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.
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.
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.
Transforming the way education is delivered in India has been Atma's long-standing aspiration. With the addition of new organisations to our portfolio we find ourselves closer to this dream than ever before. While Adhyayan works closely with school leadership to change the way learning occurs in schools, St.Willibrord offers international level schooling to children from marginalised communities on the outskirts of Mumbai. We are excited to see how this year unfolds for our ground breaking education non-profits and social enterprises!
Mimaansa, a pioneering non-profit for learning-disabled students has received a grant from the Bombay Community Public Trust, to expand their remedial education program to a Marathi medium municipal school in Thane.
"We are really excited because this expansion means growth for Mimaansa and could be a game changer for students from vernacular medium schools in the State!" ~Poojaa Joshi, Founder- Mimaansa
Towards a brighter future
Atma Portfolio organisation, Bright Future, a non-profit organisation that supports empowerment and employability of economically disadvantaged young adults has opened its doors in a new community! Funded by Tech Mahindra, this new community centre in Kurla will deliver soft skills, vocational training and job placements to over 200 disadvantaged youth over the next year.
Atma in partnership with the Canadian Government conducted training for community women to learn English and management skills to help them become more informed individuals. By helping women from low-income communities gain specific employable skills Atma increased their actual and perceived economic and social value, thereby equalizing their role in the family and community and further advancing their human rights and ability to participate in a democratic society.
Atma equipped 20 at risk young women with the required skills to become high quality community based teachers or librarians. This will help them to increase their household’s income and allow them to gain a leadership position in their families and communities. To do this Atma offered two teacher training packages that address India's most pressing learning issues: literacy and maths.
Training in this program will allow women to run simple community based libraries or gain employment with local NGOs who are administering libraries.
The Zaya lab allows for students to receive education through technology based platforms in any environment.
English Training, and
Entrepreneurship Training: This will allow the women to gain the knowledge and skills required to start their own community based project, such as a library or tuition classes.
Outcomes Achieved through this training:
Outcome: 30 women received 26 hours of intensive English training from a specialised language trainer- Ms. Sunifa Gonsalvez. The training module was based on the Cambridge curriculum tailored to match the learning levels of the beneficiaries. Through her sessions, Ms. Gonsalvez worked with the girls to not only improve their spoken English skills but to also build their confidence. The training covered basics of grammar and vocabulary with an emphasis on public speaking through presentations and other speaking related activities. A comparative analysis of tests conducted before and after the training has revealed a considerable improvement in the learning levels of beneficiaries. The average test scores increased by 11% after the 1.5 months training.
Based on survey of beneficiaries:
o 100% of the beneficiaries feel an improvement in their English language skills
o 96% of the beneficiaries feel they are now able to communicate more confidently in English
o 16% of the beneficiaries have developed an increased interest in reading English books
“After attending this training, I have started speaking to everyone at home in English. I have also been able to tutor my younger brother to improve his English skills.” -Minaz Sadruddin
Outcome: Atma tailored its own module to suit the needs of the young women. Beneficiaries were introduced to basic concepts like entrepreneurship, vision and mission, target markets, demand assessment, marketing, administration, budgeting, etc. During the training the girls were assessed on their skills and interests and were made aware of potential opportunities available to them. On the second day of training, they were required to develop their own business ideas and present a detailed business plan.
Based on written beneficiary feedback:
“After this entrepreneurship training, I feel that anything is possible.”- Manju Vishwakarma
o Maths Teaching (Zaya lab maths tutorial franchisees): Training will be provided for teachers in using technology enabled classrooms, including classroom set up, hardware use and software use. The training session will be two days long.
Outcome: The two day training was conducted as per the proposed schedule. The key components of this training were lesson planning, classroom management and use of technology in the classroom such as blended learning and rotational model. At the end of the training, the beneficaries were taken on a field trip to a school that uses Zaya lab kits in classrooms. As a result, they were able to observe how theory could be implemented in practice.
o Community Library Management (Hippo Campus Growby Reading Model): Training will be provided on how to use the Growby Reading model, its tools and library set up. The Growby Reading program is easy to set up and follows book cataloguing systems. Training in this program will allow women to run simple community based libraries.
Outcome: Through this 3 day training, beneficiaries were introduced to the Hippo Campus Growby reading model and learnt how to catalogue and organise books as per difficulty levels; assess children's reading levels and conduct book based activities. On the last day of the course the trainer assessed each of the beneficiaries on their ability to apply their learnings through a practical test followed by individual feedback sessions.
o 70% of the beneficiaries felt that they developed their professional skills as teachers
“I have always dreamt about being a teacher and after this course I feel I will be able to fulfill this dream.” - Gulafsha Shaikh
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