What I Learned by Teaching

I joined SwaTaleem through my Experiential Learning Module at the Young India Fellowship. I chose this project as I did feel we have gaps in the education sector that we need to address and the idea of working with girls to build their socio emotional skills really excited me. These past few months of working at KGBV Jalmana have taught me a lot. I have definitely learnt a lot more about how the education space in India is specially seeing it at the grassroots level. What I have also learnt is how to create lesson plans and independently conduct sessions for the same that are related to concepts of critical thinking, creativity and gender. A lot of this has been possible due to the support extended by SwaTaleem, through interactions with Vaibhav, Ananya and Bharat. Before we went on field, Bharat helped us to understand the intricacies of working in a school where there is no level playing field of access to education. Further we had an expert training session by Kavya, on gender sensitization which helped us to understand the context we would be working in as well as helped us understand the importance of reflections specially as a facilitator.

What I enjoy most about this process is that the girls are very enthusiastic to learn and are filled with energy.We conducted a baseline assessment and all of them have great aspirations to be IPS officers or join the police or be teachers and their love for learning helps me to do my best as a facilitator. It has helped me to design better and creative lesson plans so as to engage with them a little more and have a more focused impact every time I conduct a session.

Something that stood out for me is their creativity specially when we asked them to design their own flags and country for Republic Day. They came up with their country name, the rights people would have and spoke about the best part about their country. When I received answers such as “there is no untouchability in my country”, or “trees are everyone’s best friend”, it really humbled me to know that some of the girls are trying to talk about social issues that they see around their lives, in the classroom.  Another session where I learned a lot as a facilitator was when we tried to address gender biases. I realized that the popular of genders associated with ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ color are not something I could use in their context since it is a very urban concept. Instances like these help me realize I have as much to learn from them as I try to teach.

About the Author: Nayonika Jotsinghani

Nayonika, is currently pursuing the Young India Fellowship 2020, from Ashoka University.  She is working with SwaTaleem as part of the ELM project and is a facilitator at KGBV Jalmana. She really enjoys working with children and is passionate about the education sector. She hopes to continue her work in education post the fellowship and one day aspires to create sustainable solutions for addressing some of the gaps that are prevalent in the education sector in India.

The Resounding “Yes!”

I was really looking forward to the component of Experiential Learning Module (ELM) as part of the course, Young India Fellowship, and was more than happy to get on board with an organisation, SwaTaleem Foundation founded by YIF alumni – Ananya and Vaibhav. I am really passionate about working in the education sector, of having taught students in some capacity before, I had the full support of my team here at YIF and the team at SwaTaleem to make it one of the best experiences of my life. We were mentored by experts in teaching STEM to students, conducting gender sensitization workshops which helped us shape and form our lesson plans, accordingly.

While we have done sessions spanning months, one of my most memorable incidents was teaching my kids about Kamladevi Chattopadhyay, the first female politician to stand for elections and one of the forefront freedom fighters during our struggle for Independence. I went over her life story, highlighting the important events, to which the students attentively listened. When I asked them on the need for the importance of education and whether they believed it has the ability to take one places in whichever field they liked, the kids responded with a resounding, “yes.” It was quite a heartwarming feeling for the kids to feel passionate about learning and working in the space to eventually impact the society and the country, as a whole. For the purpose of co-education, the kids were more than eager to share the story with the other group, with a special mention on education and how it is necessary and beneficial.

About the Author: Arshmeen Baveja

Arshmeen, having worked in the IT industry for about 1.5 hours, has also been deeply interested in the development sector, especially in the education space. She has taught underprivileged kids creative arts as part of Slam Out Loud fellowship. She is currently pursuing the Young India Fellowship 2020 and has been a part of SwaTaleem in the capacity of an ELM team member from the Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University, since October 2019.

Working at the Intersection of Gender and Education

Having been brought up in an arrangement which not only is devoid of quality education but also structurally reinforces gender biases, I had always wanted to work at the intersection of Gender and Education. SwaTaleem offered me both and some more. Everything from ELM week to STEM and Gender sessions to designing and facilitating lesson plans involved a plethora of learnings with an equal share of challenges.The workshops conducted by Bharat- making Math fun and easy to learn, and Kavya- locating and breaking gender stereotypes- gave us a new perspective in problem solving and critical thinking, which furthered our skills to work with the girls of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya. During the ice breaking session, I was surprised to find out how receptive the majority of the girls are to learning. I had to reflect and question my own preconceived notions about the girls being shy and reserved. Furthermore, facilitating lesson plans was exciting and taxing at the same time- the actual response and impact may deviate exponentially from your expectations. One lesson plan that stuck with me was the one involving reading books and reciting it in the class. I was surprised to see how the girls went out of their way to creatively translate the books into skits and role playing activity. This made me realize that the girls have immense potential and deserve so much more than what is being offered to them.

I had always thought that it takes a balance of skill sets and passion to bring about any kind of change to the world. After working on the project for 4 months, I realized that perseverance and patience are indispensable in order to deal with such intricate and deep rooted social problems. I look forward to religiously working on making and delivering more impactful lesson plans and, contributing to SwaTaleem in more meaningful ways.

About the Author: Jaskirat Kaur

Jaskirat, a Young India Fellow and a Business Economics graduate, hails from Shahabad- a quaint small town in Haryana. Her interest in gender was ignited when she got elected as the Gender Champion of her college. She hopes to work in the domain of education and make a difference, however small it might be.

Story Telling

The Experience Learning Module (ELM) forms one of the important spheres of the Young India Fellowship program journey. For this, we have formed a team of 5 fellows who believe in working in education space and making an impact. After finishing all the required process and going through our ELM options, our ideas, principles and intentions are found to be congruent with what SwaTaleem Foundation is actively doing in the education sphere. Finally, we were really charged when we came to know that we got SwaTaleem as our ELM project.

After a couple of sessions by Kavya (YIF-Alum) and Bharat, we were equipped with the necessary practices, teaching modules and skill sets which helped us in streamlining our energy and time in the classroom. We kick-started our work with KGBV in November and from day one we found ourselves surrounded by a lot of positive energy as kids were really warm and welcoming. Though it took us some time to get the mechanics of the class and 30 curious children, in the tenure of two sessions the ice between the team and the children was shattered.

The bond we share with the children is really special and we were told by school principal that the students look forward to our visit. The students are very energetic, curious, and very studious. Although we do our lesson plans before going to the class, the students never cease to surprise us by performing something intuitive and out of the box.

On one such day, we divided the whole classroom into groups of 5 each and handed out one storybook to each team and asked them to narrate the story to their classmates. While some of the teams came forward and narrated the story to their classmates verbally, there are 2 teams from class 6 who enacted the whole story in front of the class and they supported the skit with props like plants to compliment the cow character in the story. This depth of involvement from the students’ side constantly propels us to do nothing but the best for our students.

As a part of our day in the school we do an array of activities starting from energizing fun dance, focused group discussions where we give them various interesting prompts to talk about and discuss and co-education sessions where they teach others what they have learned in class. To develop critical thinking in the students, we introduced games like “sudoku” to our students, the way they engage with the sudoku is really great.

Our ELM gave me the opportunity to go back to school again, but this time, for a change not as students but as teachers. This opened us to many new perspectives, gave us the opportunity to understand what it takes to teach children. Though initially, the whole thing seemed novice eventually everything fell in place and when I stop and look back the overall experience is very rewarding, and I especially thank the team who confided their faith and trust in us.

Our Journey into the Future

My team and I were inducted into SwaTaleem Foundation through an Experiential Learning Module which is an integral part of the course, the Young India Fellowship. This project excited me because of the chance to work within the sphere of gender equality and sensitization, a sphere I have always been very passionate about. My experience working on this project has been very humbling and eye-opening, in a large part due to the support I’ve received from my team here at YIF and the team at SwaTaleem. Vaibhav and Ananya, the cofounders, connected us to experts in both, STEM education and gender, and organized a session to help us navigate our goals viz-a-viz this project. All these opportunities were really beneficial in guiding us in giving this project our all dedicatedly.

Our journey with the KGBV at Jalmana began in November, and our relationship with the students developed seamlessly. What makes the sessions at the school so special is the unrelenting enthusiasm the students have – they’re young, impressionable, energetic and inquisitive, and their positive attitude really drives the sessions. In a way, these girls have taught me an incredible amount about the right spirit with which to approach life. We conduct a range of activities and use various modes of communication including discussion groups to develop critical thinking, focus groups for problem-solving, and dance and acting to emphasize the value of creativity and leadership, through which their learning outcomes improve as well as our conceptualisation and execution skills. The girls have debated and discussed the nature of the world in 2035, created their own countries, enacted books they’ve read and shown us that even the sky may fall short in limiting them. SwaTaleem, in bringing these opportunities to these deserving students, are investing a remarkable amount of effort, and I wish them all the luck going forward!

About the Author: Anjali Ramesh

Anjali, a student of psychology, has always found the intersection of human behaviour and social justice fascinating, and hopes to leverage her skills and education to leave her mark in the world. She is currently pursuing the Young India Fellowship 2020, and has been a part of SwaTaleem in the capacity of an ELM team member from the Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University, since October 2019.

एक दिन कहानियों के नाम !!

जलमाना के कस्तूरबा गांधी बालिका विद्यालय की बच्चियों के साथ सीखने – सिखाने की प्रक्रिया को ६ महीने का समय हो चुका है| नये सत्र की शुरुआत के साथ हमे भी विद्यालय जाने के लिए एक उमंग थी| परीक्षाओं के कारण हम पिछले कुछ समय से विद्यालय नहीं जा रहे थे और बच्चियों के साथ बिताए हुए समय को याद कर रहे थे| विद्यालय पहुंचे, तो घुसते ही, आज खेल का मैदान खाली दिखा | वही मैदान, जिसमे सर्दियों के मौसम में बच्चियाँ अपनी शिक्षिकाओं के साथ धूप का आनंद लेते हुए पढने – लिखने की प्रक्रिया में तल्लीन रहती थी | ये संकेत है अप्रैल के महीने का और उसके साथ आने वाली गर्मी का |

परीक्षाओ से पहले विद्यालय में हमें 8-9 सत्र बच्चियों के साथ करने का मौक़ा मिला और इन सत्रों में हमें अपनी ग़लतियों से बहुत कुछ सीखने को मिला | जब ग़लतियों की बात होती है तो उन्हें कई बार हेय दृष्टि से देखा जाता है | मेरा यह मानना है कि शिक्षा का एक उद्देश्य है ग़लतियाँ करना और उनसे सीखने का प्रयास करना | अगर हम अपनी कक्षाओ में ग़लतियों को जगह नहीं देंगे तो हम कही न कही ऐसे समाज का निर्माण करेंगे जिसमे कोई भी नागरिक नवनिर्माण का काम करने से डरेगा /डरेगी |

खैर, इस पर चर्चा फिर कभी, आज तो चर्चा कहानियों पर और उससे निकलने वाले रस पर करनी है| तो पिछले सत्रों से हमने यह सीखा कि बच्चियों के साथ सत्र में हमें ऐसे मौके पैदा करने होंगे जिसमे उन्हें स्वयं की बात रखने का मौक़ा , छोटे समूह में मिले | क्योंकि बड़े समूह में स्वयं को छुपाना आसान होता है, इसी को ध्यान रखते हुए हमने बच्चियों को 25 – 25 के 3 मिश्रित समूह में बाँटा | एक समूह के संचालन की ज़िम्मेदारी मुझ पर थी | हमने बच्चियों के लिए आज मीना की कहानियों पर चर्चा करने की तैयारी की थी| इन कहानियों की एक ख़ूबसूरती यह है कि ये बहुत ही सहजता से सामाजिक मुद्दों पर चर्चा कर जाती है और मीना का किरदार एक गाँव में पढने वाली बच्ची का है जिनसे बच्चियों को उससे एक जुड़ाव महसूस होने की सम्भावना रहती है |

तो शुरुआत हमने गोले में बैठकर की जिसमे पहली कहानी का उच्चारण समूह के लिए मैंने किया | कहानी एक बच्चे की थी जिसमे वो जाति से जुड़े अपने पूर्वाग्रह से संघर्ष करता है, वही कहानी में बच्चों में एक दूसरे की मदद करने की भी बात हुई| कहानी उच्चारण के दौरान भावो पर, सभी बच्चियों से नज़र मिलाने, उनसे प्रश्न पूछना जिनसे वो लगातार सम्मिलित महसूस करे तथा आवाज की पिच को ऊपर नीचे करने पर लगातार जोर दिया | इसके पश्चात, शुरू हुआ ऐसे प्रश्नों का दौर जिनके सही और गलत जवाब नहीं थे बल्कि ऐसे जवाब थे जो बहुत ही निजी होते है | जब तक हम ऐसे प्रश्नों और उनके एक से अधिक जवाबो को कक्षा के वातावरण में जगह नहीं देते तब तक बच्चों से हम नये विचारों, अविष्कारों और समाज के निर्माण की कल्पना नहीं कर सकते | सवाल सिर्फ इतना पूछा गया कि – ‘इस कहानी में आपका पसंदीदा किरदार कौन था और क्यों ?’ इसके जवाब में २ बच्चियों ने अपना पक्ष रखते हुए जवाब दिया लेकिन बाकी कोई भी बच्ची आगे नहीं आयी | इस बात पर जोर डालते हुए यह बात बतानी पड़ी कि इस प्रश्न का एक सही उत्तर नहीं है | इसे सरल करने के लिए क्रम से बच्चियों से उनके पसंदीदा फल पूछा गया तथा बोला गया कि जिस प्रकार आप सभी की फलो की पसंद अलग अलग है वैसे ही आवश्यक नहीं कि सभी प्रश्न का एक ही जवाब सही हो | सुनने में सरल लगने वाली ये बात बच्चियों के लिए नया अनुभव था |

इसके बाद बच्च्चियो को ४-४ के समूह में बांटकर उन्हें कहानियाँ दी गयी, जिन्हें उन्हें पढ़कर अपनी साथियों को सुनानी थी और उससे जुड़े हुए सवालों के उत्तर देने थे | जहाँ एक कहानी मीना के जंगल में खोने और साफ़ सफ़ाई के महत्त्व पर थी वही दूसरी कहानी बच्चों में लिंग के आधार पर काम निर्धारित करने को लेकर थी | एक और कहानी थी जिसमे बाज़ार से सही दवाइयाँ कैसे ले सकते हैं इस पर चर्चा की गयी थी, वही दूसरी कहानी में मीना के दोस्त की बछिया कुएँ में गिर जाती है और फिर उसे सूझ-बूझ के साथ बाहर निकाला जाता है| बच्चियों के पास आज़ादी थी कि वे उसे पढ़कर या बिना पढ़े सुना सकती हैं | पढने के बाद बच्चियों ने एक – एक करके कहानियाँ सुनानी शुरू की | क्यूंकि समूहों को ये निर्देश दिया गया था कि समूह में सभी को प्रस्तुत करने का मौक़ा मिलना चाहिए इसलिए बच्चियों ने अपने अपने खंड बाँट लिए थे | पूरी प्रक्रिया में हर समूह ने अपनी प्रस्तुति दी और बाकी समूह ने उनसे प्रश्न पूछे | मज़ेदार बात ये थी कि बच्चियों के प्रश्न कहानी से इतर भी आ रहे थे और उनमे उनकी पाठ्य पुस्तिका के प्रश्नों की झलक थी | उदहारण के तौर पर यदि एक कहानी में अख़बार का ज़िक्र हुआ तो उसमे बच्चियों का प्रश्न था –‘अख़बार पढने से क्या फायदा मिलता है?’ | एक संचालक होने के नाते मै हर कहानी में ऐसे प्रश्न पूछ रहा था जिसमे बच्चियाँ उसे अपने परिवेश और आस – पास की ज़िन्दगी से जोड़ पाए| उदाहरण के तौर पर – ‘मीना की तरह, क्या आप कभी कही रास्ता भटकी हैं या खोई हैं ?’, ‘कहानी की तरह, क्या आपने गाँव में किसी जानवर को बचाने का प्रयास होते हुए देखा?’ या ‘जब आप दवाई ख़रीदने जाती हैं तो कैसे भाँपती है कि दवाई सही है?’ | इन सभी सवालों को उन बच्चियों से विशेषकर पूछा गया जो कहानी पढने के दौरान अधिक नहीं बोल रही थी |

इस दौरान दो ऐसे किस्से हुए जिन पर मै ध्यान केन्द्रित करना चाहूँगा –

  • एक बच्ची जो पूरे सत्र में कुछ नहीं बोली, जब समूह से जानवर को बचाने के प्रयास के बारे में पूछा गया तो उसने ख़ुद हाथ खड़ा कर पूरा क़िस्सा सुनाया जिसमे गाँव वालो ने जोहड़ में फँसे एक जंतु को बचाया| ऐसा क्या हुआ इस चर्चा में जिसने बच्ची को अपनी बात रखने की हिम्मत दी| शायद ये इस ओर हमारा ध्यान दर्शाता है कि हमें कक्षाओ में बच्चों के निज- अनुभवों को जगह देनी चाहिये क्योंकि हमारे बच्चे एक खाली स्लेट नहीं, अपितु अपने अनुभव लिए होते हैं|
  • इसी प्रक्रिया के दौरान एक बच्ची अपना मेले में खोने का  क़िस्सा सुनाने के लिए खड़ी हुई और ठेठ हरियाणवी में अपनी बात रखने लगी, जिस पर कुछ बच्चियाँ खिलखिलाने लगी| बच्ची शर्मा दी और
    हँसने लगी | वहीं पर सभा रोककर, मुझे यह बोलना पड़ा कि यदि कोई मंच पर है तो उसकी उपस्थिति का आदर कर हम हँसेंगे नहीं| उसके बाद उसने पूरा  क़िस्सा मज़े से सुनाया | और ऐसे में शिक्षक – शिक्षिकाओं की भूमिका कितनी ज़रूरी हो जाती है कि वो वो कक्षा में निज भाषा के लिये जगह बनाये | ये है निज भाषा की ताक़त | लेकिन ये सोचिये यदि हम किसी भी भाषा के प्रति जाने -अनजाने हेय दृष्टि का माहौल बनाये तो कितने बच्चे ख़ुद ही बोलना बंद कर देंगे और फिर हम ऐसे
    बच्चों को ‘बुद्धू, बेवक़ूफ़ ’ जैसी कितनी उपाधि नवाज़ देंगे | भाषा सम्प्रेष्ण का माध्यम है और प्रथम विचार हमेशा निज भाषा में आता है, इसलिए कितनी भी भाषायें सिखायी जायें मगर निज भाषा के लिए जगह होना आवश्यक है|

इस पूरे सत्र के बाद हम गोले में बैठे और चर्चा की, आज के सत्र में क्या अच्छा लगा और क्या बेहतर हो सकता था ?

मै उम्मीद कर रहा था कि बच्चियाँ कहानी के सन्दर्भ में बात करते हुए ‘फलां कहानी अच्छी लगी और ढिकानी कहानी बेकार लगी’ तक सीमित रहेंगी | लेकिन, मेरी उम्मीद को धता बताते हुए एक बच्ची बोली कि ‘भैया जब आप ने कहानी सुनायी तो हमें मज़ा आया लेकिन जब बाकी बच्चों ने सुनायी तो हमें इतना मज़ा नहीं आया?’ अब जब बच्चियों ने कक्षा की चर्चा के स्तर को ऊँचा उठाया तो मैंने भी तपाक से सवाल पूछ लिया, ‘मैंने ऐसा क्या किया जो आपको अच्छा लगा और बाकी कहानियों में नहीं था?’ एक बच्ची बोली – ‘आप हाथ हिला रहे थे, और हमसे प्रश्न भी पूछ रहे थे’, तो दूसरी बच्ची बोली, ‘आप जोर जोर से पढ़ रहे थे’ | अब इसी को आगे बढ़ाते हुए हमने चर्चा बोलने के लहजे, खड़े होने के तरीक़े और अपनी आवाज़ में मजबूती से बोलने की और मोड़ दी| अच्छी चर्चा हुई , बच्चियों ने ख़ुद का आकलन किया और दिन की समाप्ति भरपूर मौक़ों के द्वार खोलते हुए की | मैंने सत्र के बाद सोचा कि यदि इसमें अगली बार बच्चियों को थोड़ा लिखकर, चित्र बनाकर भी स्वयं के विचार व्यक्त करने का
मौक़ा मिले तो मज़ा ही आ जाता | इसी उम्मीद में कि अगले सत्र में यही सीखने – सिखाने की प्रक्रिया जारी रहेगी, हमने विद्यालय से अलविदा ली|

About the Author: Vaibhav Kumar, Co-Anchor/Co-Founder, SwaTaleem Foundation
An engineer by degree but a teacher at heart, he believes that quality education to every child can bring equality in society. Since 2013, he has worked as a teacher, volunteer, Education Leader, Mentor to an after school program, Content developer and Designer of teacher professional development program in the past. He believes in finding answers internally and draws inspiration from running.

Listening to Ninety Dreams

In the past few months, there have often been moments where I have traveled through green fields in a ‘fatfati’ with my teammates, thinking about the smiles we had just bid good-bye to. These moments are usually characterized by awe, of what we are surrounded by, and a certain oxymoron-like sense of fulfillment and a desire to do more. 
Working with SwaTaleem has given me the chance to step into the world of ninety little girls and has presented me with an opportunity to learn so much.

While I have learnt many things such as how an NGO is set up, how to work with government officials, how to work with children and teachers, how to design and implement session plans and much more, the most important lesson I have received is how important it is to listen. We listened to the children and their dreams, teachers and visions, and the higher authorities and their guidance. I have learnt that it is okay when things do not work out. All you have to do is take a step back, breathe, and try again. Not only those at the school and my seniors at work, I have had the incredible opportunity of learning from my peers. Watching so many people put their heart into their work, just so that they can leave a better place than they found it, is the motivation which fuels you when you need it the most. 

And just like that, eating food prepared with love, dancing in the middle of nowhere, and talking to these beautiful souls makes travelling for 4-5 hours worth it. With girls who gift you their smiles, hugs, adoration and roses, KGBV Jalmana will always hold a special place in my life. 

About the Author: Kavya Mohta, Young India Fellow-2019

Pursuing History Hons has taught Kavya incredible lessons and has motivated her to create a positive impact in this world. Building a school in a basti and working in various NGOs has led her to meet, and work people who have restored her faith in humanity and personify hope in her life. She looks forward to keep on learning, getting inspired by those around her, and do her best to contribute to the well-being of the society in whatever way she can.  She has been an integral part of Swataleem in capacity of  ELM team member from Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University since September 2018. 

THE FIELD- My Experience at KGBV Jalmana

The field has been a space full of conversations, curiosity, laughter and learning – a KGBV school, in the village of Jalmana, Panipat District. My experiences on the field have been taxing but also enriching, tiring but also mesmerising, exhaustive but also oh, just wonderful. Working with girls (aged 11-14) studying at KGBV, Jalmana, has taught me many lessons in many ways. Ranging from learning the tricks of the field on the field, interview techniques, and honing my observation skills, to conceptualising, preparing and organising educational workshops in an interactive way such that I can hold the attention of these young imaginative and creative minds and be ready to answer to their curious questions. Some of the workshops conducted so far have been on the topic of Menstruation, Consent, Good Touch-Bad Touch, Arts, Toy Making, and Scientific Experiments.

Working with them as a team member instead of assuming a position of a hierarchical team leader has been instrumental in opening doors to more questions and discussions. In these close exchanges, I have learnt a lot. They have helped me understand the plays of hierarchy, power, and gender roles. They have sensitised me to the life of privilege I have been living, all by the virtue of luck. They have helped me better understand where I am positioned, what change I seek and what action I am capable of, and, have added more meaning and relevance to my education in Liberal Studies by grounding it in its larger social context.

About Author: Mahima Jaju, 24, Communication Designer • Young India Fellow 2019

Mahima sees her education in Design as a privilege, to be used to fulfil her social responsibility as a concerned and sensitive citizen, as a well-rounded designer. As a student of Communication Design for four years and after having worked in the industry for one year, she has great confidence in the good that good design can do. Currently pursuing the Young India Fellowship, Mahimais exploring the many realities that make up this one world. She has been an integral part of Swataleem in capacity of  ELM team member from Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University since September 2018.