Archive for January, 2018

Teachers’ Skill Development

RDF has been partnering with Tech Mahindra Foundation for the past 4 years in order to improve the quality of education in 2 Government schools that TMF has adopted. The School Quality Improvement Program (SQIP) involves RDF planning and implementing best practices to enhance the teaching and learning environment in Zilla Parishad High School and Mandal Parishad Primary School in Bahadurapally. An integral part of this approach is the skill development of government school teachers through visiting RDF schools and being mentored and trained by senior staff from RDF schools. This is an established practice in all RDF schools, wherein teachers visit other schools to observe classes and processes in order to share and learn from one another. This fosters a spirit of team work and harmony amongst schools, teachers and children.

Introductions during morning assembly

School observation accompanied by MS coordinators

As part of this skill development and learning initiative, 4 government teachers from MPPS and 8 RDF teaching staff from RDF schools visited Matendla School in Siddipet district. They observed the morning assembly which also provided an opportunity for the visitors to introduce themselves to the school. The children presented songs and stories as a special activity during the assembly to welcome the visitors.  The unique clapping system was really appreciated by everyone.

Examining the Word Wall

Classroom observation

Thereafter, accompanied by school coordinators, the visiting staff observed classroom teaching, sports activities, kitchen garden, kitchen and libraray. The display work in the classrooms and corridors attracted the attention of visitors especially in the pre primary block. They admired the ideas and creativity of the students. The teachers were mesmerized by the display of well organized behaviour of the staff and the students during leisure time and the midday meal.

 Each visiting member shared their observations, experiences and expressed a wish to implement some of the best practices like – systematic clapping, encouraging individual talent like dancing, singing, display work, following road rules in the school corridors using colour cones as dividers, using ice cream sticks to call student by name (names are written on the sticks), Word Tree to develop English vocabulary etc.

As a token of appreciation, one of the Government teachers, Mrs. Chinnamma offered biscuits to children and another teacher, Mr. Surendar, announced that the students scoring 10 out of 10 in the board examinations will be gifted with a cash award of Rs 2000.

We are happy that this program gives an opportunity to empower teachers to reach out and learn from one another, work together for everyone’s benefit. We are glad that the years spent in promoting and implementing such a practice is bearing rich fruit and that the culture of sharing and learning is extending beyond RDF schools.




Cultivating Children’s Development

Growing our own food is an act of sacredness. In cities, our lives can be very distanced from the natural elements and the chain of people who grow our food. In fact, seeing our food grow from its seedling stage to our plates gives an immense feeling of satisfaction. Since RDF children live in financially deprived, rural agrarian communities, it was important for us to cultivate a mindset in which they see their agrarian history as having provided them with a richness of skills and experience and not something as challenging and thus avoided. While that is a reality, it became necessary for us to help them appreciate what they have grown up with and an understanding of the cycle of food – the cycle of life itself!

In Rollakal School, the school yard is being used as a vegetable garden. In fact, it is a wonderful way to use the school yard as another classroom, helping students connect deeply with the natural world – the true source of their food. Simultaneously, they also learn valuable farming concepts, methods and skills that integrate with academic subjects such as Maths, Science, Physical Education and their health. The school has had a bounty of tomatoes, greens, lady’s finger etc. which is providing a rich source of delicious food for their midday meal.

Working together on the school farm is yielding tremendous positive impact for the children who are gaining not just food knowledge and learning about growing their own food, but also about patience, cooperation, team work and social skills. Working with their hands and seeing the fruits of their labour are imbibing our children with a sense of self confidence and a sense of ‘capableness’. We find the children very excited when it’s time to go into the garden and work there. Every child, regardless of their intelligence or capability level finds something to do in the vegetable garden and that, in addition to everything else they learn, is something we positively cherish!

‘Foam’enting Inventiveness

How many of us remember Science classes, trying to understand Physics, Chemistry or Biology only through theory and trying to grasp these theories with just our minds? But take the same concepts into the realm of experiments and suddenly complex theories become so clear and simple to understand!

Science needs hands on learning. It is to this end that a ton of effort is put into teacher training in our schools so that teachers understand new concepts and ideas to make their subjects interesting, to enable child to learn in interesting ways, thus retaining the learning. Once a concept is grasped, ideas and creativity to understand a concept better keep mushrooming! We have seen this time and again with our students.

In Kalleda School, students and teachers turned their attention to soaps- how they are formulated, what makes them pure or impure. Through a series of demonstrations, the Chemistry teacher made the students observe the foaming capacity of soap samples that were purchased from the market.

They were able to grasp how the purity of soaps is related to its foaming capacity. Through this experiment, they were able to clearly understand how soaps are made, understand their quality and differentiate between various soap formulations. Coming away with new knowledge and a greater understanding of stuff we use on a daily basis is the kind of positive impact we hope to nuture in every RDF student.

Now, at some stage, we are sure we will see some innovation related to soaps coming from the imaginative minds of our students!


The Web of Learning

Learning exists all around us. It is a fallacy that learning only exists in classrooms from a teacher who holds the key to knowledge. But we have seen that we can learning something from everyone. This is something that we inculcate early on in RDF schools, where everyone is seen as a learner and a teacher!

Kalyani, helping in her parent’s fields

Class 4 student, Kalyani, who studies in Redlawada School, like many RDF children helps her parents on the farm. She is learning so much from the life of farming with her parents. She is learning about the value of traditional work and agriculture from them – the challenges, the hard work, the vagaries of nature, about soil, water, crop cycles – life in the real world. Kalyani’s parents are teachers too and in turn, Kalyani can teach so much to anyone who has never had exposure to this way of life.

From the same school, come lessons from one of its first alumnus, Swapna. With aspirations to become an Engineer, Swapna is now pursuing B-Tech. She is happy to be following her dreams, after getting a good start in RDF. She returned to her school to give a motivational talk about following one’s goals to Class 10 students. Swapna, the motivational teacher,  emphasized the importance of English and Communication skills. It’s great to see the spectrum of learning that exists – right from one’s parents to ex-students! We are grateful for this web of connection that supports each and every one of our students inch closer to their goals and dreams!



Unlikely Hero!

People have a tendency to salute those to achieve great feats or those walking the halls of fame. But we have many unsung role models who do their work quietly and care for no fame.

Today we would like to celebrate the life of Badavath Kumar, a student of the RDF VAPV Junior College. He belongs to a poor family – his father works on a small farm and his mother is a daily wage labourer. Both parents are illiterate. Badavath has always taken everything he does seriously – be it college studies, helping his parents or pursuing his dreams. He attends college regularly and is always at the top of his class. He helps his mother with house hold working every morning and assists his father in the field in the evenings. He continues with determination and focus even during festivals and holidays!

He has treasured the sacrifices that his parents have been making to help him get an education. See their daily hardship and wanting to help them in every way, he has been helping his father learn new methods of cultivation. For the past one year, he has been cultivating the land and has been able to generate better yields than previous years! He consults role model farmers in order to understand and learn better methods of cultivation and has been passing on this new found knowledge to his father.

With this deep understanding of the issues that besiege the agricultural sector, Badavath has his heart set on becoming an agricultural scientist, so that he can help more people like his father learn better agricultural techniques. With a drive to help poor, rural, agricultural communities; he has already been passing on methods to use and conserve water better, not burn crops and reduce the usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He dreams that he can pass on the torch of advanced agricultural practices to his peers and generations to come, to help farming communities in India.

We applaud quiet leaders and heroes like Badavath, who work tirelessly in remote parts of India and shine a light for struggling, underprivileged communities, empowering them with their zeal and perseverance!


The Spirit of Giving and Volunteering

Volunteers – their spirit of giving, their generosity of time, effort and commitment have been an integral part of RDF’s story since inception. RDF has been progressing for over two decades, not only due to financial support from organizations and individuals, but very importantly, also because of the many individuals who have volunteered their time to support RDF’s work.

Ms. Geeta Nambiar, an educationist from Chennai has volunteered with many NGOs across the world. She recently spent one month based in Matendla School, to offer her services to the students and the school team there. With English being a necessary language and skill in today’s world, she focused her efforts on working with Pre-primary and primary children and teachers to build their English communication skills. She also spent time with the villagers who asked her a very important question – “What is the use of staying for just a month? To make a difference you have to stay for a year.” She was unable to stay longer, but feels that in order to support the school and community’s development, other volunteers should try to stay longer.

She wrote a beautiful note about her stay at the school and her interactions with the local community –

Ms. Nambiar, in a teacher training session in MS

It was a privilege, indeed, to help the teachers with their English, at this school, which started under the trees, nearly 20 years ago and waited for 7 years before it got its beautiful building.
I was deeply moved to hear that every brick was handmade by the parents. These unlettered farmers and shepherds realized the value of education and later, the value of English when they requested for the change of medium.
The villagers were warm and friendly and invited me to their homes and many asked many questions. As first generation learners, educated in the Telegu  medium, the sincere, dedicated teachers truly deserve support .
The school is run with transparency, honesty and integrity and optimum utilization of resources including human resources. Discipline is strict but benevolent and the students happy, healthy, friendly and confident. Congratulations to the RDF and to the staff and students on what has been achieved in Matendla. May you go from strength to strength.”

Ms. Nambiar’s commitment created a wealth of experience for the children, teachers and the extended community. Her stay will be cherished forever in our memory and we are very grateful for her selfless support!

Mr. Kaeding’s note about the 4 schools

Another visitor to the RDF Kalleda School campus recently was Mr. Erik Kaeding, an educationist and attorney from California, USA, who has been supporting RDF’s sister NGO, the India Rural Development Fund (IRDF), for several years, through fundraising efforts and also served on the IRDF board. This was his third visit to RDF and he took the time to visit the four schools. He observed classes, interacting with teachers and students. He appreciated the training the teachers have gone through that enables them to create student friendly teaching and learning techniques that enrich the classes. He provided feedback and suggestion for improvement, including suggesting other child friendly techniques for teaching. He also took a tour of the organic farms and the school labs. He was impressed with the expansion of infrastructure in the four schools that includes more classrooms and school buses. The methodical transition to English medium and the increasing use of English in conversation and in teaching also made a positive impression on him.

Mr. Kaeding, interacting with villagers

He met several parents in each school, taking feedback on the education system and facilities at the schools. He was very happy to learn that the parents are satisfied with the facilities and the quality of education being provided and that the children are also happy and proud to be a part of RDF. He also met several alumni to discuss their careers, giving them tips about furthering their skills and ongoing learning and development on the job.

We are immensely grateful to every volunteer who supports RDF and the advice and help that they extend to the entire community. In their unique ways, the help Educate, Engage and Empower these deserving rural communities!