Constructing a sound future – developments in the Construction site Abhyasika

The abhyasika at the construction site also began activities in the fall semester with much thought and planning. Most students in the centre are perpetually in transit and hence have not received sound basis in any subject. Moreover, the population keeps changing throughout the year and so does the language composition and level of interest and enthusiasm of the students. The idea was to divide the kids into levels judging by their performance in an examination and then teach them to suit their needs. It was decided that, at the end of the semester, every kid should be proficient enough to be promoted to the next level.

Probably due to a change in the regional composition and hence societal setup of the majority of the construction workers’ population, most children were reluctant to come for the abhyasikas. Therefore, two new centres were set up in the campus. The teaching methods have also been changed to make it more interactive and fun for the children.

Someshwarwadi – before and after

In Fall 2012, activities at the Someshwarwadi centre took an unexpected turn. The vision for this centre was women empowerment and the need for this was felt because girl students had been refusing to attend the classes earlier because of male predominance in the students as well as volunteers. They were to be taught handicrafts and cottage industries to give them confidence to stand on their own feet.

The volunteers, however, encountered a big hurdle in this well-thought-out and ambitious plan. The target population of girls still refused to turn up for classes. The smaller girls who turned up did not take to the activities that were designed for an older target population. Therefore, the original idea of the abhyasika was restored for both boys and girls. A public event was also conducted during Ganapati festival with competitions and prizes.

When even talking to the girls in their homes did not work, the centre stuck to the original format of abhyasika.

An event was also organised at Diwali when the children painted diyas which were then sold at IISER in a stall during the cultural fest, Karavaan.

The coordinators aim to return to the earlier vision soon and have plans of coordinating with NGOs and women’s empowerment groups for the purpose.

Laman Vasti – the past and the present

Laman Vasti is one of the most difficult centres of the Disha abhyasika, community dynamics-wise. Yet, in August 2012, efforts were renewed with a fresh plan and perspective. The idea was to divide the children into levels based on their existing grasp of English and Mathematics. This was bound to make teaching simpler and more effective.

With this in mind, previously designed tests were given to students. However, it turned out that most of them were in the most basic level of both the subjects. It provoked the volunteers to discuss and come to the conclusion that English and Mathematics were not really the kind of education that the children in this centre require. The children are not in a social position to pursue an academic career either. It would do them little good to They require to learn ideas and concepts more relevant to their daily lives.

The structure of the course was then revamped to fit these interests. The classes now include bare minimum of schoolwork and maximum importance is given to knowledge of things like citizens rights, the importance of developing a reading habit, maintaining hygiene and a basic knowledge of history. A novel method has been implemented through documentaries, demonstrations and games. The children have learnt a lot, not just from the material but from the interactions as well.

Construction site Abhyasika Fall 2012

The construction site Abhyasika, perhaps Disha’s most relevant and popular centre, has grown by leaps and bounds in the past one semester.The centre began with the aim of educating the children of construction workers hired to build the IISER campus. Due to constant migration, poverty and unemployment, these children are deprived of good education. The Abhyasika sessions aim to teach them basic English, Math, Geography and General Knowledge. The sessions are held everyday and concluded with a round of organised sport.

The volunteers at this site are enthusiastic and the children, though few in number are responsive and curious. Due to constant flux in the population of construction workers and dynamics in their population structure, region of origin and social norms, it is quite a daunting for these volunteers to convince the parents about the importance of education. It is extremely testing to cater to the personal requirements of each child.

The construction company has set up a temporary shelter next to the Mendeleev block, the Chemistry research building, which is now being used by this centre along with a black board, chalks and basic furniture. They are also collaborating with the used paper management team at IISER Pune, Prutha, to supply the students with rough paper for practice.

The sparkly-eyed, giggly children from this centre are familiar faces at all IISER celebrations in this semester.

Click here for the report from this centre for Fall 2012.

Laman Vasti Fall 2012

This centre follows the original format of Abhyasika along with arts and crafts for children upto the age of 14. Mathematics, English and Science are given maximum importance and they are taught in innovative ways. The activities of this centre are quite regular with a large number of students attending.

The centre will hold a set of fun competitions for its participants along with Someshwarwadi in the event of the Ganpati festival.

Someshwarwadi Fall 2012

This fall semester, Disha has decided to try a new approach to the project at Somwshwarwadi, the oldest centre of their activity. For the past two years, there had been very less participation by the girls in the community for the Abhyasika sessions due to social barriers and stigmas. The new project aims to involve the young girls of the settlement at Someshwarwadi in the Disha programme and help them to make their own way in the world.

The focus of the project at Someshwarwadi centre is income generation for older girls through small cottage industries. They will be trained in arts and handicrafts which can later be used in small, profit-making enterprises. This will help in making them independent and self-reliant. The activities planned are along the lines of fabric painting, screen printing, bandhni, paper making etc. The activities have been roughly chalked out and will be executed in the next month.

Currently, in celebration of the Ganesh festival, this centre is holding competitions for diya painting, rangoli making and many more fun activities. There are loads of prizes to be won as well!