In the Media

Sing to Grow and Joy of Giving

Diipti Jhangiani, DNA epaper, September 27, 2013

As the city celebrates the Joy of Giving Week, Diipti Jhangiani trails through organisations in the city working towards spreading a smile including Ayush Man Shrestha’s project with Muktangan.

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Another important concept about quality education is being propagated by Muktangan, a set of schools and teacher training centres set up across the city for quality education for the under-privileged children. Seeing that overcrowded city schools and under-resourced teachers do not make for a conducive learning environment, Elizabeth Mehta, an educationist with decades of experience in the field, founded Muktangan. Their recent initiative is called Sing to Grow. With the help of volunteer and singer, song writer Ayush Man Shrestha, they are creating a series of educational song writing and composition workshops for faculty members, so that the teachers can use it to enhance learning, instil values and teach life skills.

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Muktangan featured as a world city innovator

Maryanna Abdo, Urban Times, September 4, 2013

Following a visit to Muktangan, Maryanna Abdo writes about our innovative, sustainable and inclusive educational model for Mumbai’s schools as part of a series looking at leading edge solutions happening in cities around the world. This forms part of the Urban Times’ Social Life of Cities series.

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“I will play with clay.” The words are written carefully in a tiny hand. In another notebook, the most recent entry reads: “Today I will make a puzzle.” These are personal plans, written by eight- and nine-year old children at the start of the school day. On the day I visit Muktangan, an innovative educational model serving marginalised children in seven Mumbai schools, I observe a class of 40 students putting these plans into action: writing stories, putting on performances, and even mapping multiplication equations on the floor with chalk and plastic tokens. The children are responsible, self-directed, confident and engaged. Later, they will review and reflect on their creative time, closing the circle of the “Plan-Do-Review” cycle that is at the heart of Muktangan’s way of working. It is also at the heart of what makes this project so unusual, and so promising, especially in Mumbai.

Muktangan featured in the New York Times!

Gayatri Rangachari Shah, The New York Times, July 28, 2013

Gayatri Shah visited Mumbai in early 2013 to write a piece on education in India. But when visiting Muktangan she was so impressed by our work she decided to return to India specifically and do a piece on our unique and innovative methodology.

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MUMBAI — Samidha Shetya, a mill worker’s daughter with a 10th-grade education, was among the first group of women to start working as teachers for a private group called Muktangan in 2003.

She is now among hundreds of teachers who initially had no formal training, much less university degrees in education, working with children from low-income homes.

When Mrs. Shetya began at Muktangan, she was given three months of training and told to find children she could enroll in kindergarten; she began with two classes of 30 students each. Having studied only in the Marathi language, she had to use a translator to get through Muktangan’s English-language curriculum.

 

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Big-hearted marathon runners help city NGOs go the extra mile

Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times, January 15, 2012

Several strides for the city’s runners could mean several leaps for the city’s disadvantaged. When hundreds of runners assemble at the start line of the Mumbai marathon on Sunday, they will not be running for themselves alone.

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From education to health to gender, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered for the Mumbai marathon espouse multiple causes but the platform is the same. And it is a platform that has been growing every year in terms of the money collected and donated to charities.

Muktangan, which helps run seven civic schools in the city, collected around Rs65 lakh last year, which was pumped into various educational programmes and helped defray the costs of running these schools. This year, Muktangan has hopes to raise Rs76 lakh.

“The marathon has given NGOs a platform that was never there before,” said Usha Laxman, director, resources, Muktangan. “It has even become a platform to help NGOs network among themselves.”

The process of gathering money and getting corporate teams to support a cause could begin as early as March, when organisations send out information about themselves. The details then get worked out by June, when corporates decide which causes they would like to support.

The Forum for Autism, raised Rs2.5 lakh last year, which went to pay the school fees of autistic children from poorer families. This year, they hope to raise Rs5 lakh.

Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action (SNEHA), an organisation working on urban malnutrition, will participate in the marathon for the fourth time. Last year, the money raised went towards helping children survive in slums and towards programmes to tackle malnutrition.

For younger NGOs it is as much about fund raising as it is about showcasing their profile and creating awareness about their cause.

“We have decided to use the platform to show our presence,” said Ritika Sahni, founder trustee of Trinayani, an organisation working to raise awareness about disabilities. This is the first year that Trinayani is participating in the marathon. Whatever money they do raise this year they plan to put into awareness workshops they will have with more than 600 civic schools in the city.

The number of NGOs participating has swelled, from 179 last year to 222 this year. At a press conference on Wednesday the organisers announced that the marathon had already raised Rs12.2 crore and that they were likely to raise around Rs. 14 crore  by the time the event is over.

The Blackboard’s Fun

Nandini Nair , V Shoba , Mihika Basu, Indian Express, April 24 2011

Sometimes walls speak and buildings teach. They can tell children about angles in a triangle and the days in a week. When the building becomes teacher, you are likely to be in a BaLA school. Conceived by Kabir and Preeti Vajpeyi of Vinyas Centre for Architectural Research, BaLA is the concept of Building as a Learning Aid. Architect and urban planner Kabir explains, “If the land, the building are the most precious resources of a school, then shouldn’t we maximise that space?”

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This maximisation can be seen at the NP Coed Middle School Sangli Mess in Delhi. The exterior is gray and grim-faced, but a wall fresco in the front porch lightens the setting. Six concentric circles are drawn within each other. The inner-most and smallest circle representing ‘Mera School’, sparkles with children playing ball and a monkey on the loose. The second circle ‘Mera Shehar’ contains a leaning Qutub Minar and an imposing Red Fort. The ‘Mera Desh’ circle contains the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas and ‘Mera Sansar’ holds within it pyramids and an Eiffel tower. When Ashok Kumar, a class III teacher, asks students to point out the Taj Mahal, their eyes spin around the circles before they rest their finger on the dome. “Metro kahan hai?” receives the loudest response, with children leaping to point out the silver streak. Via six circles, these children have understood locations and distance.

Varsha Sehgal, head mistress of the school, says, “BaLA’s concepts attract children. It helps in counting.” Kumar adds, “It’s a ready-made teaching-learning aid. It helps to keep children involved.”

Squares, triangles and circles emboss doors to teach children shapes. Rules and scales run up and down walls to illustrate measurement. Blackboards are fixed at child friendly heights. The low window grills of junior classrooms are wavy and not straight, with a bolt fixed at one end. Children are encouraged to move the bolt along the grill. Kabir explains, “In Class I and II, children are expected to hold a pen and write between two lines. But finger dexterity is not always there. Writing comes from the shoulder, into the elbow, then the wrist and finally the fingers. We call this ‘pre-writing’, as it allows the same motor movements that are required of writing.”

Thousands of schools in different states have followed BaLA with varying degrees of success. Maintenance is an issue at the Sangli Mess school, with each side holding the other responsible. Kabir believes their work in a hundred schools in Gujarat has been a special success as they trained Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan engineers, teachers and administrators who have then implemented BaLA’s concepts through government and community funds. In Delhi, their work exists in 12 schools, and 925 schools received BaLA’s Guidelines for Vidyalaya Kalyan Samiti, brought out in collaboration with Delhi Government.

Local bodies have been adapting their concepts since 1997. A school in Faizabad, UP, has created an entire playground from discarded tyres. In Valsad, South Gujarat, an open-air library allows children to browse books in an informal and natural way.

The teacher is in the building.

Magic Math

They sit in rows in rapt attention as their eight-year-old classmate Ajay, chalk in hand and toes on tips, writes the seven times table. He isn’t dressed in the white shirt, blue trouser and red-socked uniform of Rajasthan schools. Ajay recently moved from Gujarat to Radawa in Pali district accompanying his father’s herd of sheep. He has been at Rajkia Prathmik Vidyalaya for just a few months, yet he has learnt his tables, with help from Educate Girls’ (EG) Creative Learning Techniques (CLT).

The project, a partnership between EG and the Rajasthan Education Initiative, started in 2005 and was seed funded by Educate Girls Globally (EGG), USA. With support from Mumbai-based philanthropic organisation Dasra, the project grew to cover all primary and upper primary schools of Pali district, they will start work in Jalore soon. Having started in 2005, EG has now expanded to 4,483 schools in 2011, serving over half a million children in rural Rajasthan.

In the 2011 census, Rajasthan is ranked 35 (last) in female literacy with 52.66 per cent. Safeena Husain, head of EG, says, “Educate Girls has helped reform government schools by improving girls’ enrollment, retention and academic performance, by leveraging existing community and government resources.”

At Rajkia Prathmik Vidyalaya, located just outside the city of Falna, 140 km from Jodhpur, students sit on the floor with their Toy Story school bags pushed to the side. Rinku Goswami, EG field coordinator, asks Radha to add 3+2 on the board. Radha calculates, not by counting on her fingers, but with the Magic Calculator, which is a grid of numbers from 1 to 100. She finds the individual numbers on the grid and moves her fingers along it to arrive at the answer. Shakuntala, a teacher, says, “Through CLT, they learn better and faster. There has been a lot of improvement, especially in math.”

At another primary school in the village of Vera Boriya, on the outskirts of the city of Bali, a Gram Shiksha Sabha is in progress, in this school, which has never had electricity. Moustaches and turbans fill the silent room. The women sit outside under a makeshift canopy. The session starts with an EG coordinator reading out the names of the students who have been missing from class, shaming the father in front of the village. The gathering nods in unison and murmurs disapproval.

EG has increased girls’ enrollment in Pali district through such measures. Three blocks in the district are said to now have 99 per cent enrollment for girls. EG has succeeded in bringing girls to school through 140 trained volunteers who work within the community.

Jagdish Singh, sarpanch of the village, who worked for 14 years in Mafatlal Bangalore, and has travelled the country, delivers a taciturn message, “Send your children to school.” A man delivers the sarpanch’s message to the women waiting outside. Pawan Kaur, from behind her bandini veil, speaks passionately to the women, urging them not to keep their daughters home. Kaur’s daughter completed Class XII—she knows the advantages of education.

In a classroom, Shailendra Singh, another EG coordinator, conducts a ‘post-test’ to gauge the student’s English, math and Hindi skills. Eight-year-old Chetna comes up to the teacher’s desk, effortlessly reads the numbers, and does the addition and subtraction sums. She reads “flag”, “sun” and “lion”, moves to the reading passages and reads out aloud, “Children are the…” She wrestles with “future” and Singh helpfully prompts: “Future”. “…of the country,” Chetna says rapidly, looking up from the paper for the first time, flashing a triumphant smile.

Read the original article here.

Mumbai civic school choir to cheer runners

DNA Correspondent, DNA, Janaury 14, 2012

On Sunday, when runners participating in the Mumbai Marathon pass through Marine Drive, students from a Worli municipal school will regale them with song from the ‘cheering zone’ set up nearby.

The 12 children who will perform at the marathon on Sunday, January 15, are among 40 students who have been training in choir music for the last two years at their school in BDD Chawl.

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Eight years ago, the school was adopted by the non-profit group Muktangan which runs seven such schools. Nearly 230 students are taught at this English medium school.

The Muktangan Children’s Choir has performed at distinguished venues like the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) and has also been the subject of a documentary exhibited at international film festivals. The children have also participated in musical theatre shows in the city.

“This is the first time that NGOs will be present in the cheering zone of the marathon,” said Usha Laxman, director (resources) of Muktangan.

Music is part of the regular curriculum at the school, and the children in Muktangan’s choir group were chosen after an elaborate audition process. They are trained in choir singing by Patricia DaCunha and Astrid Pereira, who are prominent western classical music teachers.

“We chose children who could carry a tune; basically, their singing and resonance had to be clear,” said Jayanti Sundaram who teaches them Indian music.

Ashish Prajapati, a Class 8 student, is already keen to take up music as a career, while his classmate Sanjana Khairnar, is a Michael Jackson fan and loves folk music. Sunil Shrestha, also a Class 8 student, said that he likes to play the piano apart from singing.

The children are now confident performers. Ashish said that when he first performed before an audience of 1,200 at NCPA’s Tata Theatre, he was quite nervous. “I was a solo singer and not able to hit the high notes. One of the conductors gave me the courage to do it. I cannot forget that day. When I came down from the stage after the performance, my parents said: well done.”

Read the original article here.