|Pachasaale - The Green School|
Pachasaale - The Green School Pachasaale, the DDS Green School completed five years in 1998. This half a decade of existence has provided the School with moments both of exhiliration and exasperation. Exhiliration because most of the children who have come into the school are rediscovering their childhood and a lost opportunity at education. On the other hand in spite of a spectrum of efforts the effort to keep the children in the school and attracting fresh children to the School seem to be a never-ending battle. At times one seems to have reached ones wits end.
Most efforts of the School are towards creating new structures as well making cretive educational efforts towards fulfilling its goals of telescoping ten years of school education into five years and simultaneously offering the children in the School a basket of vocational skills. The combination of these two skills, the School believes will offer a reasonable incentive for the children from the poorest families to come to Pachasaale.
One of the high points in 1998 was the selection of Pachasaale as one of the four schools in the world to attend to participate in the 1998 Hampton Court Garden Show in the UK. That this was an unique honour for the School was unquestioned. But the fact that this the only Asian School to be accorded this honour was a special pride. Two children from the School, "General" Narsamma and Nagwar Kavitha were selected to attend the month long Exhibition. Ms P V Rama, a senior teacher of the School accompanied the children. A well known designer from UK Claire White visited the School and designed a replica of the School in the Hampton Court Show. A team of Independent Television news team from UK accompanied her to the school for a special feature for the ITV.
That two girls from the School who come from possibly two of the most deprived dalit homes in the country could attend and international exhibiton and hold themselves is a true measure of several creative steps the School incorporates in its curriculum.
The school assemblies are an important part of the school curricular objectives
The assemblies are divided into the following activities:
The Assembly continues to be the expression of the central objective of the School: creation of an empowered child.
This period has been marked by a series of project-based teaching designed by teachers. There are specially designed projects for which the entire school comes together. There are also projects specifically fashioned for individual groups. Such individual group level projects for eg. have been done for Chiluka (Parrot), the first level group on the following subjects:
For the second group Pichuka (Sparrow), 18 projects have been designed covering all the subjects from Chiluka and including subjects like Permaculture, Birds, Water, Air etc.
The most exciting thing the school has seen in the recent period are the projects which have either celebrated the agriculture festivals of the region or the cultural plurality of the region. Some of the major projects built around the festivals have been:
The most fascinating festival in the region has been the Endlagatte Punnam, the Festival of Earheads. This is a dream festival of the lovers of biodiversity. Coming in the month of February when the rabi crops are in bloom, the festival offers farmers to showcase the diversity on their fields on the doorfront. Each farmer brings the earheads of all the unirrigated crops from her/his field and ties them on her/his door. Before doing so she takes the new grainheads with specially cooked festival sweets to the village goddes and makes an offer. For the students of biodiversity this festival is the finest social ritual in the expression and celebration of farmlevel diversity.
The project pegged itself on to the cultural base of the children as represented by the festival and wove a number of different academic subjects like Natural Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics, Arts and Crafts into a project web. The web looked like this :
The Endlagatte Punnam Project Plan included a number of things :
The teachers met every day to share approaches and prepare materials like work cards. At the end of the project, the teachers prepared a Project Report which analysed the merits and demerits as follows:
The Project helped us the understand in depth why festivals like this are celebrated and analyse them from a social and ecological perspective
The most important farmers festival in the region, Erokka Punnam celebrates the first day of their farming operations by worshipping their farming implements and the most revered symbol of their farming : the bullock. It is a day of great festivity. IT is thorugh such rituals that farmers make a statement about the sacred relationship between them and their land, animals and tools.
Through the Project Work on Erokka Punnam the Pacha Saale children systematically explored the meaning behind these symbols and the relationship between man and agriculture. As a part of the project the entire school celebrated the festival. The children decoreated the three bullocks owned by the School, worshipped them, fed them with special sweets, took them around the school in a procession, sang and danced in the procession.
The children also prepared work sheets based on the festival to interview their village elders. They went to their respective villages, documented the process of celebration of this festival through interviews with the knowledgeable people in the village, took photographs of the celebrations and recorded the songs of the festival.
They came back to the School, pasted their pictures on a chart, captioned each photograph, made a photo essay and put them up on the School walls.
Some children made theme collages of the festival with clay and broken glass bangles on their classroom walls. The dominant images in their collages were bulls, fields, houses, trees, dancing people etc. Other children made drawings and some made clay models of the ritual bulls. For a week the entire school reverbrated the sounds and images of Erokka Punnam.
The project became a tool for reinforcing the strong and vibrant traditional knowledge systems which reverse nature and its relationship with the farming communities.
Of those projects which dealt with the cultural plurality of the region, the project on Moharrum locally known as Peerla Panduga - the festival of Saints was the first. Moharrum in the Deccan is a great festival of integration. Hindus, Christians and Muslims together celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and vibrance.
The Project started with a participatory exercise with children as to what do they want to explore about the festival. The questions from children ranged from simple questions like Who are these saints and why this festival ? to complex religious questions like How come this festival is an all-caste and all religion festival ? to far more complex gender questions like Why are women not allowed into mosques ?
The children explored the answers to their curiosities through observing the festival as observed in their villages, photographing them, interviewing the maulvis and the community elders, recording the songs etc. When they came back to the school they brought with them the images and sounds of this wonderful festival. They pasted their photographs on the school walls, wrote photo essays, drew the images and analysed the process of the celebration of the festival.
Mr Laxma Goud, a major artist of the country who is from this region visited the school and explained to the children the great influence of Islamic culture on the region and its manifestation in the Peerla Panduga. Fascinating dances were performed for the children by women of many villages. The women from Hindu religion danced and sang songs recalling the great sacrifice of Hassan and Hussain at the Karbala field. In contrast a Muslim man Allauddin sang the song of Pandavas. To top all these experiences, the children were taken to the famous sufi dargah of Saint Khaja Bande Nawaz in the town of Gulbarga. For the children it was an awe-inspiring feeling to look at the magnificent architecture of Khaja Bande Nawaz and far more magnificient ambience of the mausoleum of a saint who preached spirituality based on love.
Through these activities the Peerla Panduga left an indelible impression of the children's minds the long history of communal harmony and delightful coexistence in this region.
Similar exercises were taken up in celbrating Dasara and Christmas in the later part of 1998.
In 1998, the teachers of the School met in early January and made a list of the workshops they would like to have to meet some of their own felt needs. Accordingly for the year 1998 they identified the following topics for special workshops:
Of these, three workshops were held in the School during 1998. They were on:
Mr Raghu Babu of Tapovan held a week long workshop with the teachers on the theme of Language Teaching. The workshop which focused on making language teaching creative, consisted of the following elements:
On the worksheets a number of points were included:
The School also had one workshop on Gender by Dr Rukmini Rao.
The Skills teaching in the School is divided into two sections : Foundation Courses and Advanced Courses. There are eight skills being taught in the school at the moment : Permaculture (an organic agricultural method), Paraveterinary Sciences, Masonry, Carpentry, Pottery, Tailoring, Book Binding and Herbal Medicine Making. Each child in the school goes through six foundation courses in six skills.
Skill - Academic Interface
With Mr Philip and Mr Suresh Vaidyarajan as resource persons, the workshop on Skill and Academics was held with the main objective to sharpen the relationship between skill teaching and academics. Teachers thoroughly discussed their role in skill teaching and came up with a number of points on which more focus was needed. A number of suggestions also came up from the group. As a result, it was decided to make work sheets based on questions and answers on themes like how and why a particular tool or teaching aid is used in a skill. For eg.
In the process of answering this question the child starts thinking about the entire process of the skill she is learning and the whys of it along with hows of it.
After these workshops, the teachers created 45 work cards and started using with children in their skill classes.
The teachers visited Sumavanam a resource centre for alternative schools set up in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh. The special focus of teachers visit and interaction with resource persons Ms Usha and Mr Narasimham was teaching mathematics creatively. The teachers also closely observed the functioning of the alternative school run by Sumavanam in that village in terms of its classroom organisation and methodologies of teaching.
Simultaneously the children went on two tours : in1997 they went on a tour to explore two of the major irrigation projects at Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar. In 1998 they went to visit the Green Agriculture project in Auroville, Pondicherry. They met with the famous ecological agriculture specialist Mr Bernard and learnt how to grow soil and many other fascinating aspects of sustainable farming.
In between the children went for a couple of mini tours : to Bidar town to visit the historical monuments in the place and to Medak for a Science Fair. Satheesh and Rama attended the meeting of Alternative Eduation Network in 1997 and 1998. Gurumurthy attended two workshops : one a Peer Group Evaluation and the other a special workshop by the DPEP at New Delhi.
A long time dream of the School came true when we started our programme for Vidya Karyakartas [Educational Activists] in June this year. The School Board actively encouraged the idea and selected the Vidya Karyakartas from their respective villages. Later the entire School staff, the Parents Committee members from the villages and the School Board members came together to have a meeting with the Vidya Karyakartas in which the following decisions were taken.
In each of the 10-12 villages catered to by the DDS School, one educated village youth will be selected to work as an activist for the School; this person will have the following tasks:
Therefore, the vidya karyakarta will be an animator for education within the village community and will specifically serve the interests of the Pachcha Saale by promoting the concept, ensuring attendance of the children to the School from her/his village and teaching the children during those periods when they are not able to attend the School. In this manner s/he will become a unique institution in the village.
The School continues to be managed by a Teachers Council which takes all the day to day decisions. A board of rural women meets every quarter to assess and revied the school function. A quarterly meeting with the mothers of the school children continuously updates them about the School and the scholastic achievements of their children.
This year a Children's Council joined the Management structure. The children elected by all the children the School sits in two monthly meetings, one with the Director of the School and one with the teachers of the School. They represent the other children in the school and brings their opinions to the meeting. This has considerably changed the management decisions.
These questions continue to haunt the school. Many measures have been taken up by the School and its teachers to address its trend. In the Operation Zero Drop Out the school teachers allied with the night school staff and the sangham staff to halt the drop out of girl children. Each teacher adopted a set of 8-10 girl chidren from one or two villages and continuously kept track of them. If they absented themselves from the school for a period of time, they along with the night school teachers and the sangham staff from that village visited the village of the child and explored the reasons for her absence and helped her to come back to the school. This resulted in a considerable stability of girl children's attendance. But this also is a continuous and arduous process. Any let up in the process will create a slide back.to lower attendances.
This is a reality the School is confronted with. We understand that we are dealing with a very difficult target group. Most of them are working children and therefore an economic asset to their families. With a lot of education, awareness and creation of a favourable environment for education, the parents get persuaded to send their children to the School. But at the first opportunity, they wean the children back from the school. The see-saw battle goes on and on. It will be only through patient long time effort that the School can win the battle for the deprived children of the region. At the end of the half decade of Pachasaale, to derive hope for the work the School has done, one has to recall the impact assessment of the School on the girl children and the community done by the teachers of the School which runs as follows:
Impact of the School on girl children and community
The Pachasaale Team
Gurumurthy, Rama, Raghu, Sarada, Satheesh, Sugreev, Sumalini, Suresh, Kavitha and others.
This year at Green School
It is a moment of pride for us to start this report stating that this year The Pachasaale (the School for Permaculture and Sustainable Development) came very close to fulfilling its avowed aim of enabling children to pass the X Class examination within five years of schooling. Out of 11 candidates who appeared for the Class X exams seven have successfully passed which is a record of sorts in this region.
Apart from the major success with which we began this report, the other highlights during these year are :
Jaggery Production Unit
A major highlight of last year's work has been a thorough integration of the school curriculum with agricultural activities. The dominant focus of the School has been to integrate the School curriculum with local relevant agricultural learnings. A major step taken towards this end was the start of a Jaggery unit in December 1999.
In the year 2000 the Jaggery unit became the hub for a number of learning activities for the children. For example using the very environment of making Jaggery was used to teach the children the following topics.
Two special books were produced as a part of the project which are enclosed as annexures. The books have included the following topics.
A new seed room was created last year in the school campus. The seed room has the following elements in it.
The seed room has been used by the teachers not only to impress upon them the huge traditional seed wealth of the region and the valuable knowledge systems associated with it.
Some teachers have also used this resource to make the children learn about the functional and nutritional classifications of seeds and crops.
Some other teachers have used this to make children understand the relationship between seed varieties, soils and the crop types and their seasonalities.
In this fashion the seed room has served itself as a major new resource for the school, strengthening the permaculture principles taught the school.
Encouraging children to produce a number of their own textbooks on permacutlure has further strengthened the permaculture studies. Since most children who come to the school have spent a few years of their life working on the farms and with the cattle, many of them have accquired intricate knowledge of local agriculture and its processes. Making use of this faculty of children, books on the following topics have been produced by groups of children which are used as texts to study not only the agricultural component of permaculture but also a number of other scientific, sociological principles. The major studies that have been generated are
The children have also been provided small patches of lands on which they can experiment with different plants and prepare observation charts on their growth patterns. Science and agriculture have also been used to study principles of photosynthesis, germination, heat and energy etc.
A major gain has been the steady stabilisation of children's attendance. After a seven year struggle the DDS community and the school teachers have been able to build enough confidence and motivation among the poor families in the villages surrounding the school that sending their children to the school is an advantageous proposition. Particularly heartening for us is the fact that the regularity and stability in the attendance of girl children has improved considerably.
The teachers of the school, however, continue to have an organic link with the community of parents through regular village visits.
Many skills like carpentry have moved on to advanced stages like training in carving.
In order to make the school management increasingly participatory and to involve the children in the school management, a children's committee has been established. This committee interacts both with teachers and other children of the school, understand the problems and issues on both sides and helps a systematic and smooth running of the school. In order to strengthen the children's committee three counsellors from among the past students of the school has been established. Whenever the children are in doubt about anything they call up on these pearls to draw from their experiences and understanding of the school system.
Another highlight is the preparation of teaching kit which consists of
There are six groups of classes through which the students are required to be admitted/ promoted:
Here is the complete sketch of each of the above groups through which the curriculum was taught. These were also taught along with the academics to the students.
There are 3 divisions in this group:
a) Those who have the knowledge of alphabets and Guninthalu
As said earlier, since most the children are first generation learners, they have not come from a family environment where reading and writing become habitual. Therefore the children have a very short attention span in the classes. In order to overcome this handicap, the teachers prepare special learning materials which can hold the attention of these children. The materials include the following:
Vratha Pattikalu [Writing Tables] which are given to the children to draw lines which ultimately lead to learning alphabets
Carved Alphabets recognising the letters
This group also learns the traditional folk play called Bhagotam. Apart from enhancing their aesthetic skills, Bhagotam also helps in their speech and expression of language. This year the following plays were enacted by the children:
GROUP II : PICHUKA (SPARROW)
The target for the group is to learn the following :
Some of the methods used to impart this knowledge are like dictation games.
Some topics from social sciences and science were also taught to this group. For ex: Human body, festivals, water, plants. Discussion takes place among students and a questionnaire is prepared, Each topic is covered within 5 to 7 days.
For learning counting and understanding shapes several designs were done with match sticks and valve tubes and children were encouraged to play with them. Card games are used to teach additions, subtraction etc.
Promotion Tests were conducted in April, 2000, October-2000, Feb 2001 and 9, 5 and 12 students got promoted respectively.
Alphabets are taught and also words are explained in detail be prepare one english text book comprises of easy words; A) Colouring the Pictures, B) Correcting the words, C) Odd Man out, D) Matching, E) Fill in the blanks. Children themselves learnt there words and written on black board. Flash cards also been used for vegetables, fruits, birds etc.
WHAT WERE THE TOPICS TAUGHT IN SCIENCE DURING THE YEAR? [PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION]
The topic water was done in 7 days and exercises were given it is very difficult to do lessons since the childrens writing skill is very poor. Grammar is poor which forces to concentrate on subjects. Some literacy games, new methods, hot to be introduced in this year.
Method of teaching was selected in two ways A) Word Method, B) Topic Method. Based on life and environment a text book is prepared. A topic method consists of a discussion before one subject is selected. The matter prepared by the students is in their own language. Matching cards are displayed to improve the subject. Students are taken out to teach in Permaculture farm, cattle shed around the school campus. They were given exercises from the text book, spelling, writing correctly, rhymes and songs were also taught. Clay models were prepared by the students. They were also supplied paper through which they prepared drawings and colouring them by naming.
The syllabus consists of A) Additions, B) Subtractions, C) Multplications, D) Divisions, E) Fractions, F) Finding time on watch, G) Balancing, H) Distances. Work sheets are given to the students they did the sums and exchange with one another. Monthly test were conducted after successful tests the romotion will be made.
SOCIAL STUDIES :
A text book is prepared for the english lessons. A slip test is taken for every three days to know about the students ability of understanding . Some of the lessons which have been completed are ; Namavachakam, Nakka Upayam, Animals, Letter Writing, Kartha, Karma Kriya.
The letters of big Mathra are being learnt in this subject and human boyd colours, fruits, plants names, etc. were explained to them through black board and exercises.
GROUP IV : PALA PITTA (BLUE BIRD)
Topics like plants, crops, pottery, festivals, etc. were covered in this group the student. These children sit together in groups for preparing the material which will be in the form of stories. The book lets an exercises were also prepared to improve their language and assistance is taken from a seventh class text books of govt. There are two ways of learning language. A) composite cards - Each child is given a picture and he is asked to write a study which ultimately becomes formation of sentences B) Grammar Card - Different grammar cards singular, plural, synonyms, antonyms are given to them and they are asked to arrange in a correct way.
The letters Kra, Kru, Kre with bindis were taught in this group. Joining the words were also explained to them with small stories and poems to the students.
The following is the syllabus A) Averages, B) Proportions, C) Fractions, D) Simple Interest, E) Geometry, Algebra. The explanation is given on the black board and the teacher hand over work sheets on these subjects to the student they complete and exchange among themselves. They were given training in Ganuga project.
Charts are prepared and mounted in the class rooms. The students were taken into agriculture fields while work is on. This type of visits increases the students capacity to know more about the cropping patterns. There were monthly tests were conducted.
SOCIAL STUDIES :
There are three methods of operations A) Discussion, B) Question and Answer C) Topics. The following chapters were completed in this subject with Andhra Pradesh as main topic A) Medak Dist. B) Hisoty of Medak, C) Projects in Medak, AP History D) Important Cities, E) Mandals of Medak.
The initial level was to understand & learn words. Formation of sentences were practiced. These sentences were exercised taking into help of our school vocational courses, prepositions etc.
GROUP V : KOKILA (CUCKOO)
Since new children were promoted the old students were taught poetry,
Sandhulu, essay writings, letter writings. For new children Kavala Pillalu,
Hasyam, , Chima, Vishwam etc. the lessons were taught.
The following lessons wre taught in this subject A) Neighbours, B) Use of since & for, C) If, D) The present perfect tense E) Letter writing. A No.of 11 students were promoted in may, 2000 to Chekumuki Group. A text book is prepared with simple structural based grammar, short stories, etc., The text book comprises of A) Vowels and Consonants B) Use of A, An, The, C) Nouns, D) Adjectives, E) was, were F) Preposition. We are also conducting exercises for speech to the students of this group.
Booklets are prepared on plant growth, plant diseases, animal husbandry by following Govt. text books. Charts were mounted on class room walls to enable the students to look at these diagrams daily.
Small stories, poems, leader name, Prime Minister's name, reverse names, birds names and human body parts were explained to the students and each month a test is conducted.
GROUP VI : CHEKUMUKI (WOOD PECKER)
A total No.of 11 students got promoted from Kokila Group in May, 2000 and we followed purely a Govt. Text books teachings since this is the last level of Pachasale before they taken up the SSC Examination. Exercises were displayed on black board and for these students the information and curriculum was a bit difficult in the initial stages. Even then 7 out of 11 students got successfully passed in March, 2001 SSC Exams.
After completing the lesson an assignment is given to them. Charts
were placed on wall rooms a monthly test is conducted and one diagram
book let is also prepared for the students.
The following subjects were taught through the laboratory
There are three methods of teaching A) Questions & Answers, B) Discussions, C) Lecture.
We have also shown some of the teaching aids through which a student can learn easily.
A) India Map, B) Globe, C) World Map.
PHYSICAL SCIENCES :
The students have learnt the following by using our lab: a) vernier calipers b) screw gauge c)vibgyor d) sound e) magnetism f) radio g) solutions
Difficult words are written on the blackboard for the students to get them well acquainted. Letter writing is also taught and easy way of teaching the important essays in the examination point of view is also taught.
SKILLS AT A GLANCE :
TEACHING AIDS :
Each teacher prepares teaching aids for the student like Card Games, Education Books. These were categorized into languages, mathematics, social, sciences, hindi, english, and other topics.
EVALUATION OF CHILDREN :
We conduct monthly Tests to know about the students progress in academic and skills. For promotion whenever a child crosses the group target he/she is promoted to next class. One progress card is prepared for each student to show progress in each subject. These cards will be taken to the villages to show to the parents of children.
VILLAGE VISITS :
Every month the teachers conducted the villages visits taking with them the progress cards of the concerned village students. This is a continuous process. The irregular students will be given priority for getting back to the school when the teachers visits the villages. Some parents still need a lot of convincing about the need to send their children to the School. The teachers face many critical questions from the parents. This process forces both the teachers and the school to think deeply about the relevance of the School and hones their sensibilities.
TEACHERS COUNCIL :
All the teachers meet every Saturday to know about what has happened in the previous week. This builds an understanding between them regarding the progress of the work, about individual children, problem children etc. A lot of work sharing is done in this teachers council meeting and suggestions are invited by each other.
EXPOSURE TOUR :
Eight teachers visited sholai school, Kodaikanal in the month of March, 2001 under the curriculum development work shop. This is a centre for learning organic agriculture and appropriate technology. They have the following units.
a) Science Lab
The system of education is child centred. They do not have a fixed curriculum. They prepare their own syllabus to teach the children. The total strength of the school is 35, and the land extent is 70 Acres out of which 30 Acres are meant for an organic farm. They prepare the students to appear before NATIONAL OPEN SCHOOL EXAMS. The school campus is well designed in all aspects. The children independently were doing masonry lessons, tile roofing etc.
In addition to our teachers meetings and our exposure tours one of our teacher Rama attends the net works meeting every year in which all the people who work in education field get together and share the educational work that they have been doing. The group discusses and plans for better education methods. This year we had short meeting with few members at Padma Sarangapani's House in Bangalore on April 3rd, 2001. The main issues that were discussed were 1) Violence, 2) Freedom, 3) Child Centred Education 4) Education with Agriculture. 5) Traditional skills, 6) Progress cards. The next meeting is in September, 2001 in which most of the members may attend making it a very big group.