Upholding the vision of holistic personality development in a joyful environment, Aarohi Bal Sansar(ABS), a middle-level school, was started in the year 1994. ABS is a vibrant learning space which is sensitively designed, nurturing children through quality education using the appropriate curriculum, creative teaching methodologies and sufficient infrastructural resources. ABS today is a model school, providing education which is sensitive to the changing aspirations of the people from the rural and remote parts of the Kumaon hills in Uttarakhand, Northern India.
Until late June, the mountain children are busy collecting mountain berries and many fruits. They can be seen hanging precariously upon the tree branches, competing with monkeys for fruits. With the beginning of monsoon in July time is better spent indoors, listening to the pitter - patter of the never-ending rain.
At Aarohi Bal Sansar this is a time for serious studying. It’s the beginning of the new academic session. The smell of new books and notebooks fills the air. The Kumaoni festival of Harela, marking the sowing period, is celebrated in the school.
Sandeep Marmi joined us in this term as the new Principal of Aarohi Bal Sansar. Being from the region, Sandeep understands the realities of children living in these remote and inaccessible mountain slopes. His prior experience in running a school in his own village, together with his determination to bring quality education to the rural mountain population, will take ABS to new heights.
It is our constant effort at ABS to make learning more experiential. Children not only participate in various activities at ABS but also help in organising and managing them. This year we planted 100 trees, indigenous to this region, in the ABS premises. ABS students, teachers and the staff of Aarohi, spent a day together learning about different local species of trees, the best time for plantation, watering and nurturing the young saplings. This year we would like to make systematic efforts to initiate our ‘School Farm Project’ and create a sort of a repository of local flora.
A ‘bal haat’ - a market by the children, was set up on the occasion of Children’s day, where children managed all financial transactions for the day. They bought and sold goods like books, stationery, handicrafts and food items.
Steps were taken in the direction of increasing community and parent’s participation in Education. Parent – Teacher committee was formed to manage the two school taxis. A workshop was conducted on parenting and a parent support group was formed to help parents with the challenges of parenting.
This year we have 167 students from 14 villages. Thirty-one new students joined ABS in this term. Of the total students, 85 are girls and 82 are boys.
We continue maintaining a healthy student teacher ratio of 9:1. There are 18 teachers, with 2 teachers for the pre-primary section and 16 teachers teaching in the primary and the upper primary sections.
ABS has a beautiful combination of academics as well as co-curricular activities. Arts, Crafts, Music, sports are given equal importance along with the academics. Life skill programme further prepares them for the challenges of the modern world.
Total working days – 208 days
The average attendance of staff 189 Days
Average attendance (%) of students - Girls 86.80%, Boys 92.66%
Academic Performance of students in classes 1 to 5 in Half Yearly Assessment
Students in classes 1 to 5 are performing well in languages (English and Hindi), however, the performance in mathematics is not very encouraging. 52% of students from classes 3 to 5 scored above 80% (A Grade) in Hindi, with 46% scoring above 80% in English. In mathematics, however, only 30% of the students scored above 80%. Majority of the students in these classes fall in grades B and C ( between 50% to 79% ), which is average to good performance.
Academic performance of students in classes 6 to 8 in Half Yearly Exams
On an average, 15% students have scored above 80% in Hindi, English, Mathematics or Science in classes 6 to 8. While the majority of the students fall in B and C grades (50% to 79%), the number of those performing below 50% of marks in these classes is also considerably high.
43% of the students have scored less than 50% of marks in English and almost 35% of the students have scored less than 50% in Maths and Science. The students seem to be performing better in Hindi with only 8% students scoring less than 50% in this subject. English is the subject where students in these classes are performing poorly, followed by Mathematics.
While systematic efforts are being made to reduce the variance between high performing and low performing students, bridging this gap in the higher classes has always remained a constant challenge. The final exam results will help us know how far we have been successful in bridging this gap.
CO-CURRICULAR AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Bal Haat – A new beginning
Making learning experiential and skill based, ‘Bal Haat’, or a ‘market by the children’ was organised on ‘Children’s Day’ on November 14, 2017.The aim was to introduce students to the concepts of trading, marketing and financial transactions thereby enhancing their numeracy, analytical and communication skills. The children set up stalls, selling stationery, handmade greeting cards, toys and homemade food. Various fun games were also organised by the children. All accounts and other transactions for the day were independently managed by the children, with the teachers to guide as and where required.
Children efficiently conducted various games which included hitting the glass, Chocolate Wheel and pinning the donkey’s tail. From deciding the goods to be displayed in the stalls to fixing the selling price, children managed almost all aspects of with little support from their teachers as and where required.
It was a day full of fun and frolic for students and teachers of ABS; parents and the staff of Aarohi. Local residents from the area also participated in the ‘funfair’ by supporting children in cooking and baking.
International Children’s Film Festival, Hyderabad
Five of our ABS students attended the International Children’s Film Festival, organized by the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI), in Hyderabad, from November 5th to 16th. This provided a unique opportunity to the students of ABS to watch some of the finest films from across the world. They had the opportunity to meet and interact with film directors, actors and many other children from different parts of India. Harshita Sunal from class VII of ABS was part of the prestigious child jury, judging the films for awards.
This was for the first time that the students travelled by train, moving through different states to reach their destination. They described how the colour of soil changed from state to state, appreciating the diversity of our country. In Hyderabad, they visited the Salarjung Museum, Char Minar and other places of historical significance. An enriching experience, this visit exposed children to the art that cinema is.
Tree Plantation Drive
A hundred saplings of indigenous varieties of trees were planted this monsoon on the school premises. The children, teachers and the staff of Aarohi participated enthusiastically in the drive. This is the beginning of school forestry initiative and the school farm project.
Mini Sports Day
Mini sports day is organised specially for the tiny tots of ABS - for students in kindergarten up to class 2. This year the teachers were highly creative with their choices of games. Connected with learning goals, the games displayed the cognitive and motor skills acquired by the children in these classes. The games challenged children to colour coordinate, count, mix & match and fine balance.
Annual Sports Day
Aarohi Bal Sansar celebrated its 8th Annual Sports day on 29th December. The fantastic turnout of the parents, people from the village and the beautiful winter day boosted the morale of our students.
The students were in the complete spirit of the occasion as they administered the oath of the day. The event began with an impressive march past followed by a series of races, Kho-Kho and Kabbadi.
Once the races began, the air was filled with cheering and encouragement for the young athletes. The event ended with a game of tug of war between ex-students of Aarohi Bal Sansar and teachers.
Days of training and efforts by the students and teachers made this Sports day a delightful one!
PARENTS AND COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
Workshop on parenting
On the request of parents, half a day workshop was conducted on parenting issues. The workshop allowed parents and teachers to understand the concerns they have in raising a child. Parents shared their many fears, dilemmas and confusions they confront each day raising their children. It was agreed by all to set up a parents support group which would meet once every month to share their concerns and find solutions together with other parents. A professional counsellor, Vandita Dubey, has offered to counsel parents through the process of parenting.
Formation of school bus management committee
A school bus management committee was formed in this term to manage the two school taxies. The aim was to increase parent’s participation in managing some of the core non-academic functions of the school. The parents have taken great interest, taking over all aspects of managing the school taxis.
In this term, we had to bid farewell to three of our great teachers.
Monica Drego resigned from her position of Education Director in August 2017, after making an immense contribution towards the teaching and learning methods at ABS.
Pradeep Rastogi, our dynamic and much-loved vice principal who also taught Mathematics, left in August 2017, and so did Hema, Science teacher.
We were joined by Sandeep Marmi, as Principal – ABS, in October 2017.
Dipti joined in as Maths and Science teacher for classes 6 to 8. She is from a village nearby and has already become one of the favourite teachers of the children at ABS.
While continuous inputs go into innovating teaching and learning methodologies to bridge the learning and comprehension gaps specific to children from the region, it is still a challenge to make learning outcomes an explicit goal of primary education, adjusting the vast variation in learning levels and providing additional instructional resources in early schooling years.
We do not have enough teachers to teach the core maths and science subjects and that shows in poor student performance in these subjects.
Commuting to school is yet another concern. Students walk for half an hour to one hour to reach ABS. This is physically draining, affecting their performance in school. While we have tried to arrange for private taxis, managed by the parent’s committee, a school bus as per the Right to Education norms will go a long way in making education at ABS more accessible to children from further off villages.
Investing in teacher resource is extremely important to maintain the quality of education, reduce attrition and motivating teachers. Our teachers are as qualified as any government teacher and far more motivated to teach. Their salaries, however, are less than half of what the government teachers who are mostly absent from duty, draw. Sourcing institutional funding for salaries is getting difficult by the day. This year we would like to encourage individual donors to adopt one ABS teacher as a patron and mentor, at least for a year.