Akshara Foundation

Akshara Foundation's mission is to ensure that Every Child is in School and Learning Well. Our work focuses on universalizing primary education. We work both at the primary and pre-primary levels. We work towards our goals through innovative, scalable models.We believe that our generation has a unique opportunity to bridge gaps by bringing equitable access to high-quality, relevant education to all. We emphasize on performance management,technology usage and creating volunteering opportunities.
Apr 19, 2013

Together We Can : The Anganwadi Story

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”  - Helen Keller

 These words of wisdom from the deaf-blind American author, activist and lecturer are so true. And we see good examples of this when we visit some exceptional schools and anganwadis (Government-run preschool centers) that receive the same level of support from the state but perform magic in that the children they serve do so well in the learning process and make their parents, teachers and communities proud. Here's one such outstanding example - The Konanakunte Anganwadi which highlights that dedicated teachers, creating classroom teaching methodologies and active community participation  can surely bring about a positive change in the learning levels of children and improve their learning environment.

Watch this beautiful video of the Konanakunte Anganwadi and it's heroes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoBuBbldKbo&feature=youtu.be

Regards,                                                 

Asha Sharath

Links:

Mar 7, 2013

An update on the pre-school programme : 2012-13

Children at an Anganwadi in Bangalore
Children at an Anganwadi in Bangalore

The new academic year 2012-13 began in June 2012 with some changes. Akshara Foundation has been working in the pre-school space, with the Government Anganwadis for the last three years in Bangalore. The results of the programs so far speaks unequivocally of large-scale gains:

  • The importance of preschool education was underscored and brought to the forefront in long-neglected, government-run anganwadis and their tired energies revitalized.Community support structures like Bal Vikas Samithis and Friends of Anganwadis, failing or defunct in many places, were resuscitated.

  • The programme forged a bond between anganwadi workers and the community and fostered in the ICDS a realization that teaching-learning material (TLM) is a vital instrument of preschool education. That the ICDS is supplying new material to anganwadis this year is a triumph for the programme.

  • Change was worked into an under-performing government system in conjunction with the ICDS.

  • Motivation and purpose were instilled in a flagging workforce of anganwadi workers who discovered an array of pragmatic teaching solutions and practical work management and time consolidation methods

Along with working with all the 1770 Anganwadi (pre-school) centers, the team decided to choose 333 centers to groom and nurture them in Model Anganwadi centers. The focus for the year is to train the Anganwadi workers on effective classroom management and TLM arragements in a way that it is easily accessible to children. Another important aim for the year is to engage the community effectively and involve the Bal Vikas Samithi members to participate in the day-to-day Anganwadi activities.

12 Supervisors and 333 Anganwadi workers were trained under the Model Anganwadi concept. The training spanned over 2 days and focussed on Classroom Management, TLM seggregation, grouping of children according to their age and classroom rules.

An upgraded TLM was given to each center to replenish broken / damaged materials and provide additional and new learning materials for children. As a part of a tie up with LEGO Foundation, this year, a curriculum based around LEGO Duplo blocks was also introduced in the centers.

Children were assessed in the beginning of the year to get a feel of their current learning levels. The assessments focussed on 7 sets of competencies using 56 indicators:

  • General Awareness

  • Gross Motor Development

  • Fine Motor Development

  • Language Development

  • Intellectual Development

  • Social and Emotional Development

  • Pre-academic Development

When the anganwadi workers conducted the assessment for the children, the mothers also showed interest in conducting some activities for the children. This is a good sign of the community taking ownership of their children’s education and also at the same time they are supporting the anganwadi worker in her work. The post- programme assessment will take place in the month of March 2013 and then the results will be compared to measure the impact of the programme.

As a part of the community initiatives, we organized the following activities:

  • Mother’s Monthly Meetings – These take place once a month. The mothers are happy with the pre school kits.

  • Friends of Anganwadis – To get the active participation of the parents in preschool activities, Akshara Foundation introduced the concept called Friends of Anganwadi (FOA) in each centre. The members of the FOA are the primary stakeholders of anganwadi, i.e parents. This group consists of mothers who interact and engage with the children in the anganwadis. There are about 3-5 mothers per anganwadi who visit the centres and interact and teach the children.

  • House-hold visits - Akshara staff visited over 12,000 households to meet parents and discuss with them about the importance of pre-school education, sending their children regularly to the Anganwadis, their child's learning outcomes amongst many other topics.

 

Story of Lakshmi's Transformation

A Picture of Lakshmi

Lakshmi is four and a half years old. There is cautious anticipation in her eyes as she gazes into the camera - a look that conceals more than it says. Still and obedient she stands, a neat, folded, white handkerchief pinned fastidiously to her shirt, well-groomed, and perhaps tall for her age. This strikes a bit of a contrary picture because Lakshmi is known to jump and clap her hands with abandon, even write, hesitantly but with relish. In the backdrop are the children of Anganwadi III, Girani Chawl, Hubli, Lakshmi’s friends, with whom she mixes and mingles.

Abandoned in a Public Toilet

But Lakshmi has a speech impairment that hinders her ability to learn. What she says is incoherent. She is a trier though, and makes spirited attempts to speak and sing. Her story has a long history. It began in 2008 when Lakshmi was discovered by Sushila Narayankar in the toilet of a Hubli bus stand, abandoned and crying. She was a little over six months old and had suffered a grave injury to her head. Sushila had been waiting for a bus and the sound of an infant crying wrenched her. She picked up Lakshmi and went around asking people if the child was theirs. No one knew anything about her.

Lakshmi was an unknown entity, already forgotten, already written off. Someone suggested that Sushila take her to the police station and file a complaint. There, the police advised Sushila and her husband, Mariyappa, to keep the child with them till they could locate her parents or relatives.

God’s Gift

Till today, no one has come forward to claim Lakshmi, and so she stayed with Sushila and Mariyappa who happily took care of her. For the childless couple, married for twenty five years, this was God’s gift, an answer to their fervent prayers, and they named her Lakshmi. Their recriminations had been endless all those years, directed at a God who had failed them. Now, they believed their Tirupati deity had heard their pleas, a little late in life – Mariyappa is forty eight, Sushila, thirty nine.

At the Anganwadi

Lakshmi’s faltering development was a big blow to Sushila and Mariyappa but the initial shock, the alienation they felt from their child, soon transmuted to a generosity of spirit and a steely resolve. They began exploring alternative avenues for Lakshmi, in keeping with their means. They noticed that the girl was a friendly child, eager for company her age, with a pronounced interest in school life. Anganwadi III in Girani Chawl, close to where they live, seemed a viable option. Sushila and Mariyappa admitted her there in early 2011 and Lakshmi seemed happy.

Trouble soon cropped up. It had always been difficult to toilet-train Lakshmi and now at the anganwadi the problem became acute. There were behavioral disturbances as well. Neither Hema Kamble, the anganwadi worker, nor the anganwadi helper were equipped to deal effectively with Lakshmi. Hema would often call Sushila and recommend that they take Lakshmi to a school for children with special needs. Helpless, the foster parents pleaded with Hema to keep Lakshmi in the anganwadi for a while longer.

Ratna Arrives on the Scene

It is then that Akshara’s Field Coordinator, Ratna, who is in charge of 26 anganwadis in Hubli, appeared on the scene. Ratna had qualifications that gave her a competent edge in managing Lakshmi – a three-month course in handling children with special needs, a two-year tenure with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), taking care of such children.

Ratna had been observing Lakshmi every time she visited the anganwadi. She saw Hema’s fraught attempts at coping, the helper’s helplessness, the lack of positivism in the whole engagement. Being one of the 109 anganwadis in Akshara North Karnataka’s preschool programme in Hubli-Dharwad, Ratna had access and acceptability. She began training Hema in how best to tackle Lakshmi.

The Transformation

It took time. And then everything changed. The transformation in Lakshmi is nothing short of a minor miracle. She is today toilet-trained. Her socialization processes with her peer group are well-cemented. Her speech has cleared to some extent. Lakshmi asks her teacher for toys to play with and the words are legible, though there is a long way to go yet.

Lakshmi is happy, never happier, though, than when she is playing with the toys that are a part of Akshara’s preschool programme kit. But there is a special warmth that Lakshmi reserves for Ratna. She is overjoyed when Ratna makes her frequent visits, jumping and clapping with joy, her face wreathed in smiles.

What will Lakshmi’s future be like? Sushila and Mariyappa contemplate it with some disquiet, even as they acknowledge with deep gratitude the efforts Ratna and Hema have put in to restore their child to near-normalcy. “We worry if Lakshmi will speak properly,” say Sushila and Mariyappa. “We would like her to be a teacher. It is a noble profession.”

Akshara North Karnataka – Part of this Change

As for the Akshara North Karnataka team there is a sense of quite achievement. "This is a great story for us. I feel very happy to have been part of this change", says Angelina, District facilitator. This anganwadi is in our preschool programme. Thay is why we could do so much".

As for Ratna she is receiving affirmations for her work with Lakshmi. The Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) told her she was doing a wonderful job, while the Department of Women and Child Welfare commended her for triggering change in Anganwadi III, Girani Chawl, and asked if she would join as their Resource Person.

Children using the TLM at an Anganwadi
Children using the TLM at an Anganwadi
Training of Anganwadi workers
Training of Anganwadi workers
Mothers meeting in progress at an Anganwadi
Mothers meeting in progress at an Anganwadi

Links:

Feb 21, 2013

Update on Akshara's pre-school Programme : 2012-13

Training for Anganwadi workers
Training for Anganwadi workers

On May 27th 2012, 126 dynamic women and men ran for Akshara Foundation in the TCS World 10K Run 2012 to create an awareness on the Need for Better Schooling in Government schools. With the help of monetary contributions from all of you and other sources, we were able to raise over USD 15,400 through this event for our pre-school programme supporting over 32,000 children studying in around 1770 Government-run preschool centers in Bangalore, India. Please find below an update of the pre-school programme in 2012 - 13, for which the funds raised through the run were used:

The new academic year 2012-13 began  in June 2012 with some changes. Akshara Foundation has been working in the pre-school space, with the Government Anganwadis for the last three years in Bangalore. The results of the programs so far speaks unequivocally of large-scale gains:

  • The importance of preschool education was underscored and brought to the forefront in long-neglected, government-run anganwadis and their tired energies revitalized.Community support structures like Bal Vikas Samithis and Friends of Anganwadis, failing or defunct in many places, were resuscitated.
  •     The programme forged a bond between anganwadi workers and the community and fostered in the ICDS a realization that teaching-learning material (TLM) is a vital instrument of preschool education. That the ICDS is supplying new material to anganwadis this year is a triumph for the programme.
  •     Change was worked into an under-performing government system in conjunction with the ICDS.
  •     Motivation and purpose were instilled in a flagging workforce of anganwadi workers who discovered an array of pragmatic teaching solutions and practical work management and time consolidation methods

Along with working with all the 1770 Anganwadi (pre-school) centers, the team decided to choose 333 centers to groom and nurture them in Model Anganwadi centers. The focus for the year is to train the Anganwadi workers on effective classroom management and TLM arragements in a way that it is easily accessible to children. Another important aim for the year is to engage the community effectively and involve the Bal Vikas Samithi members to participate in the day-to-day Anganwadi activities.

12 Supervisors and 333 Anganwadi workers were trained under the Model Anganwadi concept. The training spanned over 2 days and focussed on Classroom Management, TLM seggregation, grouping of children according to their age and classroom rules.

An upgraded TLM was given to each center to replenish broken / damaged materials and provide additional and new learning materials for children. As a part of a tie up with LEGO Foundation, this year, a curriculum based around LEGO Duplo blocks was also introduced in the centers.

Children were assessed in the beginning of the year to get a feel of their current learning levels. The assessments focussed on 7 sets of competencies using 56 indicators:

  •     General Awareness
  •     Gross Motor Development
  •     Fine Motor Development
  •     Language Development
  •     Intellectual Development
  •     Social and Emotional Development
  •     Pre-academic Development

When the anganwadi workers conducted the assessment for the children, the mothers also showed interest in conducting some activities for the children. This is a good sign of the community taking ownership of their children’s education and also at the same time they are supporting the anganwadi worker in her work. The post- programme assessment will take place in the month of March 2013 and then the results will be compared to measure the impact of the programme.

As a part of the community initiatives, we organized the following activities:

  • Mother’s Monthly Meetings – These take place once a month. The mothers are happy with the pre school kits.
  • Friends of Anganwadis – To get the active participation of the parents in preschool activities, Akshara Foundation introduced the concept called Friends of Anganwadi (FOA) in each centre. The members of the FOA are the primary stakeholders of anganwadi, i.e parents. This group consists of mothers who interact and engage with the children in the anganwadis. There are about 3-5 mothers per anganwadi who visit the centres and interact and teach the children.
  • House-hold visits - Akshara staff visited over 12,000 households to meet parents and discuss with them about the importance of pre-school education, sending their children regularly to the Anganwadis, their child's learning outcomes amongst many other topics.

Impact story of a beneficiary: The Story of Little Jeeva -

Tannery Road is a long stretch of chaos, thick with bustling shops, traffic of various kinds, ambling cows, stray dogs and little mounds of garbage. It leads to K.G. Halli where the K.G. Halli anganwadi tucks itself behind the main road. This is one of the 1787 Anganwadi centers which is supported by Akshara Foundation Thirty-five children between 3 and 6 years of age are enrolled in this center. Little Jeeva who is all of 4 years is one amongst them. Jeeva's parents are illiterate and exhibit astonishing lack of interest to send her to the Anganwadi center. Jeeva is a silent girl. She seldom mingles with everyone in the class. But when the Anganwadi worker, Vijaya opens the Akshara “Pandora-Box”, Jeeva's eyes start glowing and she is full of energy. Jeeva likes to play and inturn learn using Akshara Teaching- Learning Material Kit which has a host of child-friendly aids, very colourful and eye- catching, teaching various concepts like Alphabets, Colours, Numbers, Animals/Birds, Fruits,Vegetables and many more that goes a long way in building the child's cognitive skills. While participating in the learning sessions, Jeeva is very active and attentive and is quick to understand and answer correctly. “Her favourite activity is weekly market”, says Vijaya. “She is very enthusiastic about this topic and comprehends and participates well in it”. Jeeva says, “Miss, fruits and vegetables are available in a shop that I know. My mother buys them from there.”

Thank You for your contribution in making impact in lives of many children like Jeeva. Looking forward to your continued support.

Children working with LEGO Duplo blocks
Children working with LEGO Duplo blocks
Mothers meeting in progress at an Anganwadi
Mothers meeting in progress at an Anganwadi
Children using the TLM
Children using the TLM

Links:

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