Akshara's Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) program is helping over 1 million children in states of Karnataka, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in India to overcome the fear of math. Here's a heartwarming story of a Sheperd boy who turned into a acheiver because his teacher and family believed that education is important.
No One Went to School
If collaboration needs a poster child, here is Anand (name changed), an unspoilt, unlettered shepherd boy who went on to secure a coveted spot at a Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contest Akshara facilitated in his village – a full 100%, a first prize and a commendation certificate for proud achievement.
In his family of six siblings, no one went to school. In his village in Dharwad district, scanty, worn thin by poverty, almost everyone reared sheep, and that was what Anand was meant to do, his father Siddappa ruled. Siddappa was strict in his beliefs. Besides, why would his children need school? It was superfluous, life’s matters lay elsewhere. Earning a livelihood, supporting a large family – issues that mattered.
So every day, Anand, the youngest, grazed sheep, and he enjoyed it, till one day when he was nine years old, providence decided to play a benevolent hand. One of his elder sisters fell ill. She lived with her husband in Gadag district, a bigger village, slightly more developed and less remote than Javoor. Anand, well-schooled in household ways, was promptly despatched as caregiver.
School for the First Time
It so happened that the Department of Education was conducting its Dakhlati Andolana, or Enrolment Drive. The Cluster Resource Person (CRP), a progressive education official, seeing that Anand was at home one day, landed at his doorstep, orchestra in tow, drums, music and all, and requested his sister Devakka (name changed) to admit him to school. But Anand was a guest for only a few more days, she remonstrated. The CRP was persuasive and Devakka, coming around to the idea, put him in class 1 at the Government Lower Primary School in his village.
His Teacher Shyama
School plunged Anand into mute resistance. He did not want to sit with his younger peers. A feeling of inferiority, of being valueless, overwhelmed him. He refused to touch his pencil. Unwilling and unable to acclimatise to a classroom, his gaze turned inward to the freedom of the open grazing lands and his sheep. Anand requested his sister to send him back.
His teacher, Shyama (name changed), was going to have none of it. One of the many proactive teachers Akshara finds in obscure government schools, Shyama rose to the challenge of educating Anand. She impressed on him the value of education, the self-esteem he would get, the future it would open. She pushed open the scope of his patchy concentration bit by bit, but more than anything else, she showered on the friendless and alienated Anand love and affection. Study for a year, she bargained. If you don’t like it, you can go back.
Anand trusted her, so he listened to her, and gradually began to learn.
Nirmala’s Forward-Moving Ideas
Three years passed. By then Anand had adjusted with his classmates and felt at home in school. His sense of not being on par vanished. He was at peace with education.
Not that he needed another nurturer at this juncture. But Anand was in class 4 and Nirmala (name changed) entered his life, who, like Shyama, is one of those enlightened government school teachers no one hears about, full of empathy and forward-moving ideas.
She gently shifted the pivot, giving Anand a leadership role in the Mathematics class. GKA is being implemented in the school and Anand was put in charge of the kit, a responsibility he bore dutifully, opening it, taking out the individual pieces of teaching-learning materials (TLMs), and overseeing the play-and-learn arrangements. When the period got over, used as he is to taking care of things, he collected the items from different hubs of engagement across the floor, packed them back in the box and stored it away securely.
Very soon Anand could identify each of the 22 TLMs by name. It didn’t take long for the next leap. He began solving sums with the help of the materials, got a working knowledge of the concepts. Without realising it, Anand was evolving into quite a Mathematics expert in class.
In Full Bloom
Then came the Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contest. One hundred and forty-five children from classes 4, 5 and 6 from three neighbouring schools participated and wrote a grade-appropriate test.
Anand was the top scorer in the class 4 section of 48 children. All 20 sums in his answer paper were correct.
The moment was cathartic. When the results were announced over the speaker system, Shyama and Nirmala could not contain themselves, they wept with joy. Anand was in a state of exalted emotion, crying and happy. Devakka and her husband stood in disbelief. The applause did not stop till Anand received his prize.
He is a young student in full flower, holding his Akshara certificate and a large red rose, still thin, still the innocent boy who came from Javoor. But taller, his face beaming with a simple smile of elation, his eyes bright – is there a hint there of unshed tears as the camera captures him?
Partnership and Success
Anand wants to be a police officer, stop road accidents and take down illegal activities in society. He has a vision now of what his future could be. Javoor - does he look back? He might miss his sheep once in a way, but it is a life he has left behind for now. The Akshara team and he are good friends. He talks to them from his teacher’s mobile phone and they are motivating him and keeping track of his progress.
Partnership forged Anand’s success. Government administers GKA large-scale for classes 4 and 5 in primary schools in Karnataka. It is an Akshara programme, and the two aligned. From shepherd boy to achiever - victory that day belonged to the force of collaboration.