Archive for the ‘Snapshot’ Category

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

India lives in villages. This is one of the most common saying we have heard but there are very few who want to go and understand the problems that are being faced by our villages.

Gramya Manthan (Rural Immersion Program) is dedicated to developing social leaders; well-rounded youngsters who are equipped with leadership skills to solve the challenges faced by Indian villages. Its core aim is to ignite young hearts with holistic concern for their society and nation.

Gramya Manthan aims at bridging the gap between India and Bharat. It will select 50 most amazing hearts from the country and take them on a rural exploration. The idea is to make youth realize the pressing issues of our country, it will help them understand the problems of our villages and execute solution during the course of program. It will be a 9 day (Weekend to Weekend) residential program in the remotest part of our country with the intent to rediscover Bharat by experiencing the burning issues.

Apply Now: http://youthallianceofindia.org/gramya-manthan/apply-now/

Gramya Manthan’s Core Purpose:

There is a huge sense of disconnect between rural India and today’s youth. Youth has no clue of what are the problems being faced by our brothers and sisters in rural parts. They have read a lot, heard about the issues but have mostly never experienced or if experienced then they did not get a chance to think and execute solutions over there. We strongly believe that youth wants to contribute but often finds it hard to figure out the right way to go about it.  We believe that by exposing passionate young people to these issues and giving them opportunity to solve small problems, we can ignite the fire in their hearts. This fire can make them think of both “Why they ?” and “How ?”, it will infuse a high sense of  ”I Can” in them.

  • It will change the outlook of young people towards issues in rural India and enhance their skills and knowledge to address them
  • It will provide the young with the ability to seek holistic long term solutions and provide them great alternate career choices
  • Turn the direction of conversation among youth groups  from mere discussion of problems to solution oriented talks, and eventually action oriented plans
  • Develop a pool of social leaders and build a strong network
  • Create a community of youth who could serve as role model for their contemporaries
  • Inspire  to act, cause attitudinal shift in mindset


Gramya Manthan (Rural Immersion Program) is divided in three stages:

Part 1: Induction and Case Studies of model villages of India (first two days)

Part 2: Living the way villagers live (a day with a village family)

Part 3: Work in a village and address one of the prevailing problems coupled with group reflections, sharing and leadership forums

About Youth Alliance:

Youth Alliance is an organization working with a vision to “Connect EACH Youth With a Cause”. We believe in the philosophy of sensitizing young people towards the society by showing them the real picture and connecting them to ground reality. We are aiming at nurturing young role models in the society. We also have a range of programs like “Lead The Change”; “Samarpan”; ”Come Alive” meant to create awareness as well as bring change in society.

For more details: http://youthallianceofindia.org

 Contact: 07838540546

Email: info@youthallianceofindia.org


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Srini Swaminathan is the TFI blogger of the month! He gets our very special

Seal of approval!!

Seal of approval

Having spent a few months in the classroom (and TeachForIndia) now, I can conveniently classify my life as BTFI/ATFI (before joining TFI and after joining TFI). ATFI could also mean After the Fellowship at TFI, but then, I’ll write about this in 2012. Right now, it is too early to say anything about my post-fellowship plans !

So, BTFI, I used to work in the Oilfield , where most workers are on call 24 X 7. I often spent more time traveling to the wellsites than the actual work. Once I got to the rigs, depending on the work, I could be awake anywhere from a few hours to days. The longest has been 2 weeks of intermittent sleep. SO much loss of sleep and hardwork. But, more than the fat invoice and bonus, it was the satisfaction of completing a really challenging job that often brought a smile when we “rigged down” and went to sleep, sometimes even without eating anything. Sleep was more important than anything else.

BTFI, I used to think that the fellowship might not keep me as busy as before and I ll be able to spend a lot of time in doing things that aren’t related to work. And I must admit that I was way off the reality !  I could start rattling off the oh-so-many things to do as a Teacher and a TFI Fellow but then I don’t really want to bore you with all that right now. It is 1:31 AM now and all I want to write here is the sudden thought that struck me when I was in the train today – I am often spending more than 13 hours out of my apartment. In Mumbai, where traveling takes up most of one’s time, this just means School + a meeting + dinner + back home. Nothing fancy.

At TeachForIndia, there are regular training sessions, meetings, leadership forums, sharing sessions and debriefs. I had a debrief today. About yesterday’s class that was quite a disaster (oh well, that is another story !Will write about it soon). After that, I traveled all the way from Parel to Parle (Just one shuffle of alphabet but so much of travel !) to pick up digital cameras for my class kids. An acquaintance was giving them to the kids for them to take home and shoot their home, family, friends and surroundings and give it back to us to see what the kids liked to click. Today was the cameras. On other days, it is something else.

Amidst all this, it is quite a challenge to try and maintain even a semblance of your life BTFI. Meeting friends, catching up a movie, going for a run or a swim or whatever that you love to do and need time might actually become a challenge if not impossible. I love running and cycling and still find time to do these in this crazy maximum city.I find time to get that coffee at a CCD, watch a movie, go to the beach or just relax at home listening to music. I even managed to go home twice !

Yet, this life is not for the weak hearted or those who easily give up. A Teacher is a juggler. A master juggler. With the To-do s constantly hovering over one; head, a Teacher needs to prioritise everything, manage time effectively and maintain a balance between strengthening what is already going well in the classroom while thinking/researching for ways and ideas to implement that would accelerate learning. But, as I can tell you now, it is the end of a really long, tiring day. I am going to sleep with a smile. I am hungry though! 😀

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Here are a few links to some blogs by TFI fellows from the 2009 and 2010 cohort and TFI staff members.

  • TFI Journey: Srini, a 2010 Teach For India Fellow, writes about his journey with Teach for India and  his stories of change both inside and outside his classroom in Dharavi, Mumbai.
  • It’s Political Motivational and…: Prakhar is a 2009 Teach for India Fellow. He has been teaching for a year now and his blog is an amazing repository of stories about his time as a teacher in a school called Sant Gadge Maharaj in Kondhwa, Pune. Do check out the “Letters to my friends” section on his blog for some great snippets of his life as a TFI fellow.
  • Teaching as Leadership (Astitva): Another 2009 Teach for India Fellow, Dhiren teaches in K.C. Thackrey Vidya Niketan school in Pune. Besides his refelctions on his two year stint with Teach For India, a strongly recommended section on his blog would be his strategies to teach mathematics to children.
  • Belief: Ritika is a Teach for India fellow from the 2010 cohort. She teaches in a school in Mumbai and the blog is her diary about the TFI experience. Keep an eye out for some great pictures.
  • Mahesh Prajapati: Mahesh is also a 2010 Teach for India fellow. He teaches in Mumbai and writes about his experiences on the blog. He also writes lovely poetry in Hindi!
  • My White Lotus: My White Lotus is Tarun’s exhaustive and wonderfully written description of his journey as a Teach for India fellow since the past year and a half in Pune. Do read his recollections from his recent trip to visit charter schools in NY as a Teach for India fellow.
  • One in billion: Taylor is a staff member at Teach for India and has helped launch the Teach for India movement. His blog, as the introduction says, is about five things “- experiences related to living and working in India, happenings at Teach For India (my employer), development and fundraising-related, career-building, and entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, smart business ideas. “
  • I Teach for India: With a very appropriately named blog, Divesh is a 201o Teach for India fellow. Read about his journey and “Why” he chooses to Teach for India.
  • Reflections of my mind: Aritra is a part of the 2010 batch Teach for India fellows and the blog is his reflection as a Teach for India fellow in a school in Pune.
  • Walking in their shoes: Raisa is also a 2010 batch Teach for India fellow or a “tenner” as they are called. She teaches in Mumbai and her blog is peppered with some great pics displaying her immense creativity.
  • Insane Inanities: A 2010 Teach for India fellow, Anurag seeks to write about his journey to Teach from India from his college. He teaches in Mumbai.
  • Frogs in my class: Meera is a 2010 Teach for India fellow. The curious title of the blog alludes to some real frogs who share Meera and her students’ class with them. Her blog is filled with her experiences as a teacher in a school in Pune and sometimes even a humourous take on them as the title of the blog suggests.
  • With the Left and the Right: Srikanth, also a tenner, teaches in Pune and the blog is a mix of his experiences in the classroom as a Teach for India fellow and all that he gets to do in his spare time (whenever he might find it).
  • Edoocation: Milind is a 2009 fellow and has been teaching in Mumbai since the past year and a half. On his blog, he speaks about his views on Education policy and issues as seen through his experience as a Teach for India fellow. He also came up with the wonderful idea of listing down the dreams/aspirations/ideas of all the 2009 fellows post their two year fellowship. Read about them on his blog.
  • Words Raining: Dhanya is a 2010 Teach for India fellow teaching in Mumbai. On her blog, she writes about her experiences as class teacher in a school in Mumbai as a tenner.
  • They Teach; I Learn: Subhadra is from the 2009 cohort of Teach for India fellows. She teaches the 5th standard in Mumbai. They Teach; I Learn, a blog title which speaks volumes, is a rich and often moving record of her experience as a teacher in Mumbai.
  • Be the Change: Be the Change, which is also the Teach for India motto, is Rahul’s blog. He is a 2009 Teach for India fellow and teaches in Mumbai. His blog not only contains his experiences as a TFI fellow since the past one and a half year but also his opinions and ideas drawn from his work as a Teach for India fellow, on how to improve the state of education in India.
  • Delusions, allusions, illusions, visions: Meenakshi is a 2010 Teach for India fellow teaching in a school in Pune. She muses, alludes, talks about her life as a teacher in Pune and the delusions, illusions and visions therein.
  • The classroom for learning: Manu is a 2009 Teach for India fellow and has been teaching in a chool in Pune since the past year and a half. As a part of his summer internship, which he did as a part of his Teach for India fellowship, he interned at the Druk White Lotus Shey in Ladakh. He has posted a video of his experiences there. Also read about his experiences as a TFI fellow accompanied with some great videos and pictures.
  • Conviction in Your Thoughts: “Conviction in Your Thoughts” is the title of Ritesh’s accounts of his two year stint with Teach for India. He is a fellow from the 2009 Teach for India cohort and teaches in Pune. On his blog, he reflects as an individual and as a teacher about his experiences during this fellowship. Read his post on “The challenges of being Abu“, which is his chronicle of his student, Abu’s, life with him.
  • in on under above : Neha is a 2010 batch fellow. She writes about funny incidents and sometimes revelations in her classroom. Currently she is a grade 2 teacher in Worli Seaface BMC School in Mumbai.
  • Gunvant Jain : Blog by 2010 Fellow and IIT-Madras graduate Gunvant. Some excellent articles on skill-based learning.

The opinions or column written by these fellows or staff are their  own personal experiences.

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The school I teach in is under resourced. Roofs leak. There are no bulletin boards to pin up charts, just some rudimentary nails.  Walls are not plastered. Tape does not stick.

So what do we do? We use Blu Tac. Tons of it. Bang with the sides of our hands until we lose all feeling in our hands. Ok, fine, I am exaggerating. But only mildly. But seriously, can the Blue Tak guys give us free Blu Tac, please?

Every bit of wall space is vital to reinforcing learning. Here is how Sanaya does it (& amazingly well, I must add).

Sanaya Bharucha is a second year fellow of Teach for India. She teaches 4th grade in the same school that I teach in. She took up for the fellowship right after her graduation.

During a free period, I walked into the 4th grade classroom the other day, just to watch. It took me a good 15 minutes to just digest the content of learning aids in the classroom.

Here are some poor quality pictures to give you a glimpse of what Sanaya in particular and Teach for India fellows in general do to make their classrooms a great place for learning.

Welcome to Sanaya’s 4th Grade Classroom!

Rules of the Class

Usually, a mnemonic like “LEARN” is used to reinforce the rules of the class. When the teacher says “LEARN” the class knows exactly what it stands for.

Sight Words Wall

Sight word wall – Children learn to recognise & read frequently used words in english by observing their pattern repeatedly. This improves their reading fluency. Transparent sheet is cut and pasted on the wall using tons of Blue Tak. Individual words are cut out to maintain the pattern and pasted on the sheet.

Mistakes Poem

I love this poem! I read it on my first day as a teacher and I repeat this to myself every time my class bombs 🙂  But seriously, what a lovely way to reinforce the culture of trying out new things without the fear of failure!

The clock reinforces urgency, as it should

Even the small space under the clock has been used for reinforcing facts along with the lovely Super Fast => Super Smart, reinforcing that one should not waste any learning time in class.

A cute poem on How to read a clock

Mnemonics to remember seemingly simple yet sometimes confusing concepts.

The Window Facts

This tops the cake when it comes to resourcefulness! The window  is used to reinforce learning. Facts about days of the year are neatly written on the cast iron shutters. I love this! Even if the inattentive child looks out the window, he will find facts assaulting him. You cannot escape learning in this class, Guys. *Evil Laughter*

You may notice that none of these learning aids cost the earth and moon. Materials used are chart paper & Blu Tac. Very affordable & mostly re-usable. Nothing imported, nothing that is shipped from far off lands, nothing out of the world. Content is a result of focussed thinking and creativity – which the Teach for India Fellow brings into the classroom in abundance. All Fellows work within a shoe-string budget.

Thanks to Sanaya for letting me feature her classroom on the blog.


TFI Fellow 2010 Batch

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Hey friends just six days left to take the first  step in  joining  the movement which has the potential to define the beginning of a new era in India.





  • 26% of India’s government primary schools have a pupil-teacher ratio above 60
  • 20% of India’s government primary schools have only one teacher (Aggwaral, 2000).
  • In India, poor school infrastructure and access means that 1 in 4 teachers will be absent on any given day.  Of those who are present, only 50% are likely to be teaching at any given time (http://ideas.repec.org/a/tpr/jeurec/v3y2005i2-3p658-667.html)
  • 58% of India’s government primary schools have just two teachers (Aggwaral, 2000).
  • Another myth about educational inequity is that parents pull their kids out of school so they can help with income-earning work.  The truth is that the majority of out-of-school youth do very little work – and the majority of those who do work say they’re doing it because they left school (often due to poor quality of schooling) and have nothing else to do (Chaudhri, 1996 and CINI-ASHA, 1996).

Prakhar Mishra

Fellow, Teach For India.

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Shaheen Mistri always knew that the best gift a poor child could be given was education. Shes done just that from 60 centres and six municipal schools in Mumbai and Pune



My second centre was in a room under the staircase of the boys hostel at St Xaviers College

In the summer of 1989, Shaheen Mistri, just 18 then, watched as street urchins with bright eyes pounded on car windows at a traffic light, holding out their palms for a coin, or a crumb, only to be swatted like flies by the rush of people both irritable and impatient . Her heart went out to them, and in one swift roll-down of the windowpane, Shaheen had let the kids into her life.
Then a first-year student at a college in America, Shaheen had lived abroad all her life and was in Mumbai on a vacation. The poverty she saw on the streets of Maximum City moved her so much that she decided to stay back in India to do her bit.
Shaheen dived headlong into the slums of Mumbai and founded Akanksha, now one of urban Indias most popular NGOs with an army of volunteers teaching underprivileged kids at over 60 centres in Mumbai and Pune. Akanksha also runs six municipal schools in the two cities. We want to develop them as model schools for government bodies as well as NGOs to emulate, says Shaheen.
At the heart of Akankshas success lies Shaheens infectious, childlike enthusiasm coupled with innate resourcefulness. I had never visited a slum, so I simply marched into one at Cuffe Parade, and instantly connected with a girl my age, although she didnt know any English and I barely spoke a word of Hindi, she says. Shaheen would visit her every day after college. She picked up a smattering of Hindi from the slum kids, and began teaching them English.
Its here that Shaheen learnt how unfair the world was. I would walk into a home and see a child born one day, only to return a couple of days later and find that the child had died of some preventable disease like diarrhoea, she says. I found this unacceptable.
Soon she felt the kids needed more than just English classes. They would hang around doing nothing all day. They needed to see what a classroom looked like.
And so began Shaheens long search for a place where she could start her first centre . I approached several school principals and asked them whether I could use one of their classrooms, after hours. But almost all of them refused, she says, adding that finally she hit bulls eye at Holy Name High School, Colaba.
Her second centre was in a room under the staircase of the boys hostel at St Xaviers College. Shaheen would go from class to class with hand-painted posters recruiting students for Akanksha. In the beginning, most volunteers were students of St Xaviers . Two decades later, Shaheen has used the same enthusiasm to motivate college students and young professionals to join the Teach For India programme, which has seen a hundred young people devote two years of their lives for the mission.
The transition from Akanksha to Teach For India was no easy task. It was really hard to leave Akanksha, she says. I was able to do it only because I felt I was giving young people the opportunity to work directly with kids and to understand that eliminating poverty was the way to begin a huge movement towards eliminating inequity . Every child needs to be given an excellent education.

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Much water has flown under the bridge, ever since the first article was written as a TFI fellow. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support in word and kind. Infact, I struggle on a daily basis to make the optimal use of resources I have amassed.


Quick facts: I have books still unutilized; I have teaching aids like abacus, globe, flash cards not being used to their potential; I have loads of CDs which haven’t come under my kids scanner; I have a resource centre space which is open and waiting for computers to come in. This is the inefficiency of a guy who works through the week with only single pursuit. I can only dare to multiply what it is like in those 10 million classrooms like mine around the country, in which teacher motivation is the first hurdle to cross.

In my struggle to make a meaningful difference, time and energy continue to be my foes. If I have to single out the biggest challenge, this is it. How do I democratize education in a classroom and yet provide Socratic education to each and every child at his readiness levels? When I see my mastery scores dip to 40% in Reading comprehension, when my kids score an average of 35% in Social Sciences just coz they can’t read English, when progress doesn’t have a direct correlation to your efforts – I sit and cringe. When I look at my despair in that moment, I can only laugh at myself for the moments I wrote essays from ivory towers about Indian education system and teacher apathy; I can ridicule myself for waxing eloquent about the “paradigm shift” that needs to happen in the education system. When I walked in the first day, I told myself this, “If my kids are 2.5 years behind, I will strive to be 2.5 times better than the best 3rd standard teacher in this country”. I manage to barely stand equivalent to the average private school teacher!!

Last week, when I came back from an Art fest on Saturday evening, managing to stay awake running on antibiotics for 24 hrs, I crashed head on for the next 13 hrs. I woke up and worked through the Sunday on a Unit assessment creation almost in a robotic fashion. I knew then that I hit my limits of physical, mental and spiritual capacities and yet there was so much more to be done for the classroom. What do I do for Ganesh, the dyslexic? What do I do for Saurabh and Vinay, who have an attention disability? What do I do for the kleptomaniac, Nirmala? What do I do for Poonam, who still believes in the dreams of running a kirana shop than a dream of higher education? What do I do for all my 10 lowest level kids who are falling even more behind? What do I do to Daniel and Swapnil who deserve a Socratic education? In all these permutations, how do I still pull off an Annual day English play? What about shaping the culture of the school? What about the research on the community development project? As my microness consumes me, I shudder to think how most of our people’s representatives catch a goodnight’s sleep.

When I saw this video of “Once upon a School” on TED, it gave me hope. Hope that there was an idea worth pursuing. Hope that things can be made more efficient. Hope in the message of the painting that stands right above my class board, “Every cloud has a silver lining”.

Think of the most memorable moments of your life. Was it the day you showed the Archimedes principle to your mom in the bathroom? Was it the day when you collected fruits with your dad for a solar system model? Or the day your sister from the neighborhood prepared you to intonate the Bruce and the Spider story? Or the day you won those gold medals? Or maybe the day you made your successful boardroom presentations? All of us know our answers even on the wrong side of the bed.

If you’ve read this far, please do read on for the next few lines. Here’s my proposal to adapt the TED idea. I am looking for mentors for my kids. A mentor per kid is my target. The expectations are simple. Give your mental and physical faculties to a child for at least a few hours a week. The structure of what’s and how’s to be done will be in place (I will ensure that). You will assist your kid as a mentor in reading, writing and Maths work apart from keeping him/her motivated for education. If you are the one who loves data to substantiate a point, take this. 45 hrs of one to one tutorship by a graduate in an year on an average improves the grade level of a kid by 1. In short, you are doing my job of providing a grade level excellent education to 34 kids at the same time in 1/6th the time with 1 kid.


100 years from now, it won’t matter how much money we made, how many cars we had owned, how many places we had visited, how many people we knew. But, it matters that you made a difference to a kid’s life. So, here’s asking you for 60 minutes of idealism. 60 minutes of being the change. 60 minutes of creation. 60 minutes to let yourself be changed by a 9 year old.

60 minutes to make a difference to the status quo. Period. The clock is ticking.

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