Apr 26, 2016

A Rural Model School Report - April 2016

Sports day in school!!
Sports day in school!!

Aarohi Bal Sansar - A Model Rural School

Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS) was started in 1994 with just 2 teachers and 8 students, today it serves 136 children from 19 of the remotest villages of Uttarakhand. It has 20 members of staff, and all are local. The school’s vision is to provide “holistic development of personality in a joyful environment”, ensuring that every child is nurtured in a “no fear” environment with the freedom to learn. Although there is a government school in almost every village in the mountains, the quality of the education gives little chance for improved livelihood options. Rote learning and standard examinations do not give children the space to develop critical thinking skills, and lead to a high dropout rate.  At ABS, our goal is to provide the right dynamic intellectual environment where students are given the opportunity to grow.


Highlights for the Year 2015

Academic Performance: We had 240 days of teaching, with focus on sports and co-curricular activities.  Our students approached their class-work and projects very eagerly.  We saw an improvement in the overall attendance this year.  We observed a marked improvement in our students’ writing, listening, and reading skills in language learning. We saw that more than 50% of our children academically fall in the categories of excellent, very good and average in the core subjects of Hindi, English and Mathematics, despite being first generation learners and coming from extremely poor households. The overall academic achievements for the core subjects in the last academic year:

Hindi: 79.5% of our students from class 1-8 scored above 50% marks in Hindi.  Of this 25.7% scored between 71-85%, and 18% were extraordinary performers and received marks in excess of 85%. 

English: 68% of our students from class 1-8 scored above 50% in English, and of this 25% exceeded expectations (71-85% marks), and 13% obtained extraordinary scores (above 85% marks). 

Maths: 67% of our students from class 1-8 scored above 50% in Maths, of this 23% scored between 71-85% and 17% were extraordinary- scored above 85%. 


Scholarships: More than 50% of our students are supported through scholarship programs5 out of 9 of our primary school teachers are professionally qualified through our scholarship program.

Aarohi Bal Sansar Scholarship: The annual cost per scholar is INR 10,000/-.  Last year we added 10 students and now cover a total of 58 students under this program. School fees, uniforms, books, stationery, health-checkups and nutritional supplement three times a week get covered under the scheme.

Almora Scholarship Program: The annual cost per scholar ranges from INR 40,000- 70,000/- per year.  Last year we added 2 new students and have a total of 16 students supported currently.  These scholarships are offered to girls and boys who are academically high performers and are interested to continue their education beyond class 8 in reputed schools in Almora.

Ilya Scholarship: Offered to students from Class 4- 8 with exceptional talent in music, arts, crafts, theatre, dance, sport or exhibiting special qualities like leadership, curiosity, punctuality etc.  The annual scholarship amount is INR 1000/- per child and we currently have 10 children covered under this program.

Seema Nazareth Scholarship: Girls with limited financial means, and wishing to pursue graduate- level or vocational education, are offered an annual scholarship of INR 10,000-25,000/-.  Last year we sponsored a girl for a Nursery Teacher Training diploma at Jingle Bells School, Faizabad.

Room To Read: Girls who are high academic performers and wish to pursue their education till class 12, but have limited financial means are covered under this program.  School fees, uniforms, study materials and health check-ups are covered.  We added 8 new students and had a total of 14.  This figure has reduced from last year as the program is winding down.


Remedial teaching program: Last year we started with dedicated remedial teaching programs for Mathematics, English and Hindi.  We identified the slow learners early in the academic year and provided them with focused teaching in smaller learning groups.  The attention helped bring about remarkable changes in their comprehension, reading and writing abilities.

Co-curricular Activities: Our students had the opportunity to learn folk dances, play the local musical instruments (dholak, nangri and the drum).  Through the year they celebrated festivals, and important occasions by participating in elocution, speech and poetry competitions.  Learning traditional music and dance forms, helped instill a sense of achievement and pride among our children. 

Timeless Life-skills Workshop: Atul Pant is an Education Innovator and the Founder of Timeless Lifeskills, United Kingdom.  Atul has been visiting ABS and conducting workshops which are innovative and affordable learning solutions to impart life skills essential for success. He was here last December and carried out a 4 day workshop on ‘Tinkering with Electronics & Circuits – Thinking like a Scientist’.  The children not only learnt the content in a fun, hands-on way but also learn inter-disciplinary skills. The underlying objective was to make students aware of how Scientists think. The students learnt the basics and tinkered with different electronic components like bulbs, motors, LEDs, buzzers and switches to understand concepts like conductors and insulators, polarity, parallel and series circuits, voltage and current. They then moved to creating Electronic Art by embedding LEDs into paper circuits using copper tape and button cells. This idea of “Electronic Art” was inspired by MIT Media Lab's project.  Students used different types of material to create Electronic Art & Craft. For example, conducting dough made from ordinary flour (aata) mixed with salt was used along with play dough. Students then made simple Electronic Toys, for example the “Scribbler Bot” – a machine with a vibrating motor and sketch pens that scribble when the motor is switched on. Ultimately the workshops were all about imagination, creativity and collaboration – Timeless Lifeskills!  

Health & Nutrition: We offer nutritious snacks thrice a week in the school.  Along with this we organize cooking lessons and this helps children to learn about the nutritive value of traditional cuisine and a balanced diet.

Sports: Our large sports playground in the school campus, indoor multipurpose hall with a badminton court is open to more than 1,500 youth and children from 20 neighbouring schools. 

- Our school came first in Athletics, Kabaddi and Kho-Kho in the local area.

- Both our boys and girls primary teams stood first in Kho-Kho at the district level.  These 6 boys and 6 girls then got to play Kho-Kho at the state level.

- Our girls Kho-Kho team of 6 girls came 2nd in the state level participation.

- 2 girls (Sakshi Gutholia from village Chhatola, and Hema Bisht from village Peora) got selected at the state level for Kabbadi and received medals and certificates.


Mentors and Volunteers: Our volunteers engage with our children on a daily basis to read them short stories, and help to improve their English reading and comprehension skills.  We have a team of mentors for English, Hindi and Mathematics.

Infrastructure: We added a multi-purpose hall which has indoor sports facilities and it will also serve as a space for holding indoor cultural events at the school and community level.  We also have a recycled-tyre playground, library, computer centre equipped with 16 desktops, including a Dell server.


Looking Ahead & Challenges

Aarohi Bal Sansar continues to be un-aided and solely survives on private donations.  We have come a long way over the past 2 decades and can boast to be the best in the region in terms of infrastructure, academics, sports, cultural and other co-curricular activities leading to the holistic development of children. Looking ahead, our goals in the medium term are:

  1. Achieve high academic performance, dealing with the challenges of first-generation learners through investing in capacity building of our teachers and strengthening our mentoring program.
  2. Reach out to resource people to develop and strengthen context based and bilingual language learning.
  3. Sustain teacher salaries in order to check attrition rates.
  4. Expand our sports facilities and strengthen the curriculum to include football, basketball, cricket and badminton training. Improve upon volleyball and mountain cycling trainings.
  5. We are now primed to scale up and create an Aarohi Education Outreach initiative, and share our knowledge base with other private and public schools in more remote areas.

We aspire for a partner who will share our vision and our future goals and commit to help bring holistic education and state of art sports opportunities to these parts of rural Kumaon.



Feb 2, 2016

Reducing Maternal Mortality in Central Uttarakhand

Ganga and her new born baby, both doing well!
Ganga and her new born baby, both doing well!



Aam, a village located in the remote interiors of Okhalkanda block, has no access to road or mobile phone connectivity, as a result of which access to medical facilities is limited.  Most deliveries are conducted at home as getting medical help is a big challenge.  On 19 November 2015, Bhavana, a health supervisor at Aarohi received information that 23 year old Ganga had delivered a baby at home. Her blood pressure had fallen drastically and she was unconscious. Preliminary diagnosis revealed that her placenta had only been partially delivered, part of it visible outside the body.  This lead to a lot of blood loss. Ignorant of her medical condition, the family attributed it to the ‘’devil’’ and were administering traditional medicine (‘Jhad-phook’). On persistent counseling by the Aarohi health team, the family was finally convinced to take her to the hospital. After almost 24 hours of this ordeal, she was administered proper medical care. Today, both mother and child are    doing well. Timely intervention, helped save a life!


Clinical Hospital Data for the Period July-December 2015

  • Total patients seen - 5362
  • Number of patients treated in hospital - 836
  • Number of Female Patients Treated - 352
  • Number of Male Patents Treated - 453
  • Number of Children Treated < 5 years -  31
  • Indoor patients seen - 32
  • Home visits/Emergencies - 0
  • Laboratory Tests - 352
  • X-Rays - 52
  • ECG - 7
  • Total villages covered - 130
  • School children screened for Health problems- 0
  • Specialist camps held - 6
  • Total patients screened in camps - 314
  • Plastic Surgery- 19
  • Eye check-ups - 43
  • Gynae check-ups - 25
  • Physician visits - 203
  • Total  surgery done - 26
  • Dental camps held - 6
  • Total screenings in Dental OPD - 209
  • No. of dental extractions done - 64
  • Total dental filling done - 42
  • Total scaling - 13


Data for Medical Mobile Unit (MMU) Camps for the Period July-December 2015

  • Total camps held - 62 
  • Total pateints registered - 3465
  • Total antenatal check-ups - 877
  • Total Lab Investigation - 3710
  • X-ray - 79
  • ECG - 27
  • Total ultrasound - 738
  • Total ANC Ultrasound - 516

 Antenatal coverage has reached 98% and this can be attributed to the Medical Mobile Units (MMU).  The women from remote villages are getting antenatal check-ups and essential tests and investigations done in MMU.

In the last 6 months the number of villages covered has increased to 130, almost a 38% higher reach than the period from January to June, 2015.  The reasons for this could be attributed to the following:

  • The MMU route has been changed, and it now visits a village called Kodar instead of Jhadgaon, this provides access to more remote villages that are availing services at MMU.
  • Local doctors in the villages are also referring patients to the MMU for essential lab investigations.
Jan 29, 2016

Development in Rural Kumaon

Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS) School Children
Aarohi Bal Sansar (ABS) School Children


These past 6 months our Mathematics Remedial coordinator and our education volunteer have been helping us to collate, tabulate and analyze an assessment of our Half-Yearly examination data for our school.  The data has been collated from the past three academic years. 

Our overall goal for carrying this out was to:

  • Assess the level of student achievement in the three core subjects: Hindi, Mathematics, and English.
  • To identify gaps in record collection.
  • To analyze trends in present examination data.
  • To improve learning outcomes using measurable goals.
  • To move towards a holistic assessment of student and teacher performance.

In classes 6-8 in the current academic year, 56%, 47%, and 44% of students achieved at least ‘Meets Expectations’ in Hindi, Maths, and English respectively. We would like to set a target where at least 70% of all children at ABS are able to meet expectations. As is apparent from the results, we have our work cut out for us.

In classes 3-5 the percentage of students meeting expectations or above is 51% in English, 42% in Maths, and 53% in Hindi. Our key focus is on Classes 3, 4, and 5. Students at this age are at a critical stage of development in learning styles, study habits, and memory formation.  These students can also be tracked over a longer period of time, allowing teachers, school staff, and Aarohi management to better determine the efficacy of changes to test design and teaching methodology.

We also realized that there are a number of challenges and limitations we encountered in carrying out this assessment. Some of these areas are:

  • There are gaps in our data.
  • Lack of transparency in test design, learning outcomes measured, and grading policy.
  • Current grading scale is leniently applied.
  • Strictness of marks varies from teacher to teacher and from year to year.
  • Uncertainty around a class teacher leaving the school in mid session.

In order to improve learning outcomes in the three core subjects we are providing our remedial teaching to the weaker students before their final exams in March 2016.


1.2Extra- Curricular Activities

Our students hadthe opportunity to learn local dances, play musical instruments and participate in competitions.  On 2nd October we organized a House-wise speech competition on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti (Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary).  Later the same month we organized Poetry recitations for Classes 3-8 on the occasion of Hindi Diwas.  Our students participated in a school-wide “Aepan” (local Kumaoni traditional hand painted art form) competition on 14th November as part of our Children’s Day celebrations.


Year-end School Event: Exposure trip for our Class 8 students

Our children got an opportunity to perform at the Dastkar Winter Carnival in Delhi on the 19th of November. They performedtheir local folk dances, set to popular Kumaoni melodies to an enraptured Delhi audience. The next day, the group left for Vrindavan where theywere hosted by Mr. Om Prakash Malik and Mrs. Santosh Malik, who left no stone unturned in ensuring a warm hospitality for all our students. A visit to Agra was on Day 4. They spent time atFatehpurSikhri and learnt the historical significance of the monument, followed by a trip to the magnificent TajMahal! The Blind School, New Delhi, hosted their stay and it was a humbling & sensitizing experience for both our children and our faculty to see them go about their daily chores with such ease and comfort. All in all this was a very eventful trip!


1.3   Bal Sansar Scholarship

The Bal Sansar Scholarship Program was started in 2008-09 with just ten students. We now have 58 students whose costs of education at Aarohi Bal Sansar are completely supported under this program. We have a total of 16 children out of 58 who are presently undergoing remedial tuition classes to improve their studies.  Earlier this month, we met with their parents and advised them that their continuation of the scholarship is based on a yearly review of children’s academic progress and Aarohi’s availability of funds. We shared with them that should the children not improve in their performance (score above 50% overall), their scholarship would be discontinued.


1.4 Volunteers

Anne Hammond

Anne joined us as a volunteer in October of this year.  She has graduated from the University of Miami in May 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics.  Prior to coming here, Anne has been tutoring children and college students for over 3 years. In college, she worked with student athletes on study and organization skills, tutored them one-on-one in algebra, statistics, calculus, and higher level math courses, and worked with her supervisors to develop group study sessions for extra help. She has worked with children aged 6-17 on both math and reading. Anne has worked both one-on-one (with older students) and in groups of 5-10 teaching lessons and providing extra practice with concepts they learned in school. Anne will be with us till May 2016. 

Madhuri Vijaykumar

Madhuri is a volunteer from Mumbai, she was with us for 3 months, starting in August last year.  Madhuri has 8 years of work experience in the development sector.  She was previously working with HSBC as Associate Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, and was responsible for running HSBC’s global education programme for street children and orphans.  Madhuri has worked with not-for-profit organizations in London and Bangalore.  She has a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

While at the school, Madhuri was coaching our English teachers - helping build their confidence levels in speaking the language and improving their grammar.  She also read English to Class 3 students.  With guidance from Aarohi, Madhuri made a short five-minute documentary film on one of our ABS teachers.  The film is titled “Kamla: A Change-maker at AarohiBalSansar”, the link is shared below.



1.5 New Joiners

Ravi Shankar Yadav

A civil engineer by profession, Ravi graduated in 2011 andworked for 4 years in his hometown Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, before joining Aarohi.Ravi was taken on to work with us as a technical assistant on our home-stay projects, but in his heart he is a teacher and wanted to get involved in the school.  Since November 1, Ravi has been taking remedial classes inMaths for classes 5-7, and helping the teachers in Maths for classes 3-5, as per need.  He will also be liaising closely with our Maths mentor to improve teaching-learning of the subject in our school. Ravi is responsible for maintaining and managing the database of the school’s overall performance in the examinations.


Neha joined ABS on December 1, 2015.  She is presently taking English remedial classes for 3 and 4, and teaching English to classes 7 and 8.  Over time she will be taking on teaching Health and Nutrition to our students.  Neha has completed her Bachelor’s in English from Modern College, Pune and she has a Master’s degree in Psychology from Kumaon University, Almora.  Prior to joining us, she was teaching English and Psychology in Kumaon Public School, Dwarahat, near Ranikhet- Almora district.


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