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!

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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!

A Culture of Compassion for Agriculture

Learning from one’s local environment and community is very valuable for school children. While learning from textbooks for a curriculum is important, it is equally important for students to be able to connect textbook knowledge to real life challenges around them.

RDF children belong to financially backward, rural, agrarian communities. Most parents are either small farmers, farm labourers and cattle herders. Learning about challenges in farming is necessary for them, if they are to begin thinking of sustainable solutions – this is the vision RDF has been actualizing – by educating them about the world around them, engaging in deep and meaningful ways with the local communities and empowering them to understand the challenges and find ways to help them in various ways.

In Kalleda School, as part of a Science field trip, students  of Class 8 visited farms in their local village to understand the challenges in a farmer’s life and to observe the use of a Harvester machine. The farmers were happy to interact with the students, demonstrating how the harvester helps them save time and money. The farmers explained how it is getting difficult to retain farm labour and the economic burden of agriculture. Use of technology such as the Harvester machines is helping farmers, but they need more help to make their lives financially sustainable. They also had a productive discussion about paddy and its diseases and methods being employed to ensure good crop year on year.

The Harvester machine

Through this trip, student became much more aware of the difficulties present in eking a living through farming, awareness about how Science and Technology can help farmers and that there is still a long way to go in order to make this more productive and less cost intensive for them. We hope this reality and its inherent challenges will help our students utilize their academic and life skills learnt in RDF, to return and help our farmers – the backbone of India’s economy

Not just Teachers!

Children studying in rural and semi rural areas face such hardship in their lives, yet their tenacity at such a tender age leaves us amazed!

Rohith, now 12 years old, was all of 2 years old when his father was killed by relatives in a property dispute. Sadly, his mother, who was pregnant, was also suspected of being involved and was sent to prison, where she gave birth to her brother. Left almost orphaned by this tragedy, he was sent to live with an uncle who sent him to a state run children’s home. After serving 7 years of her sentence, Rohith’s mother was released and was reunited with her older son. With the help of state agencies, his mother is now employed at an all women’s petrol bunk in Bahadurapally. Both he and his younger brother are in the same class in MPPS, Bahadurapally.

Working together with classmates

Studying hard in class

With this difficult start in life, both brothers were shy and quiet in all classes, rarely mingling with their classmates. His teachers provided him with a lot of support, slowly drawing him out of his shell and make friends. Slowly, with his trust building up, he began to show greater interest in his studies and sports. He especially loves to play Kho Kho and Kabaddi. He has also shown keen interest in computers and with the help of the computer teacher, Mr. Anil, he has been doing data entry and becoming adept at using computers. Since he was looked after by an Army officer at the children’s home, he now nurses an ambition to join the Army.

Diligently doing data entry

His teachers understand his background and circumstances – they see it often with children who come from deprived, underprivileged and broken homes. It’s their care and understanding of children’s psychology that allows them to build bridges and help them open up to the positives in life. They are so much more than mere teachers of academics or activities. They do so much more with the circle of care and encouragement that they give every child in the school. With his new found confidence and his faith restored in life, we pray and hope that Rohith accomplishes all his goals and lives a happy and successful life that he so richly deserves!

Creativity, Coins and Kudos!

The true spirit of education and learning is to ignite curiosity and facilitate the natural interest of children. We can never stop smiling when we see creativity, born out of interest and curiosity, unfold itself through interesting experiments and contraptions.

Vijay, building the ‘Coin Separator’

Thumma Vijay, a Class 7 student of Rollakal School, combined craft and science to make a ‘coin separator’ for the school. He had observed that carrying small change can be a little troublesome. So he fashioned a ‘set of drawers’ from thick cardboard to separate Re. 1, Rs. 2 and Rs. 5 coins! He also had the foresight to think of user comfort and stuck 3 bottle caps to pull and push the drawers! With this model, everyone saves time counting out coins and they stay safe too.

The freedom to design their own creations, either based on what they learn and understand in the classroom or from other sources of inspirations is a joy to see. We are very proud that RDF schools actively promote this spirit of freedom in all its students. The teachers receive full credit for supporting students’ learning journeys.

Now Vijay’s classmates have resolved to come up with their own ideas to create something useful for their school or their home. It’s brilliant how a simple contraption is creating this wave of inspiration for everyone.

Well done Vijay – we are very proud of your invention and look forward to more creativity from the school!

Chekumuki Champions!

Redlawada School has created history by having 3 students selected to the State Level in the Chekumuki Talent Test and Quiz Competition. RDF children have been doing quite well in these tests that are organized by the Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV) to promote scientific temper in students. However this is the 1st time that Redlawada School students have cleared the District level test! Kalleda, Rollakal and Matendla schools also received a District level award.

Neeraja, Class 8, J. Rakesh, Class 9 and P. Raju, Class 10 showed that they have what it takes to win! The parents, teachers and students at the school are delighted with this news and are now praying that they achieve success at the State Level competition too.

Participation in such interschool and competitive tests build academic skills and understanding in the students and also provides them with the necessary exposure to test their knowledge and skills outside the classroom. It bolsters their confidence, regardless of the outcome. The children have always given positive feedback after participation in such tests and other academic oriented fairs.

We wish the Redlawada team all the very best!

The Team Teaching Spirit!

RDF schools follow a unique system of evaluating the efficacy of its teaching and learning practices. Teachers from RDF schools visit another RDF school in order to observe, review and provide feedback, including sharing teaching challenges and better teaching methods. This method allows teachers from different schools to share their experiences, take advice and feedback from each other and in the process, empower themselves.

KS Senior School teacher being observed by MS team

In November, teachers from Matendla School in Siddipet district visited Kalleda School in Warangal Rural district. The Matendla team observed all classes in Primary and High School, Sports and Co-curricular activities. The observations gave them the opportunity to appreciate how the activities are being conducted in Kalleda and compare them to academic and non academic activities in Matendla School. There was also an open discussion about the gaps that were observed and how to go about mitigating them.

Primary class being observed by MS team

MS team observing a KS Computer class

This open and transparent system of internal visits and monitoring helps teachers take responsibility for their own work, share best practices and more importantly, work together towards the common goal of enriching the teaching and learning environment in all RDF schools, so that students receive the maximum benefits and impact of high quality teaching.

It also allows them to reflect together on the goals of teaching and the importance and role of the teacher in providing a rich and nurturing environment to children, such that they can learn to their best potential. We are very proud of this team spirit that exists between teachers of the 4 RDF schools and can see how this culture uplifts the teachers’ own experience and the students too!