#WestBengalUpdate: More than being a proactive method to counter undernutrition among children, kitchen gardens are an effective way to make students understand the process by which food reaches their plate. It helps in creating a healthy lifestyle with a good understanding of self-sustenance.
Primary school teacher Rajiv Show from Jiabandi village, Bankura District, West Bengal had been an active campaigner for Goonj’s work in the region. Earlier he had worked alongside Goonj Team to build a kitchen garden and add more nutrition to the school’s midday meal. After his transfer to Dhabani Primary School, Rajiv and his colleague took the initiative to bring Goonj’s initiative to his new school. They organized a meeting with parents to encourage them to participate in a kitchen garden building activity with Goonj. In an area where the involvement of parents in school activities was almost nonexistent, it was a necessary step to involve parents in the process of education and create a sense of ownership regarding the school and its premises.
Dhabaani Primary School has a fairly large compound and the parents and teachers were able to easily clear out a 40x40 feet area. Five parents volunteered to build the garden and worked alongside the students who had their first hands-on learning about farming. Carrots, cabbages, onions and chilli were planted along with a few varieties of flowers. The amount required for purchasing seeds and saplings as well as nets required for building a boundary for the garden was raised from the school funds. Upon completion, the students were given responsibility for watering the plants as well as its secure maintenance.
As a reward for their efforts, The parents and teachers were rewarded with comprehensive Goonj Family Kits. The school was provided with toys, bicycles and other learning materials from Goonj.. While the students were awarded with carefully made Goonj School Kits.
11-year-old Jishu squealed with joy when he saw what was inside the box he had just been given.. He couldnt believe that he now have a pair of brand new shoes. “I used to wear an old shoe but the strap got loose and I could not balance and stand properly wearing it. I had to hold my mothers hand to walk around and at times, she used to carry me on her back to go school”. Jishu suffers from cerebral palsy – a neurological condition marked by impaired muscle coordination restricting his movements. He lives with his parents in a remote village of West Bengal (Nandigram block, Bankura district).
For his daily journey to school, his mother carried him on her back due to his impairment..Remembering the day he got the new shoes, he says, “I was doing my homework in class when one uncle called me and my friend and handed us this box. I peeped inside and voila! There was a beautiful pair of shiny black shoes!” Now he can balance his body on his own without any one’s support as he walks to school just holding his mother’s hand. For Jishu, happiness came in the form of a shiny new pair of shoes, filling a critical need but also motivating him to continue his education despite many odds.
Lalganj is a quaint village in Vaishali district of Bihar.. one of the first districts where Goonj started working more than 10 years ago, just after the Kosi Floods. Over the years Goonj’s work has grown deeper especially in flood prone areas of the state. When our team visited a local Aanganwadi and primary school in Lalganj the sight of kids walking barefoot, wearing shoes or slippers with loose straps or sandals with broken heels, was common. We were told this is how they come to school even in harsh winter or rain. On asking a fourth grader about his torn uniform, he nervously muttered “Father drinks toddy (local alcoholic beer).” and he ran off to duck any further interaction.
Children’s mind is a blank slate without any prejudices, inhibitions and conditioning and that’s why their immediate surroundings, parents & teachers play huge role in their development. At Goonj we strongly believe that like city school kids, kids in small village schools must also learn about self reliance, collective responsibility and self empowerment rather than charity and dependency.
Since we already had an ongoing connect with the local community of Lalganj we quickly mobilized the villagers, parents, teachers and kids and motivated them to collectively take up a massive cleanliness drive around their school premises. For their efforts on making their children’s school a better place, each participant received a carefully curated ‘Goonj School Kit’ comprising basic school material, stationary, toys and a pair of new shoes. Saraswati, from the village said about the work, “It was different... People who normally don’t take part in anything actually turned up for this.” We believe that the world revolves around love, empathy and valuing human dignity and our children must imbibe these values to be better citizens of future
In the corridors of Anaikattu PUP (Panchayat union primary) school in Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu).. you could feel the excitement in the air..
In every corner kids were getting ready for some activities. Soon the Goonj team came in and the fun began. Kids started presenting with storytelling, folk dancing, skit shows, science exhibition and drawing competition on environment, geography, science, art. A group of students spoke on herbal medicine, the indigenous practices of the area and it’s uses. Another bunch showed a model demonstrating ill effects of smoking and related health hazards. The day ended with each student getting abag full of goodies - A Goonj “School Kit” with books, pencils, crayons, stationary and brand new shoes for their initiative!! Opening up their kits, finding new shoes and other material, the joy and laughter of the students was priceless.
A parent excitedly shared that the children were looking “smart” and “rich” adding, “It’s as if they are from private school!” The school head girl later shared that the kids were now more willing to come school as they no longer had to come barefoot or struggle to match the only odd pairs available or juggle with ill-fitting slippers.
With its ‘School to school’ programme Goonj is reaching basics of learning to children in far flung village schools but instead of charity its using this material to build a sense of achievement and dignity among these young minds. Our teams also nudges teachers, parents and the local community to collectively resolve the issues of their school.
In hundreds of schools, every year Goonj team motivates children and teachers to take up recreational and educational activities and rewards their efforts with “School Kit” to bridge the resource gap.
We really love what Vijay Jain.. a teacher in a Secondary School in Mediya Dindor village (Banswara, Rajasthan) did with our idea of using Goonj’s School Kit as a motivational tool for learning.. Goonj strongly believes that children should never be made a victim of charity.. instead we reach school material kits as reward for learning activities children take up.
Vijay Jain – a dedicated teacher, was deeply bothered by the lack of basic infrastructure and the general teaching practices at his school.. He found that students were engaged in rote learning, limited only to textbook syllabus. To address all these issues comprehensively he got in touch with Goonj.Under our ‘School To School’ initiative, he held a ‘Measurement Mela’, where the kids came out of the classrooms to measure rice/water to understand gram-kilograms/liters-milliliters conversions and other outdoor activities, teaching them basic mathematical conversion in a fun way!
Children were also taken out for a hiking experience to a neighbouring hill, where they identified different herbs and learnt about their significance. To encourage this learning process, each student was rewarded with carefully designed ‘Goonj School Kits’ comprising essentials like stationary, books, toys and brand new shoes.
Months later Mr. Vijay beamingly reports a transformation in how the students continue to take part in such learning activities, even without a reward. They have also started to take more ownership by forming various clubs in school!!
Every child deserves to learn only in such way.. about dignity and achievement..
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