Archive for the ‘Parent Engagement’ Category

Community Care for the Children

In this digital era, the ramifications of being in an interconnected, digital world are not confined to just urban children. It easily reaches rural children too as technology has penetrated all parts of India. Therefore, it is not unusual, even in rural India to find children spending time on their cell phones, browsing the internet, spending time on Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter or watch serials on television. The hold of such digital media and content is so strong that it has been creating concern among parents and educational institutions, as students spend more time in the digital world than the real world.

A discussion with teachers & parents

The team at the RDF VAPV Junior College also had similar concerns. They decided to enlist the support of the parents and also spoke to the students to come up with ways through which students also focused on their education, rather than whiling away time on their phones and the internet. The college now send the homework requirements and project work via SMS to each parent. They are also informed if the student is absent, especially an absence of 3 days or more. They also exhorted parents to participate more in their children’s lives and take an interest in what they are doing.

Getting suggestions from parents & students

These initiatives have led to parent’s paying more attention to their children, helping them with their projects and homework, which is having a positive effect on their attitude and their academics too! The lecturers are also spending time engaging more deeply with the children, discussing education, life skills, careers and handling challenges in life. Undertaking such social responsibility together is what makes the RDF environment a dynamic one!

The parent community feels very motivated at the support and care that their children are receiving from the Junior College. Since all RDF institutions believe in transparency of processes, they also feel free to offer suggestions to the college management in handling everyday challenges. This is an empowered community at its best!

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Dignity of Labour

Mentoring children to feel pride in their agricultural heritage, despite its inherent difficulties is provided parallel to a good and solid educational foundation. While the students do learn about the world beyond their village and aspire for good jobs, it is equally important for them to remain grounded in their day to day reality and support their parent’s work.

RDF children have no inhibitions working in fields alongside their parents. They usually do this during school vacations. Working in the fields allows them to recognize the intense effort that goes into growing our food. This reality stays with them even as they leave their rural life after school and venture into the world, getting jobs in towns and cities far from home. Therefore, they always remain in touch with their roots and continue to come back to their village and their school to support the community in any way they can.

On the fields, not only do they help with the actual farming, but they also look after the cattle. They are well versed with all caring for farm animals, their nourishment and medical care too! This work provides them with ample life skills – critical thinking, problem solving, and intimate knowledge of flora and fauna, that can’t be learnt from books.

We are very grateful to the teachers in all our schools who keep this spirit of pride and dignity of labour alive. This piece is dedicated to the staff and community in Redlawada School who thought of this wonderful piece!

 

The Power of Community!

School can have a profound impact on the lives of children, in surprising ways that one cannot predict.

Today, we would like to share the stories of two young children who joined the Tech Mahindra Foundation sponsored Government Mandal Parishad Primary School, Bahadurapally. Their stories are very different but show us the importance of community building and maintaining close relationships with the parent and the larger village community.

Md. Sadhiq Khan first joined MPPS last year in Class 1. His two older brothers are happy and settled in the same school. Sadhiq was extremely homesick while in school and distraught at being away from his mother and friends, kept running back home. His teachers made several attempts to coax him back, but seeing how upset he would get, they suggested that the parents not force him to attend school and to let him be. For most of last year, Sadhiq attended school very irregularly and would go back early even on the rare days that he went to school.

This year, his parents again attempted to send him to school regularly, but Sadhiq was still inconsolable at leaving home! Since was was a year older and able to express himself better, the teachers asked him why he was reluctant to go to school. Everyone finally learnt that he missed his friends and playing with them. He wanted his little friends to go to school with him! With that new insight, the teachers, with the parent’s cooperation, assured him that he would make new friends in school. He was taken to his class and introduced to each child personally. They asked the other children to be friends with him and share their toys and things with him. With the compassion shown towards his nature and his needs, Sadhiq, in a matter of a few days, made new friends and now attends school regularly – without a single complaint! He’s happy and cheerful in school, participating eagerly in class and school events, where he has shown talent in speaking activities. We are really happy that Sadhiq has settled in and thank all his teachers for their kindness and effort to integrate him with his classmates!

Sravya joined MPPS this year in Class 2, transferring from another school in the area. Sravya was a bright girl, keenly interested in all subjects and actively participating in extracurricular activities. However, after a month, her teachers noticed that she was looking withdrawn and not engaging fully in class activities. Concerned about this change in her behavior and demeanor, her teachers asked her if there was a problem. Sensing their concern and their kindness, Sravya confided that her father was an alcoholic and abusive towards her mother and this behavior was disturbing her immensely. The teachers decided to visit her parents to counsel them about the detrimental effect the home environment was having on Sravya. The counseling session was taken well by her father who felt remorseful about his behavior. Since that day, he has not imbibed alcohol and lets her mother be. Sravya feels happy with this turn of events and looks at her school and her teachers as her extended family, who will help her in difficult times!

We are very grateful and proud of the efforts being made by the school team to build and nurture these personal relationships with each child’s family. This level of care is rare! These relationships have helped children like Sadhiq and Sravya feel cared for and connected with their school; reciprocally, the parents also know that their children are in good hands and do what they can for the school. That’s the power of a true community!

 

Student Endeavours and Empowered Communities

RDF schools have been built on the premise of Educating, Engaging and Empowering underprivileged rural children such that they learn tools through their years in RDF schools that will enable them to gain employment and break free from their lives of poverty. At a micro level, this is possible only through deeply engaging with each child and their family, nurturing community relationships based on trust and faith.

RDF staff, who also belong to the same communities and have led similar lives, have an intimate knowledge of the struggles that children and their families go through; having gone through the similar challenges of financial difficulties, working hard to complete schooling, working as students to put themselves through college, simultaneously trying to support their struggling families at home.  Having lived through similar circumstances, RDF staff make the effort to create personal relationships with the children, guiding and mentoring them and celebrating their talents, skills and achievements through school and even after school. This care and support system provide huge encouragement to the children and gives them mental and emotional strength to face their life and continue to work hard in school.

Saritha passed out of Redlawada School last year and joined a Junior College in the neighbouring small town of Hanamkonda. She recently informed the school that she topped the 1st Year Intermediate Examinations in the CEC group. Though she has graduated from the school, she, like many other students, keep in touch with the school and update them about their higher education. The school also keeps in touch with families and extends their support whenever required. Therefore the school and Saritha’s family is celebrating her accomplishment and together prays and wishes that she continues with determination for her further success in life.

Chandana, a Class 10 student in the school, has also been putting in a great deal of effort in her academics and extracurricular activities in school. Her parents are agricultural labourers who toil hard to send their only daughter to school so that she can lead a better life. However, Chandana is a sweet and humble girl who understands her parent’s troubles. So she spends all her spare time helping her parents in the fields with every Sunday and each holiday dedicated to working together with her parents in the field which gives them some respite from grinding physical labour.

We celebrate the spirit and compassion of our children, their families and our local communities which includes our local staff , through these stories. We take pride in their everyday lives, their journey and not just the end achievement. This is RDF’s way of creating empowered individuals who can create empowered communities!

Community Circle of Trust

The importance of parent and community engagement has been paramount since the establishment of the first RDF school in 1996.  Each school has put in tremendous effort to built trust based relationships with its parent community. Since the students are first generation learners, it becomes crucial for the schools to be transparent in their processes and that parents understand how the schools are being run.

Thus, we recognise that parents are key stakeholders in the sustainability of their local RDF school. Rather than merely informing parents about student’s progress, the formation of a parent committee brings in value and experience in key decisions, which shows the trust and faith the school management has in the local community.

In Matendla School, regular review meetings are conducted regarding school operations and student’s education. A unique support structure has been created through which students and parents are invited to review their own progress and performance. This feedback is combined with staff feedback to create a more wholesome development plan for each student! This also puts the student in charge of their reviewing their own learning and progress.

This kind of open process creates a circle of encouragement and trust in which the opinion and feeling of each student and parent is valued. This allows the student to improve in academic and non academic areas too. Parents feel happy with this level of involvement and convey their regard and satisfaction for our processes.

Understanding Underground Water Depletion

India is in the throes of its relentless and harsh summer. Nowhere are people more at the mercy of summer, fraught with anxiety over crops and water, than in rural areas.  The bedrock of the Indian economy, agriculture, is faced with increasing anxiety with each passing summer, due to erratic weather patterns caused by deforestation, lack of rainfall and depletion of underground water.

This is the reality that RDF’s rural children and their families live in. In order to understand the seriousness of this problem, the Science and Social Studies teachers in Matendla School decided to give a project to students of Class 8 and 9, wherein they had to understand the reasons for ground water depletion and the challenges faced by farmers due to this. The students decided to meet some farmers at their fields and were accompanied by the Science and Social Studies teachers.

The farmers showed them the irrigation systems which are created though agricultural wells and borewells. They explained that underground water levels were depleting due to erratic rain and deforestation. This is resulting in farmers being forced to rely on digging borewells, which is also a temporary solution.

While an immediate or sustainable solution is not yet forthcoming, we hope that some of our students pursue sustainability and water conservation research methods which can be implemented in their villages. At the very least, students are very aware of the causes and remain conscious and mindful of water usage in their homes which is a good start!

Community Champions

Today, we would like to celebrate the community spirit that is being created in the 2 government schools being supported by RDF and Tech Mahindra Foundation in Bahadurapally.  When the 1st RDF school was started 2 decades ago in Kalleda, an early realization was the need to build a strong relationship between the school and the local community. Thereafter, one of the key aspects of RDF’s holistic education model is its community engagement programs in which every parent is seen as a stakeholder in the school’s operations and activities.

The new water filter

The new water filter

RDF’s partnership with the 2 Tech Mahindra Foundation sponsored schools commenced only 2 years ago. RDF’s best practices were adopted by both schools, with a lot of mentoring provided by senior RDF staff. Parental involvement in the school was demonstrated in the Mandal Parishal Primary School when Mr. Swamy, the father of a Class 4 student, Veera Kumar, wanted to ensure that children have access to safe drinking water.

Bearing the cost of the filter entirely on his own, the modest Mr. Swamy bought the filter at a cost of Rs. 16,000 and donated to the school. The total project cost was Rs. 25,000. This was when the teachers and the head cook stepped up to share the remaining cost collectively. Of course, the utilization of the filter would not have been possible without the plumbing work. In a noble gesture, Mr. Michael, the father of another student, Yeshuva of Class 5, offered to do the plumbing free of cost. Thus, the school received the precious gift of a much needed water filter, with the help of the community champions!

Little children drinking clean & filtered water

Little children drinking clean & filtered water

These are the case studies that serve to demonstrate the efficacy of a good schooling system – a system that goes beyond academic work and grades. The system provides quality in education not just through its academic work, but also through the quality of its relationships. We feel very humbled and thank the parents and staff who extended their resources,  help and support to benefit every child in the school.