Aug 27, 2020

The Dramebaaz Dream- A Fellow's story

I, Amrita teach a bunch of highly energetic and passionate students from Grade 9. I still remember the first time I heard of ‘Dramebaaz’ in my school. It was probably the first week of my Fellowship and I experienced the first-hand joy of contagious excitement. “Didi, will you take us for Dramebaaz this year?” Neeraja asked. Simply based on the theatre connotations the name came with, I promised her that I would. For the uninitiated, Dramebaaz is a platform and a "Be the Change Project' at Teach For India that leverages theatre to empower students from low-income communities.

Cut to 5 months later when Dramebaaz rolled out its sign-up form and I quickly signed up two teams with the intention of inculcating in them the love I have grown up with, for theatre. Over the weeks, I had realised that my students showed a knack for drama. However, their experience was limited to stage proscenium and the usual manner of conducting street plays.

Here is where the real uphill task began. The moment I mentioned that we wouldn’t play to our strengths, I was bombarded with concerns and complaints. However, I pushed them to look at the learning and I saw them gradually embrace the same.

The two teams auditioned for their place in this year’s edition and then, the select few, worked closely on the themes and scripts they wished to take upon stage, with regular feedback from my end. They witnessed different forms of theatre and re-imagined their portrayal of the theme till they were satisfied.

We finally settled upon taking forward a Mime and a Street Play- both new styles of theatre with topics as unique of the method. By the end of it, I saw a phenomenal improvement in students with regard to their skill sets, expression, confidence and resilience.

It was an inspiring journey, which was only made sweeter when their efforts were rewarded in the form of recognition on stage.

Jun 18, 2020

Teach For India's COVID Response 2020-21 Q1 Report

We are living amidst a once-in-a-generation crisis that threatens the moral and social fabric of India and the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has directly infected more than 8 million people across the globe. In India, it has already impacted over 300 thousand citizens. We, at Teach For India, are committed to ensuring a better tomorrow. We serve, through the direct care of Teach For India, 32,000 children. Indirectly, our Alumni are serving more than 21 million others through classrooms, schools, community centers, non-profits, and advocacy arms. By design, we are collectively serving the country’s most impoverished and most vulnerable families.

For the children we serve, the four walls of the Teach For India classroom are their only pathway to a better life. It’s also their safe haven and space where many can find reprieve from the chaos and abuse of life at home. The current crisis deeply threatens that safe haven. It’s cutting off access to nutrition and basic supplies: our internal data suggested that in the initial weeks of the lockdown, 45% of our families were unable to reliably access finance and food. And with the closure of schools across the country, it’s taking one of society’s greatest equalizers - the promise of an excellent education - and threatening to render it moot. Our students are losing valuable learning time which, for India’s most impoverished children, is needed to succeed. Given their lack of network connectivity and literate family members, the school is their only access to effective instruction.

Our 900 Fellows have been coordinating relief efforts - drives to provide basic supplies such as food and ration - for the 32,000 families we serve. They’re setting up ration camps in schools across Malwani, Mumbai; mobilizing funds for survival kits in Hyderabad; volunteering via distribution camps in Pune. And in the background, they’re converting their classrooms to virtual spaces to ensure that learning doesn’t stop.Our 3400 Alumni – now working in institutions, non-profits, and schools across the country – are providing relief for millions more. Our children too are stepping up to serve their communities by providing access to necessities, keeping peers connected, and ensuring that learning continues.

To complement the efforts of our frontline leaders and provide food and relief to our students and their families, we launched an online relief campaign. So far we have raised a little over 75% of our goal and utilized half of the contribution to serve more than 10500 families across Amdavad, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Pune. Assistance has included food rations, gas supplies, medicinal support, and direct-cash assistance. With the lockdown likely to get extended at least in part, and the economic toll likely to continue, we are anticipating that families will continue to need assistance. We are committing to continue providing assistance for families in need – via food, rations, medicine, and direct cash – to families in need over the next 60 days.That period will allow targeted families to transition back into society effectively. We are also gradually moving towards enabling enhanced access to our students for online learning by ensuring that they have the necessary resources to do so - a device and a strong internet connection.

May 18, 2020

Teach For India - Report

City updates - Chennai:

Chennai Students Kondattam is the largest Fellow-led event organized by Teach For India - Chennai. With an annual participation of 3000+ students spanning over the two days, it was a remarkable success this year.
While the stage was set beautifully by all our stakeholders, our students leveraged the opportunity well to maximize their learning and to showcase all their incredible talents.

Teach For India’s Response To COVID-19:

Our Staff, Fellows, and Student communities have been tirelessly working during these tough times. Over the past 3 weeks, through sustained and dedicated effort, our Fellows, have managed to get in touch with 70% of our students and their families. We have been looking to understand how these families are doing in terms of physical health, availability of essential supplies, housing, finances and access to learning. We are continuously working to identify the families most in need of assistance so we can use our emergency fund to help them. We are also preparing for the possibility that schools may remain closed for some time, and so we are working on a plan to help our children learn virtually.

Anantharaman and his school team identified the requirements in North Chennai Cluster and got onto to grounds in distributing food packets and essential kits (in collaboration with Yein Udaan). Immediate financial and medical needs of the community was attended to. Families in need of help for paying rent were directed to external support system.


Fellow Narrative from Mr. Srinivas Subramanian:

As the academic year comes to an end, I take this opportunity to extend my deepest gratitude from the bottom of my heart. The last term whizzed in a flash as the students were filled with all-round activities right from their academic calendar to extracurricular activities like their yearly ‘Chennai student Kondattam (CSK)’ . As they
were rigorously preparing for their term end exams to finish their year on a high, things halted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic taking over the globe.The focus shifted primarily towards working on the enhancement of the students reading and writing skills as they are moving to their 9th grade. Students indulged in systematic and consistent practice of reading various books apart from their school texts and were in the process of mastering their abilities to write a book review.

They have made considerable progress as it is evident from the tracker they use to record their reading routine, and they are better organized when they write their book review. Based on the tests they have taken
for mastering their other subjects, there are 30% students who fair between 65-85%, 30% students who fair between 35-65% and the rest have been working to the best of their abilities and have shown their ability to
pass their papers.

One of the big milestone which the student indulged in for enhancing their access and exposure was through their participation in rural-urban exchange program that took place between our school and Anna Gem Private school. Students from both the schools got the opportunity to visit each other's school and they got to learn a lot through academic and cultural activities organized at both the schools.The visit also allowed them to build their perspective about the country's education system in general by comparing the education system in both a public and private set up. They went on to expand their friends circle as children from both the schools went on to become friends by the end of the program.

In continuation to enhancing their reading abilities and develop a love for reading, the students took on an additional responsibility to help their peers in 3rd grade primary school by sharing their knowledge about
reading words and whole sentences. As the project kicked off the students shared additional skills with their buddies in 3rd grade by teaching the art, colouring and painting. They also did some craft work together by sharing their knowledge of making a bird nest which they had learnt in their previous term. The children also
helped their little buddies in making them realize the etiquettes that needs to be maintained in a classroom to allow a wholesome learning experience both for the teachers and the students. The students took their buddy role responsibly, and it was visible from the interactions they continued to have during their break hours apart from the regular weekly visits during which they met. Our children on the other hand began to grow in terms of responsibility, maturity and ownership.

Taking career guidance coaching for students of 8th grade was something that was exciting and thrilling for me to conduct during this term as it was unique and the whole of our 8th grade together for this. No day was fixed and the situation necessitated for us to be on our toes, ready to innovate and enhance to keep up with
the uncertainties that was throwing up. We could get through this as a result of combined efforts we put up as a school team including other teachers like me!

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