Monday, 24 February 2014

Travels Across Jharkhand

(Rudro is a member of the Central Team and, currently, coordinates the programme in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Karnataka)

Our programme is implemented in a 100 schools in Jharkhand. With the last few batches of refresher Teacher Training underway, I decided to visit the state to see how things were progressing there.

I left for Jharkhand with an intention of visiting schools, interacting with the teachers and discussing the next steps with the programme’s State Team. I was really looking forward to this trip, as Jharkhand is one of the few states, in the country, that I had never been to.

With a few hours to spend in Ranchi before my train to Dhanbad, I met Kumarji, the Pratham State Head to discuss the progress of the programme in the State. It was pleasing to hear that Learn, Out of the Box had become a model programme in the State and he held it in high regard. He shared a lot of ideas and displayed a great vision for the future of the programme.

The next day I was to sit in on the 2nd day of a two-day teacher refresher workshop in Dhanbad. The day started with a continuation of Teacher presentations and it was satisfying to see a lot of the teachers had clearly been using the WebBox and appeared very comfortable with it. The teachers seemed interested and displayed high energy levels throughout the day.

The room was buzzing with excitement during the final session of the day where they made Teaching & Learning Materials (TLMs). They showed a lot of enthusiasm while making water filters out of bottles, anemometers with coffee cups, circuits with batteries and LED bulbs, algebra tiles, etc. Even I involved myself in making a working model of the respiratory system with balloons! The teachers were then delighted when they were told they could take these back to their schools.

The following day, Smita, our Regional Programme Manager (RPM) and I visited schools in Dhanbad. We first went to J.S.S. Public School and were pleasantly surprised to see the teacher taking the same class that he had been shown the previous day.

We then went to International School of Competitions where yet again the teacher invited us into a class using the WebBox that he was conducting but unfortunately a power failure interrupted the class.

Finally, we stopped at another school where we met the Principal to understand why the usage had been so low. It was upsetting to learn that the school had a major shortage of teachers and was struggling to keep up. I later learnt that this is a major problem in schools across Jharkhand.

Smita and I then hopped onto a bus to Giridih which was swarming with people in the aisle and on top of the bus. Halfway through the journey we also had a channawala making his way up and down the bus corridor with his big basket! At Giridih, Smita conducted a 1-day workshop with private school teachers while I visited government schools in Giridih with Binay, our Regional Program Associate (RPA).

We travelled through mud roads and farms to get to the first school that was in the middle of a tribal community. The school was large and spacious, a stark contrast to the ones I’m used to seeing in Mumbai.

I sat at the back of the class and observed as the teacher started it with a short icebreaker. He then reviewed the topic of Transparent, Translucent and Opaque Objects before dividing the class into groups for a discussion and ended the class with an activity. The students appeared engrossed, took in the concepts and at the same time seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was uplifting to see that this teacher had taken all the elements of our trainings and brought them into his classroom.

After the class, the teacher came up to me and proudly showed me his lesson plan too. He also mentioned how four teachers were trying to run a school from class 1 to 8 due to the shortage of teachers.

I went to the next school with high expectations and I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. Watching the teacher use the example of what the students ate for lunch, to teach Data Handling, was refreshing. Here again, the students seemed enthusiastic and enjoyed the class.

In the last school I went to, the teacher used the See section of the chapter Light to explain the concept to the students. Once again, the teacher taught the class with a lot of positive energy. Each and every one of the students seemed very interested in the class.

I left Giridih extremely happy with what I’d seen and hoped the teachers would continue to work this way, even when members from our team are not observing their classes. Smita and I met Nidhi, our Master Trainer (MT) on the train back to Ranchi.

I spent my last day with both Smita and Nidhi, shared my experience with them and discussed the next steps of the programme in Jharkhand. Overall, it was a very enriching experience for me, seeing the impact our programme is making. My visit helped me take in the ground realities in Jharkhand. We now shift our focus post launch to Evaluating Impact, and Capacity Building of the team.