Covey) o If you say you're going to do something, do it. If you start something, finish it." (~Epictetus)
Mar 24, 2015

Good news from Mumbai: OSCAR's growth & Mann's new Employment Cell

Oscar
Oscar's Annual Day

Monitoring OSCAR’s growth 

Mumbai-based NGO OSCAR celebrated its 5th Annual Day on February 23, 2015. In many ways, this event showcased why OSCAR's unique model of reducing dropout rates by engaging children in sports is such a big success!

OSCAR has come a long way from the time it started. According to Atma’s Baseline Survey, as of 2015, OSCAR is reaching out to 1750 children in Mumbai.  OSCAR’s quality of program has improved significantly and it is not just about children but also about engaging parents in the process. At their Annual Day, this was evident.

Owing to their growing scale, Atma has decided to support OSCAR with new Monitoring & Evaluating tools. Antoine Dewatripont, an Atma Associate with a Masters in Economics (Analysis & Research) from ULB University, Brussel was leading this project.

OSCAR’s program has significantly helped children living in the slums understand the important of hygiene, physical fitness and the importance of staying in school until a high literacy level is achieved.

Going forward, it is going to be easy for OSCAR to monitor their goals and successes!

 

Mann’s new 'Employment Cell'

 

As of 2015, Atma Partner Mann is working on 45 children with multiple intellectual disorders. Many of who come from challenging economic backgrounds and cannot afford paying for special education services.

Mann is taking its services a step forward by providing training to children who are capable so that they get an opportunity to be independent. It is making an attempt to either help students find employment in other industries or at the Mann centre where students learn how to make unique handcrafted products. And so far, it has been successful at both!

In the past few months Mann has had series of exhibitions where ‘Mann-Made’ products were sold. And one of the students, Deepak, was able to find a training opportunity at a well-known fashion designer's studio.

With the new employment cell, chances of students getting employed have increased. Also, good Samaritans who are willing to help are able to reach out to children who have a genuine need.  

Atma Associate Antoine with OSCAR
Atma Associate Antoine with OSCAR's founder Ashok
Students at Mann
Students at Mann's Newly started Employment Cell
Mann
Mann's Deepak (left) trained at Studio Mujrosa
Dec 22, 2014

An eventful month: Sports, Tech and Policy Push

Atma cheers for
Atma cheers for 'Yellow House' on UIF's Sports Day

This December, we were the cheer leaders and mentors for a big group of students at our portfolio organization Udaan India Foundation's Sports Day. More than 300 children, along with their parents, got together at a ground in Mumbai’s Powai region.

The children showed their skills in various sports – running, balancing and jumping. But the best part was that the parents too joined in! While we cheered for the children, the children cheered for their mothers and fathers! What made this sports day interesting was the bonding seen between teachers, parents and students.

Atma portfolio Udaan India Foundation has come a long way since it joined the Accelerator Program. This year, Udaan India Foundation is reaching out to 800 children! It currently employ 22 full-time staff and in next year plan to recruit four more for the management positions.

Leveraging Technology for Education

A worrying figure is often quoted by Indian media. 4% of our children never start school. 58% don’t complete primary schools. And 90% don’t complete school. Is there a solution for this? Can dropout rates be reduced? Can education be made more fun?

In July 2014, Atma proposed a project Leveraging Technology for Education (LTE) to ING to address this issue. Technology partner Zaya joined in to develop educational content for children at municipal schools in Mumbai. After ideating over the curriculum, relevant content was developed and the tablets along with the specially designed software was distributed to students. 

Last week, we visited a municipal school in Vile-Parle, a Mumbai suburb, and found the children using their new tablet computers for a Math class. The teachers and students leisurely sat on the ground first connecting the Wi-fi and then switched on their tablets. Something was different - no notebooks, no pens, and no fear of numbers! The children learnt tables and sums through interactive online lessons. The teachers too claimed the classes are less noisy and the students are more involved in the subject.

So many smiles have been added since the LTE project went online. It’s a win-win.

 

A platform for framing policies for children with special needs

Atma presently has five non-profits in its portfolio that work with special children and individuals. Through our portfolios, we reach out to approximately 600 special children/adults. The question of inclusive quality education for these children has concerned us for long. What India needs desperately is progressive policies in this area.

We are glad that our portfolio organization Sol’s Arc has taken the lead and involved government representatives to frame new polices for children with learning disabilities. At present, psychologists, special ed teachers, other non-profits are involved in fine-tuning their recommendations to the Maharashtra State government.

Atma has partnered with Observers Research Foundation, a Mumbai-based Think-Tank and Sol’s Arc to strengthen this platform. A report with recommendations will be submitted to the The Maharashtra State government by the end of December 2014.  

Lets hope that children with special needs will begin their new year with a new hope. 

Parents participate in UIF
Parents participate in UIF's Sports Day
A mother cheers for her child at UIF
A mother cheers for her child at UIF's Sports Day
A teacher shows a student how to work on a tablet
A teacher shows a student how to work on a tablet
A student uses tablet computer to study Maths
A student uses tablet computer to study Maths
Mh
Mh'tra State under Sec Srinivas Shastri at forum
Experts discuss recomm at Atma office
Experts discuss recomm at Atma office
Sep 25, 2014

When children learn how to question!

research questions made by students
research questions made by students

It took us, Atma volunteers, some time to locate the municipal school in Mumbai in which our partner organization Apni Shala was to conduct a workshop on life skills for children. And finally when we did locate it, we had to pass a garbage dump and carefully jump over an open sewage.

Founded by Amrita, Anukriti and Swetha, Mumbai-based education non-profit Apni Shala ‘leverages the power of stories, drama, games and art in schools to engage children in social and emotional learning’. And this is why Apni Shala is one of the 13 organizations currently enrolled into Atma’s Accelerator Program - it has a unique concept and it makes a huge difference in these lives! The founders, all young and bright women, could have done anything else, yet they chose to do something that adds value to the society they live in.

As soon as the children saw Amrita and Swetha, the co-founders of Apni Shala, they brightened up. It appeared that the children looked forward to this class. And why not? Students were encouraged to ask anything they wanted without being judged. Also, there were several fun exercises for children to loosen up – singing, dancing, drawing and collaborating to work together on specially designed tasks. But what was most interesting was that children were actually opening up, being themselves, sharing their doubts and learning how to communicate. 

Amrita had been teaching children about how to frame research questions and to think scientifically through her many workshops. The discussion that day was fun in many ways. But also gave an insight into the minds of children and know what bothers them about the society. Apni Shala has been conducting these sessions for several weeks in municipal schools and it has helped many children.

Soon after our visit to their workshop, we heard from Swetha, one of the founders of Apni Shala. She had got back to us with a set of ‘research questions’ which children, aged 6-12 years, had framed in their mother tongue Marathi. It was a fascinating list!  

Here are few translated in English.

(1)  Why can’t we see air?

(2)  Why does it rain?

(3)  Why do people leave water taps open?

(4)  What creates traffic?

(5)  How were verbal abuses/profanities created?

(6)  Why do women get raped?

(7)  Why do humans drink alchocol?

(8)  Why do people throw garbage in a gutter?

(9)  Why do human beings remove trees?

(10) What came first – chicken or egg?

Atma’s Accelerator program has been providing expertise to Apni Shala for the last one year. In one year, it has become a non-profit which has hired three new staff members and was able to fundraise on its own. Apni Shala is much clearer about its vision, mission and work culture that it must adopt so that it influences even more children and local schools.

Atma, as a non-profit, provides expertise to education non-profits that promise innovation and on-ground impact, and Apni Shala encompasses the values and dedication we look for in an education non-profit. For us, only one thing matters – quality education for all.

Apni Shala Co-Founder, Amrita with children
Apni Shala Co-Founder, Amrita with children
Children are made to play games to open up
Children are made to play games to open up
Children encouraged to speak their minds
Children encouraged to speak their minds
Children collaborate on a task
Children collaborate on a task

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