JUNE – JULY, 2021
This is an update on May and June at the MBSNS centre. Along with the regular study, Dhyan, and sports, the highlights for this month included a workshop for children on understanding good and bad touch and a parents learners (facilitators and students) meeting.
Focus on learning languages
The Hindi Class – In April, children started with reading simple Hindi text and learning to write summaries. In May and June, they began engaging with the language in new ways. Children prepared a song in Hindi, which they chose from the songs they had heard at the centre. They prepared the song ‘tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet mein yakin kar’. They also prepared a play with Abhimanyu’s help. It had been over a month since the children moved into the centre, and they started missing their parents. Due to the covid protocol, children were not allowed to meet the parents while at the centre. Although they were allowed to call home on Sundays, a new activity of writing letters to the family was also initiated. Engaging in these activities gave children a sense of achievement, which they could be proud of. Their previous engagement around learning was restricted to just reading and writing, which did not give them that sense of achievement.
In these months, some concepts of grammar were also introduced like सर्वनाम and विशेषण (pronouns and adjectives). At the same time, working on phonetics is a continuous process as few sounds in regional language are quite intermixed in pronunciation like र (Ra) and ड (Da), स (Sa) and श (Sha).
The English Class- In April children learned the basics of phonetics and vocabulary building exercises in English. We made our first phonetic videos and completed all 26 alphabets by June.
In May and June, the two-hour English slot was reorganized into three parts – immersion songs, the introduction of a new concept, and reading or writing groups or games (depending on what children chose).
The children have come a long way since April. When they came to the centre, they knew alphabets and could read three-letter words without understanding the meaning. In these last two months, they now sing along a selection of 6 songs displayed on a projector screen. This repertoire of songs has 3-4 nursery rhymes like Old Mac Donald had a farm, to anthems like Imagine (by John Lennon), what a wonderful world (Louis Armstrong), the sound of silence (Simon & Garfunkel), and action songs like Ram sum sum. These two months focused on understanding and learning nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, and other parts of speech through fun and interesting activities like charades and other games.
Parents Learners (Facilitators- students) meeting (PLM)
13th June was a special day. It was the first parents meeting at the centre. In some cases, both parents could not come due to financial constraints. For example, Jaikrishnaji could not come because he had to tend to the mango orchard, which they have leased this year. Reeta Devi and Hareram Bhaiya had similar financial constraints, while Sanjay Paswan has migrated to Bengal for work. In other cases, younger siblings came, enthusiastic and clingy, curious about their older sibling’s new home – The Centre.
The centre facilitators shared their idea of holistic education with the parents. Abhimanyu emphasized the need for parents to interact with teachers and caregivers, as this provided a two-way interaction and allowed for a common aim for their children. He shared how all children were bright and a joy to work with. He also reiterated that children enjoyed learning and there was more to learning than just memorization. Mithun further talked about the schedule at the centre and how each child followed the same and sometimes went over and above the schedule putting in additional shram daan (manual work) or study hours. He talked about pedagogy and interactions with respective teachers of English, Hindi, Maths, Science, and Computers. Sangeeta talked about children’s well-being and different learning styles.
Everybody, including children, parents, and facilitators, introduced themselves. This was followed by a skit that children had prepared as part of their Hindi class. Over the last two months, older children have written stories in their English class, which was also typed in their computer class. Each child chose one story which they read in English and then explained in Hindi. This was followed by the children giving their parents a copy of the compilation of stories named “Our First Book” and a letter each child had written to their parents in Hindi class. This session ended with children singing the song “tu zinda hai to zindagi ki jeet men yakeeen kar.”
After the children left, the parents and caretakers sat for an open session, in which parents gave their feedback and discussed their children’s wellbeing at the centre. Most were very happy to see that their children had adjusted well and did not want to leave the centre to go home. They were also impressed by the confidence they saw in their children. All of them were convinced they wanted their children to continue at the centre. We also discussed holidays and the academic calendar, emphasizing that we did not want children to take frequent leaves. Parents suggested holidays during the festive season, and together we have worked out a holiday calendar till 15th March 2022. Mandavi, one of the mothers asked if all parents should contribute to the running of the centre and it was decided that each would do what they can. For example, those who were daily wage labourers would try and give sharm daan at the centre; those with more stable incomes would try contributing financially; and those with farming would contribute in kind.
The Personal Safety Workshop
On 9th June, we organized a workshop on personal safety facilitated by Mithun and Abhimanyu. The workshop used a module from Arpan, aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. It introduced the idea of good and bad touch and explained the need to reach out for help from adults in their trusted circle.
Love is a special quality that children have, and their love has no boundaries. This thought is beautifully captured in a famous Hindi song “जो भी प्यार से मिला हम उसी के हो लिए” (becoming one with everyone who meets us with love). The centre has a patch for planting trees and a small plot marked for farming. From the very first day, children have loved the idea of planting, watering, and caring for plants. They have also found different levels of connections with the stray dogs, who have found a home at the centre, by petting, feeding and hugging them. This is their silent connection with nature – plants and dogs. A world dominated by the anthropocentric view has made nature peripheral to our existence; we hope children growing up at the centre will be able to find their connection with nature. It is with this thought in mind that children were part of a plantation drive this monsoon, taking ownership and responsibility of attending to one tree they planted.
And so it goes on … learning in and out of classrooms. In the spirit of holistic education, children continue to engage with physical exercises, sports like athletics, kho kho and kabaddi in the evening, and Dhyan. Though mostly the everyday shram daan involves cleaning and working in the field and caring for trees on campus, but sometimes children find creative ways of doing shram daan. For instance, Rani decided to be the centre barber, styling children’s hair. Not only was it a creative pursuit but it also meant we could limit the outside exposure of the centre inhabitants during these COVID-19 times- one hairstyle at a time!
As the world begins to open up, and we slowly begin to return to a post-pandemic world, we are pleased to announce the return of the Youth Internship –a flagship program of the JJSS that has run since 2015. Sharing a couple of glimpses from past internships here.
This internship is a unique opportunity for young people between the ages of 16-24 years to come together, make new friendships, learn new skills, find themselves and open their eyes to new ways of looking at the world. The annual residential intensive workshop is eagerly awaited by all in the union as it is a time where promising young people from the villages come together for month of fun, challenge and learning. Whether it stepping out of the house for the first time or finding their own voice and learning to facilitate games for children across communities, or doing the important work of confronting our own biases of gender, caste, religion and class, this internship is a lifechanging experience for everyone involved.
In 2020, the pandemic did not allow us to do the internship. But this year, we have been flooded with inquiries from eager young people about the same. Recognising the importance of this flagship program, we have decided to go ahead with the internship this year with necessary COVID precautions in place. The internship will run from July 15 – August 15 with restricted number of participants and field trips. Selections are underway and glimpses from the interview process can be seen here:
Running a month-long residential program requires resources and for that, we need YOUR help! Please help us make the internship happen. We need to raise a little over Rs. 1 lakh. As in the past couple of years, the internship will be hosted and run by the Mosamat Budhiya Shiksha Nirman Sangathan (MBSNS) centre, a sisterly organisation of the JJSS. Please contact Tanmay 8092118525 or Kamayani for details on how to donate.
BUDGET for July Internship 2021
|Travel||2000/team for 4 teams/3 village visits||24000|
|Food||30 persons/20days @Rs. 50||30000|
|Internship Stipend||Rs.1000 for 20 interns||20000|
|Field trip (2 day trip)||30000||30000|
|Stationery kits and survey materials||6000||6000|
Authors for children’s books:
- Ruskin Bond
- Dr Suess
- Asha Nehemiah
- Shel silverstein
- Sudha Murthy
The four dozen odd books we already have with us, are listed below :
Thanks to everyone’s support, despite covid, we have been able to make some progress. Keeping the covid protocol in place, eleven students are at the centre. There is no school to go to, but there is an able team of facilitators and care givers, from Abhimanyu, Mithun, Sangeeta and Shankar ji, who have been available full time at the centre, to Subhash and kamayani, who come in for helping at specific hours in learning exercises. In addition there are volunteers who drop in and help, recently we had Tanmay and Sultan Bhai spend time with the children. You can see Sultan Bhai in this action video* with the children and read about ART classes at the jeevanshala, facilitated by Tanmay, here.**
A TYPICAL DAY AT THE JEEVANSHALA
The children, 7 girls and 4 boys in the ages of 10 and 12, are staying full time at the centre. Their day starts with morning exercises and dhyaan, followed by cleaning of their rooms and shram daan (which includes cleaning the centre grounds, watering plants and trees, preparing mud for walls etc.). After a healthy but light breakfast of choora, moorhi, ankurit (sprouted) or cooked chana, the children sit for their first formal lesson for the day. This is the hindi class, facilitated by Abhimanyu. In this class they read a short story and then summarize it on their own words, enhancing their grasp on the language and improving their imagination. Based upon this summary, the discussion opens up on grammar and usage of hindi language. In parallel to this children also have their baths and put out their clothes to dry.
Soon after Subhash ji and Mithun, take on children in two separate batches. Subhash ji focuses on Maths and Science learning, based on syllabus and text books. Mithun is trying to ensure that all children develop basic computer literacy, and get over their fear of this device. Four computers are installed with games for children. Some of the older children are learning to type, also strengthening their grasp of the English alphabet and language.
COMUTER MASTI WITH MITHUN BHAIYA
The afternoon break is more of a break for the adults, the children eat and just sit around the tiny carom board they have or run around with their small football, if its not too hot.
LEARNING ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
Children are learning English as a second language and it is a rigorous two hours, full of physical activity, games and fun, as also doing hand outs and work sheets. So far the children have scripted a play with the characters in a family (mother, grandmother, father, grandfather, brother, sister and others). The script of the play as played by the children was written down by Mithun and can be read here.*** 11 children came to us one month ago of which 7 could read upto three letter words. However, they did not know the meaning of the words. Some of them despite being able to read English, said “Hamen angrezi nahi aati” (We don’t know English). And I remember one of the parents being there when the kids did the play with two introductory lines “I am P. I am the ‘mother’ in this play.” And one of the parents who happened to be there watching said “Ab P bhi angrezi bolne laga”. The sense of pride was evident. There was one more interesting development, while learning the English alphabets phonetically, we realized some or in fact most of the stories were very alienating like the one about “Jack” and “Jelly” in the “refrigerator”. For children from villages in North Bihar, this story made no sense, so we asked the children if they want to make their own videos, they agreed and in the last week we have made videos for alphabets J,K,L,M,N,P,R and S, which can be found here.**** We also watched some videos, two of these were especially beautiful, telling the story of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. You can see these here and here.******
OUTDOORS AT THE JEEVANSHALA
After a hectic day, the children spend their energies on the field, playing games like kho-kho, dodge ball and kabbadi. Sports like kabaddi and kho kho enhance their team work and also create a favorable environment for girls and boys playing together. Sports like these also help girls in getting over their inhibitions and shame around the body, drilled into them from an early age, encouraging them to discover and display their strength.
After this there is a short meeting to discuss the day long activities, any issues or problems. There is also a self study period assimilating the days work and completing tasks they have been given through the day, ably guided by Sangeeta and Mithun.
MARKING SPECIAL DAYS THROUGH THE MONTH
This month also gave us a lot of opportunity to talk about other things, we celebrated Ambedkar Jayanti on 14th April, talking about Dr. Ambedkar’s childhood, when he was like our little children at the centre. His zeal for education and his commitment to the upliftment of the downtrodden and highlighting the problem of caste was talked about.
We also discussed the idea behind the month of Ramzan, and the festivities of Eid that follow. Abu Sufiyan who is fasting, came to the centre to talk to the children and then we all shared iftari together.
This month (1st May) started with the children understanding why May Day is celebrated. We watched a video shot by village children and also sang the famous song – “Workers United Will Never be Defeated”. Video of the village children can be seen here.
We are looking forward to send you more interesting updates in the coming months.
Here is a small write up from tanmay and Mithun, facilitators in the English class
So we started with a bowl of chits with 10 person names, 10 animals, 10 places and 10 things (total 40 chits). In the first round, children had to go around greeting each other. It looked a bit like this:
“Hello, what is your name?”
“My name is stick” or my name is Katihar or My name is book” or my name is kamayani or My name is jackal.
4 corners of the classroom were marked with name, place, animal, thing. And students had to run to the corner that they thought their new name came under. (So dog would go to animal, kamayani would go to person, bombay to place and so on). We repeated this 3 times. Each time, answers were discussed and those who had gotten it wrong could move over to the correct corner.
Next we did an excerCise –where we listed all the pronouns we could remember. Turned out we remembered only the subject pronouns….but many needed reminding of that also.
We went around the room and expressed what pronouns we would like used for ourselves. We talked about the importance of respecting the choice of someone’s pronoun. Sagar chose to be referred to as she..and we practised using she for sagar. We also said that sagar can change pronouns at anytime and there would be no judgement.
We tried using pronouns in a sentence, talking abt our classmates and people we knew.
While it started with us asking: “How is abhimanyu? Is he fine?
It quickly changed to kids teasing each other saying.. you are a dog. You are a goat (referring back to our first game)
Or we are lions. :P.
Tannu and rani said things like.. I am strong. We are happy.
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrLrjEJ7aSM Fun with Sultan Bhai
**Art Classes at the jeevanshala https://mbsns.org/2021/05/07/art-classes-at-the-jeevanshala/
*** https://mbsns.org/2021/05/06/family/ a play scripted by the jeevanshala children (The story of a Daughter).
**** https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8N8HMdu7KALKBtoGeiOmFw?app=desktop Our videos – learning English phonetically.
***** https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFxvTTaSBRc Mazdoor diwas video
The children also have had a few art classes where they worked on expressing their creativity through colours and lines. At the beginning of each class, students are given drawing prompts such a scenery or animals. Once, they were introduced to shapes (circle, rectangle, square and triangle) and asked to draw as many different everyday objects as possible, using these shapes.
Most recently, the students learnt the art of zentangle.
Zentangles are designs that simple repetative patterns. You can do zentangle designs within a larger outline or combine them together on their own with no defined outline. What is great about zentangle art is that It doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful. Some images of the children’s zentangle art are attached.
He is 10, he likes observing squirrels, he shouts excitedly “watch them dance”. The child of a landless Dalit labourer, this one has a spark in his eye and you know he will go far. She is almost always quiet. She’s 10 but doesnot recognize English or hindi alphabets, though she has memorized the alphabets orally, a common feat managed by children put in rote learning atmospheres provided by our school system. But, sometimes there is a clear interest in her, like, when she calls out ‘mother’ and says it means “माँ”, a word she has choosen to learn in her English class. She is taller than the rest, her physique in her village invites marriage proposals at 13, but she wants to learn at the centre. She wants to know, what is the English word for “शोषण” (exploitation). He’s almost 12, knows how to milk the cow, helps cook meals and manage house, but his parents want him to learn, the centre will help him learn new things but not forget what his parents know. All these children from poor working families want to learn, they have dreams they want to live and you can help them, pl read on to see how.
In 2018, the MBSNS centre was finally in a state to help the learning of some students. In 2021, despite the covid lockdown, four students completed their Twelfth standard and three passed their Tenth boards. The younger ones were sent home in the lock down, but we tried to support their long distance education through local tuitions in their respective villages. For this academic year (2021-22) the MBSNS jeevanshala (school of life) has decided to work with Twenty children on campus, for which we have done some minor infrastructural overhauls and added to the human resources at the centre.
Seven students have already joined on campus and the process of identifying and selecting the other students is still on. Manjhli and Rani, continue to be on campus, while Bhagyashree, Sudhanshu, Priyanshu, Anant and Sachin have joined on the 1st April, 2021. All the children are enrolled in the local government school in classes Five to Eight. We hope to support their education for a period of atleast two years.
Right now given the Covid situation, government schools have been closed and we are engaging the children full time at the centre. The children wake up, to exercises and dhyan, followed by shramdan, a free flowing reading hour, hindi, maths, english and science lessons, basic computer literacy, board games, evening rounds of kabbadi, kho-kho, dodge ball and cricket, along with neighbourhood children. Most of these children are the first generation of their families getting into formal schooling, coming from families of daily wage labourers, who are landless and depend on migration to earn living wages. Though the parents have provided the children with day to day clothing, a trunk to keep their things, two sets of school uniforms and a school bag, and are going to pitch in with rice and wheat at different harvesting seasons, we know that we need to garner much more resources and for this we turn to you. A tentative budget for the year is below. However, this will not be possible without your support.
No contribution is small, please do send whatever you can and it will go a long way.
Cost per child in a year
- Food = Rs 1500 X 12 = 18000
- Tution Fees and supplies = Rs. 1000*12 = 12000
Total Cost for 20 children = Rs. 30000 *20 = 6 Lakh rupees
Fixed cost for living sustenance per year
- Cook @8000 per month = 96,000
- Care Taker @8000 per month = 96,000
- Academic Coordinator @8000 per month = 96000
- Regular Maintenance = @1000 per month = 12,000
Total fixed costs = 3 Lakh rupees
So to run the centre for 20 children, for one year we need about 9 lakh rupees
For further information please contact Abhimanyu (firstname.lastname@example.org) and kamayani (9771950248) email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
To know about the MBSNS ie the Mosamat Budhiya Shiksha Nirman Sangathan pl see https://mbsns.org/
In 2018, we turned to you for support. And thanks to all your support, we were able to see 10 children through their school education, no drop outs. This year post covid-19, we have selected a set of 7 new students and more are to join in. Please do look below for a pictorial introduction to the new group of students and also our appeal.
LEARNING IS FUN AND PLAY – This is the story of a bunch of happy children, unfazed by the harshness of their economic and social realities. Their spirit for learning has not been tamed by rote learning, corporal punishment and other such mores still present in our education system. Even the year they have lost to covid has not affected their spirits. Salaams to their spirits, to their desire to learn!
Anant is 10. He laughs a lot. He’s a happy child. Despite the fact that there has been no school for the last one year, due to Covid, that the Government school in his village has not been child centric, he is very enthusiastic about learning. His parents are landless Dalit daily wage labourers. Jai krishan ji and Sulekha ji put together the little they have to get Anant to the centre, for his further education.
Manjali came to the centre accidentally, in 2019. She was a very timid and silent child, and her sister just got her along on one of her various trips to the centre. Slowly she started opening up and when all the smaller children were asked to leave in March 2020, during the lock down, she spoke, she said she will be back. And a year later, as we recover from covid Manjali is back. She is silent again, but she is opening up fast. Her parents, who are landless Dalit daily wage workers, can ill afford an education for her, but atleast they spare her to be at the centre, when many hold on to their daughters at home, using their free labour.
Priyanshu’s parents are small peasants. They have had some formal education, but more than anything else, they are very aware. Poonam, Priyanshu’s mother, spreads information about health issues in the community, as a Health volunteer, while working her lands, managing the house and bringing up the children. Amar, Priyanshu’s father, is an able farmer, for him education is not about getting a job for Priyanshu, their life as small farmers, with back breaking works, ensures a certain dignity, but he wants his son to learn and be exposed to the world.
Rani has been at the centre the last two years. Her elder brothers have completed their tenth and twelfth, from the centre. She wants to learn, to fly, to get ‘knowledge’ as she likes to put it. She is in the Eighth standard this year.
Sachin’s brother, completed his Twelfth standard from the centre. Sachin like other children comes from a working people’s family. He is enthused by learning and doing well at the centre.
Bhagyashree is the daughter of a brave woman, Sangeeta. Sangeeta was married while still in middle school , but she continued studying and completed her BA. She has stepped out of home boundaries, to make sure her children get to study. Bhagyashree is currently enrolled in 7th standard.
GROUP STUDIES, ALL SMILES AT THE CENTRE.
From March 1st -4th,2021 a small team of three from the MBSNS visited a trade union of landless labourers and marginal farmers based in West Bengal to conduct a 4 day social media content creation workshop with activists and young people from their union. Special thanks to Anuradha di and Swapan da for inviting us in the first place, Ishita, Shovan, Mehendi and Tapojay for the great co-facilitation and hospitality and of course all our new friends at PBKMS.
On Day 1, there were 15 participants spanning ages 16-60. It was inspiring to see that young people from the union were accompanied by 2-3 older/more experienced workers who were determined to learn newer ways of engaging with people. Tula, one of the older women karykartas who stayed till the end of the workshop, and perhaps struggled more than the young people with the new technology, said, “It is crucial we change our ways of bringing people together. We have been organising workers on the ground for the last 30 years and that’s great. But as the times change, we need to update our methods as well.” Abu, a young participant said, “Social media is where many important conversations about the world are happening. It is where many of my friends and I form our opinions. We need to learn, as an organisation how to intervene in these conversations in effective ways.”
Since this workshop was happening right before Bengal elections, it was decided to create some content to comment on the elections. However, we soon realised that we would want to use social media to initiate and impact conversations beyond the immediate elections. Thus, the participants choose a wide range of topics, making videos on a myriads of topics including: Holi, Ambedkar Jayanti, Bengali New Year, electoral turncoats, corruption, climate change, deforestation, ration, pension, inflation, NREGA, there were rich discussions and reflections on the power of social media and the importance of progressive forces/marginalised voices harnessing this power. Some have been shared below:
We live in a world where dominant forces control the content we consume– content that is usually created by and for dominant communities, content that systematically preys on young minds and sows seeds of hatred, and inequality in us. One way to counter this is to have marginalised communities take control of the cultural narrative, by using social media to build and shape opinions, ideas, discourse and eventually, cultures.
Social change work, which is attracting less youth, requires creative tasks such as social media content creation. It can be one of the ways to both use talents of the young and also retain their interest.
The more we work with social media, the more we are convinced that it’s time to truly leverage the empowering capacity of social media. It’s time to let our youth, engaging in people’s movements, take over the critical work of creating and shaping our narratives, to move from being passive consumers of content to being active creators… one video and one post at a time 🙂