Archive for January, 2010

“Bhaiyya I want to become a pilot!” shouted Ameya—an 8 year old boy, bubbling with energy and confidence in my Superstars class. “But Bhaiyya, how do I write Pilot? See na Bhaiyya—P—I—L—E—T? Correct?” followed his impatient question. As I turned to Ameya to help him with his spelling, 33 other equally enthusiastic young minds were scrambling for my attention—“Bhaiyya, I want to be a dancer…teacher…doctor…cricketer…I want to help people…”

I had asked them to write about their ‘Dream Job’—even as I had found mine in teaching a class of Grade 3 children at Epiphany High School—a low income private school in Pune. Everyday, as I step in my classroom, I can see the dreams in my kids’ eyes and feel the eagerness in their hearts to learn new things. Ameya came in as a so called ‘failed’ student in my class. When the school started, his parents came to me, visibly very worried about their child’s future. They even had to carry out a psychometric analysis test—the results of which suggested a low level of IQ and the suggestion that the kid should be moved to a Marathi school.

I pleaded for time. Seven months have passed and Ameya, today, is one of the finest students in my class. He does his homework regularly, he wrote one of the most beautiful letters to his pen-pal in a school in England (through an international link-up). His parents don’t beat him as often as they used to and are happy with his progress.

The journey for Ameya and his classmates is nowhere as smooth and promising as their counterparts in well-off schools. As statistics reveal, as many as 50% of India’s kids drop-out of school by the time they reach Grade 5. Not because their parents don’t want to send their kids to school, but simply because kids are not keeping up with the system of rote learning and poor quality of our education. With no support system and exposure at home for learning, the potential in these kids remains unexplored and even suppressed. Their dreams and ambitions in life fall victim to their circumstances –never to be remembered by anyone.

This reality keeps me driving everyday to work even harder for my class, so that the Ameyas in my class can go on to give wings to their dreams. When I first accepted my two year teaching assignment with Teach for India in April 2009, little did I know that I am about to set off on a most challenging journey in life. The job demanded from me not merely an effective teacher in the classroom but an effective human being at every moment of my existence. Soon it was clear to me that unless I transform myself, I cannot hope to transform the lives of these beautiful young minds in my class.

‘Teaching As Leadership’ as defined by Teach for India, began to assume meaning even as I struggled to keep up with the challenge in its initial phase. I realize that over the months kids have taught me how to be more patient, more forgiving and more cheerful. Eight months into teaching and I truly feel that I have come a long way from the first day when my world was oceans apart from the mysterious little world of children. I can relate with them better now. So much so that, they have become an inseparable part of my life—even in my dreams at night my students do not seem to leave me! I find myself more and more engaged with the mission that ‘One Day All Children Will Attain an Excellent Ed ucation’.

 The truth, however, is that I find myself greatly limited in my capacity to bring about a drastic change. Often I wonder to myself after school, whether the kids learnt anything today? Am I making any difference to their lives? How do I reach out to their parents and communities who have a larger influence on them? How do we tackle issues like mal-nourishment, domestic violence, alcoholism, corporal punishment and child abuse which threaten a child’s healthy growth? I do not have clear answers. My belief comes from an inner hope that I am shaping creative thinking minds as they gear up to face their own challenges in life. It is secondary to me whether or not they will remember what an Adjective or a Noun is. As of now, the only real thing that keeps me going is the unconditional love I receive from my kids. The purity of smile on their faces and their anticipating sunshine eyes shall keep me going. The journey has just really begun…

By Vipul Shaha,

 Fellow, Teach for India


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Teach For India is a nationwide movement of outstanding college graduates and young professionals who will commit two-years to teach full-time in under resourced schools and who will become lifelong leaders working from within various sectors toward the pursuit of equity in education.

Background on the movement:

Teach For India is currently in its second year. Our first batch of 87 Fellows, who come from diverse college and corporate backgrounds, are already teaching in low-income schools in Mumbai and Pune where they are placed for 2 years as full-time class teachers. They are being transformed to become life-long leaders across sectors in the pursuit of educational equity. Our recruitment campaign to find 150 Fellows for 2010 batch of Fellows is currently in full swing. We have been travelling across the nation and have made close to 100 college and corporate presentations already in order to attract the most outstanding college graduates and young professionals to apply to the 2010 Teach For India Fellowship. Close to 6000 people have started the form online, and our upcoming application deadlines are November 22nd and January 10th.

Teach For India Fellows

The Teach For India Fellowship is probably the most challenging and transformational experience of a Fellow’s life. As teachers in classrooms, Fellows have multiple opportunities to confront and tackle challenges, motivate diverse stakeholders to work hard toward a shared vision, create and adjust plans to move further towards their goals and gain the confidence they need to succeed.

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The Teach For India initiative is the catalyst for a new movement to bridge the education gap in India, with its volunteers serving as the spark to inspire children to become successful.

US Secretary of State,Hillary Clinton

Any program working towards improving performance levels of students, particularly from disadvantaged and challenging backgrounds, needs to be encouraged, especially in a country like India. Teach For India aims to do just this…the concept is exemplary.While I am sure the learning levels of students will improve, teaching students from underprivileged backgrounds can be a life altering experience.  What can be more motivating than knowing you are playing a key role in transforming their entire future.

– Anand Mahindra, MD, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited

Teach For India will be driven by young people who through their contribution to inclusive growth will also develop a sense of social responsibility and sensitivity when they become the leaders of tomorrow. Besides improving the quality of education it would most importantly also enhance their own leadership and communications skills.

– Dr Nachiket Mor, President, ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth

Teach For India has the potential to transform the process of K 12 learning in our country and create a whole generation of motivated youth.

– Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman Nasscom / Global CEO, Zensar

I strongly endorse the Teach For India campaign. I am confident that  the young people who participate in this program will themselves benefit immensely from this noble activity.

– Ajit Rangnekar, Dean Indian School of Business

Teachers are real heroes.

Amir Khan, Brand Ambassador Teach For India & Bollywood Superstar.

At Thermax, we want our Trainees to have sensitivity towards all stakeholders and concern for the society in which we live. I am confident Teach For India will develop all these qualities and I fully endorse it.

– Anu Aga, Former Executive Chairperson, Thermax Group

The bright young minds that join this movement are going to harness their learnings and experiences and combine to form a collective force of leaders who will make the difference.

– Rajat Gupta, Senior Partner Emeritus, Mckinsey and Company

The Indian adaptation of the proven TFA model of selecting the best graduates from leading Indian colleges, and training and mentoring them as they spend 2 years in government and poor private schools – where they impart fresh ideas within schools, help children measurably improve their learning levels and themselves become capable leaders – appeals to us.

– Barun Mohanty, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation

When an individual can look around and see a connection between a man that has too much bread and the man that has too little, then it becomes his/her obligation to take action. Teaching was my way of taking action.

– Mariyam Farooq, Teach For America Alumni

In the US, Teach For America alumni serve as school system superintendents, school principals, acclaimed teachers, policy advisers and social entrepreneurs. Teach For India has the potential to have a possibly greater impact in providing all of your country’s children with the opportunities they deserve.

– Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder, Teach For America

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By: Alisha Coelho ()    Date: 2010-01-13

For most of us, Milind Nagda’s current job would be pale in comparison to the six-figure cushy one he had with AMD.

After spending six years in Texas with the processor giant, Nagda is today a full-time primary school teacher at Shindewadi Municipal School in Dadar. Nagda is just one of the fellows of NGO Teach For India’s eponymous two-year fellowship programme.

“The other day, a parent told me that their child was the only one who could string a sentence together in English in his housing society. I’m teaching them a life skill,” said Nagda. When he started seven months ago, 72 per cent of Nagda’s  class couldn’t pronounce three letter words, but now 93 per cent of them can read.

The NGO’s list of 87 fellows boasts of professionals from Godrej, Mahindra & Mahindra and ICICI.

This year, they have received over 2,400 applications and expect to get over 3,000 by January 17 (last date for submission) for 150 positions.

But there are challenges. “We have to train first-time teachers on dealing with regular teachers barging into their classroom or ensuring the children get enough sleep,” said Shaheen Mistri, the organisation’s CEO.

Getting parents to let their children participate in the programme is another hurdle. Shveta Raina, who handles recruitment, said, “They’re worried about what will happen to their children after the programme is over.

My parents were worried too, when I left New York to join the programme, but now they see that this is opened many doors for me.”

The NGO hopes that its 16,400 fellows will impact 7 lakh students and 3000 schools by 2020.

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I was thrilled by an energetic and simple-yet-inspiring visit to his classroom by Mr. Sandeep Singhal, CEO, Nexus Venture Partners.

We co-taught English grammar – Past Tense. He was a natural from the word go, and expertly got the children to make a story (turned out to be about a fox who ate a samosa) using action words… in the past tense. Later the children asked him a gazillion questions about his life, and he answered them with a charming nonchalance. Do come back to our classroom Sandeep Bhaiyya!

Sandeep Singhal is co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners.

Sandeep Singhal has been an entrepreneur and a pioneer of Venture Capital in India. He was co-founder & CEO of Medusind Solutions, one of the leading healthcare outsourcing companies in India. He also was the co-founder of eVentures India, a leading venture firm focused on early stage ventures in India. Several of his earlier investments have had successful exits, including CustomerAsset (acquired by Firstsource), Mentorix Solutions (acquired by Lionbridge), Intigma (acquired by Emptoris), and MakeMyTrip (sale to SAIF Partners). Sandeep has also held senior roles at McKinsey & Company, Digital Equipment and EDA Systems.

Sandeep has an MBA (with Distinction) from The Wharton School with a dual Major in Finance and Marketing, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He is on the Board of TiE Mumbai, and is actively involved with the Entrepreneurs Organization and the Wharton and Stanford India Alumni Associations.

Sachin Jain
Class Teacher, 3rd Standard
Supari Tank Municipal School,
Bandra (West), Bombay, India 400050

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Reliving the moments is what   happiness is all about. It’s what we all crave for. It’s what Indira Aditi experiences   and looks forward to every day with her kids, that’s what she calls her pupils at Divine Child High School.

Every evening, when Indira Aditi returns home, back from  school, even before she can remove her heavy bag   from her shoulders, she is eager to narrate the small little interactions she  had with her kids.  With a joyous sparkle in her eyes she re-enacts and relives those wondrous moments with  Furkhan, Tilakram,  Misbah and the rest of her kids…                                                                       Indira Aditi:  “What happens to the sun   when the moon appears?”

Answer: “The sun goes to take a bath”.

From discovering the truth that lies at the core of innocent expressions, to being overwhelmed by emotions when attending the funeral of   Sahil‘s mother’s untimely death or by Misbah‘s father’s humble request…“ Is it possible for you to teach me too?” Or the day when Anjum‘s   father gifted her a Krishna idol he had made.                                                                                                                                         Indira is learning life’s finer details on her own… and  happily!

The glow of contentment shows through as she looks at me for my reactions and enters her room to freshen up for the second session of her day. All I gather is those innocent little ones at school invigorate her very being all the time that she is there with them. May be she is unaware of the vast learning process that she is going through and growing with, but it’s enlightenment for her every day.

Leaving home early around seven thirty   and returning at eight in the evening. Eagerly narrating the high points of the day, then freshening up followed by Yoga-Kriya, then dinner (an interruption) and finally preparing for the next day and feeding the laptop with all her days work till two in the morning. I call that living life to the fullest. How else do you describe happiness!

I, as her father, look forward to those brief happening moments every evening with Indira Aditi.    Yes, happiness percolates. Isn’t that what we want this world to be!

Jaikrit Rawat

Father: Indira Aditi Rawat

Fellow, Teach For India.

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We, the third graders of Supari Tank visited the Crossword bookstore on Saturday, December 12, 2009 after school. Sachin Bhaiyya and Elena Didi took us there in two autorickshaws. Our class chant “Read baby read” says, “The more we read, the more we learn. Knowledge is power, and power is freedom, and we want it!” After visiting the bookstore I understood what our chant really means.

When we  reached the store we checked in our schoolbags, got tokens and said thank-you to the guard who smiled at us. The shop was like a big, blue lake of reading water and the books were like its waves. It was waiting for us to start drinking from it. I felt thirsty. There were rows and rows of coloured books. Each row was seven shelves high and neatly arranged books towered over us on all sides. First we stopped at the Top 10 fic… fiction and non-fiction section. Bhaiyya said that these books were liked by lots of people who spent money to buy them. Surely they must be something special! We took out a book called The Kite Runner. It was written by Khaled Hosseini. I ran my hands over the smooth cover. There was a beautiful picture on it of a boy looking at something beyond a door. It must be something that happens in the story. I don’t know why but I held the book to my nose and inhaled the smell of the fresh new pages deeply. I could almost smell the wonderful worlds of adventure and magic that awaited us. Seeing my example, all my friends buried their noses in their books and breathed deeply. One boy breathed so deeply he started to cough!

The children’s section was upstairs but we did not go there at first. We walked slowly through the whole shop and saw different types of books. Book shops are like candy shops. All candy is sweet but it comes in different flavours. Even books, they are all meant to be read but each one talks about different things. Orange-coloured boards high above us told us what section we were in. We had to crane our necks to read them. In art, we sampled through a coffee table book on paintings. We felt like laughing as the people in some paintings were not wearing any clothes! I had to hold my hand on my mouth to stop giggling. In Travel there were books about faraway places. These places are real and you have to sit in a plane to go and see them. We pulled out Lonely Planet China (“From Chandni Chowk to China!”), saw photos of the Great Wall. To say hello in Chinese you have to say “Ni hao”. Then was Business and Management. I took a walk around Self-improvement, past the legs of customers waiting to pay their money. A sign said discount and percentages were marked in red marker pen on white labels on the books.

Sachin Bhaiyya took another book “Maximum City” – and showed us the photo of Suketu Mehta, the bhaiyya who wrote it. Hmm. Suketu Bhaiyya doesn’t seem very different from me. When I grow up maybe I can become a writer too. How lovely it would be to have a book I have written shining like that on a shelf in Crossword! Sachin Bhaiyya explained how we could read the main idea of the book on the back cover to know what it was about. Then we could decide if we wanted to buy it or not. The Encyclopedia section was amazing. We found an atlas of the universe. I looked and looked at the beautiful Milky Way. I want to sit on the rings of Saturn but it is very far. Sachin Bhaiyya was worried we might tear the page. Elena Didi told us we had to be quiet in a bookstore. They should not worry so much. We are grown ups now!

Then we went up the stairs to the children’s section. On our right was a fluffy red Santa Claus. I hugged him. This part of the shop was marvelous! There were comics – Tinkle and Tintin and Asterix! There were story books with flaps that opened and toys for learning that sang alphabets and numbers. Many other children were there with their mummies and papas. And the toys! Scrabble and Pictionary and Lego. Bhaiyya plays them with us in school during the recess sometimes. Now we sat down on the fluffy carpet to read. The carpet had pictures of my favourite cartoons on it. I even spotted Pinocchio, whose tales are in our Balbharti English text-book. We read and read. There were so many books there. I wanted to read and read. I did not want to go home. It was cold and I wanted to go to the bathroom. But I wanted to read so much so I controlled myself and read some more. Picture books and story books and colouring books and comics and poems and fairy tales. Would bhaiyya and didi bring us back here?

Finally it was time to leave. Bhaiyya and didi asked us to choose a Ladybird fairytale book for each of us. I chose ‘Rapunzel’. I felt very proud to collect my book in a bag and leave the store. We gave our tokens and got our bags. Outside again, bhaiyya talked to us about reading flue.. fluency and sight words. He said that we should be able to read many words correctly in a story so that we can read more, understand more and learn more, and so be able to read even more! I am so excited to read. I can’t wait to go home and see my gift.

We took a taxi and returned to school where our parents were waiting for us. On the way we excitedly talked about all the different books we saw and read. When I grow up I am going to work in a bookshop. Then I can read all the books I want and at any time. Reading will be my work. I will be in a house made of chocolate stories, with chairs made of comics cake and walls made of poems pie. Or maybe I will become like that bhaiyya on the back cover of the book. I will write a story. Then everyone will read it. And my mummy and papa will be very happy!

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