Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 5:26 PM

Note to the reader: Reading, understanding and implementing the following facts and guidelines is the necessary beginning of the survey. So let's be thoruogh with all the following points. Read on!


1. We are dealing with someone who is way smarter than us.

2. Firstly, they don't come close to 'survey people'.

3. Even if they come, they don't talk.

4. Even if they talk, they don't tell the truth.

5. Even if they tell the truth, when we go to the same place in future, it is difficult to match this truth with the kid who told it. Because- we may not remember his/her face, he/she may not be around, there may be many kids with similar names, etc. (Hence the need for photo/video.)

6. Peak traffic hours mean business to them. So they won't pay any attention to us then. (Hence we may need to pose as customers and make them talk to us as we buy their product.)

7. During non-peak traffic hours they may not be around!

8. They are extremely busy and do many things in a day! They normally don't have time for us.

9. Underestimating their abilities is a famous mistake.
10. Past experience says that they may all actually go underground if they get to know that someone's out to survey them. (Hence the need for secrecy!)

11. Looking at the above facts, it must be clear that surveying them is not a trivial thing, and most certainly, not a one day activity.



1.    Carry camera phones/cameras, as far as possible. And obviously, pen and papers and anything more that you can think of, which would interest kids. Chocolates and biscuits would be helpful.

2.    Make sure that the prerequisite briefing is understood very very clearly. Feel absolutely free to ask as many questions as we like during the briefing. Without understanding this briefing, none of us would be able to conduct a fruitful survey.

3.    We'll be given SSA identity cards, which are not to be displayed on person. These cards are for our safety and are to be kept safely inside our bags/pockets.

4.    After the briefing, we will be divided in smaller groups and assigned a particular locality and then it'll be time to move to the assigned locality. Make sure that one group does not at all interact with other group.

5.    While at our assigned locality, do not interact with traffic police, do not let anyone know that we are surveying street children.

6.    Do not pose as typical survey people, with a pen and chart and writing pad! Just try to look like normal weekend visitors.

7.    Try to interact with street children at the best of our interactive skills. Some ideas- Buy the things they are selling and ask question (e.g.- why should I pay so much, what's the guarantee that your stuff is good, where do you make it, how, I want to order it in bulk for a party, etc). Take them along to have tea/snacks. Offer chocolates/biscuits. Attract them by showing some interesting things (camera, cellphone, creative artefacts, or whatever one can think of).

8.    One idea- One volunteer from the group may interact while the other can note down the details discreetly, so that the kids don't get alarmed and go away.

9.    Try to take photos/videos to solve the problem of matching a kid with the information that he/she provides. Even a 4 seconds video capturing face and name of the kid would be sufficient. We can then note down all the information against the name captured in the video. We may record the entire interaction, if possible! If the kids refuse to be photographed, let them do some photography with our camera, let them capture their friends'/siblings' photos and vice versa!

10.                     The questionnaire provided to us is for our reference. Study it properly and try to remember it. We need to fill in all the details mentioned in the questionnaire. But we need not do so in the exact order or format WHILE interacting with a kid. We should interact based on what the kid is trying to say, while keeping in mind the questionnaire. We may note down main points from the kid's narrative quickly on a blank paper, and once the interaction is over, fill in the questionnaire.

11.                     Write down the approximate total number of street children that we get to see in our assigned locality.

12.                     Our aim, is not to cover as many kids as possible, but to cover as much correct information as possible. Even if we end up finding nearly everything about one kid, we've already done a good job!

13.                     There is no time constraint! So let's do it meticulously.

14.                     Try to be in the locality as long as possible so that the probability of finding kids increases. Also, this way, we may be able to note down more details about the daily schedule of kids, their lifestyle, etc.

15.                     Note that most depends on our creativity and style and interaction. So let's try our best! Let's get them talking!

16.                     Be careful. People in the street may create a scene, for various reasons. In such cases, contact the Cluster Representative of our locality, whose number will be provided beforehand.

17.                     In case we get some free time in between, we may- get refreshed, fill up the questionnaires nicely, look around for more interesting observations and pen them down, try to write down comments of the survey experience so far, try to deduct something from the data collected so far, discuss, try to bring in new ideas, etc!

18.                     If the kids ask you why you're doing what you're doing, try to say things like- “I do such things every weekend. / I like talking to kids. / I'm waiting for someone and hence passing time chatting with you kids. / etc.”

19.                     At the end of the day, interested people can have dinner together, or go home. But no matter what we do, let's keep our eyes open for street children, not only for the day, but forever!

20.                     Note again that this kind of survey is not a one day activity. It's a process. So here's a word for those among us who are more interested in this activity- We really really need to keep going to the assigned locality till the time we find out all the details required, of all the kids. This may take a month. Every weekend we may spend 2hrs on this (we may fit these 2 hrs during different sections of the days, so as to get different glimpses of their lives). Just that, every time we do so, we need to submit the data to Pankhudi volunteers. Such long term volunteers will be issued certificates of active and persistent participation by SSA+Pankhudi.

21.                     All the data will then be analyzed and a plan of action will be finalized based on the analysis and then the plan will be executed, as per available resources. So let's help make a difference to Pune's street life!

Sat, May 30, 2009 at 2:45 AM

Here's a quick summary of our interaction with SSA (i.e. Mr. Bhushan Nalage, cordinator, SSA, Pune) so far:

The Problem:
School dropouts (and also, kids not getting admitted to schools at all) from low economic zones.

0) The basic problem is that we tend to provide remedial solutions posthumously! It's time we attack the reasons first!

1) School infrastructure: Unavailability of basic infrastructure such as toilets, drinking water, good classrooms, etc causes children as well as teachers to minimize their time in schools. Pune has 272 corporation schools running in 132 buildings! Imagine!

2) The Head Master (HM): Good HM = good school. HM is decided seniority-wise, which brings up the most tired-of-life person on board, usually. Wherever there are good HMs, the schools are doing well. It is in the HM's capacity to take almost all the decisions regarding the school, right from academic to infrastructural. There are specific zonal offices wherein he's supposed to send letters, in case of any problem at the school. Only if the HM knows the rules well and is willing, the system will work fine!

3) Quality of education: The very basic problem of "What's the whole point of spending so much time and money on education and then being unemployed" is addressed by some parents. We need to go for more practical courses (govt offers these as well) which would earn quicker returns.

4) Surroundings: Let's get little bit into some figures. Only about 1% of kids HAVE TO earn for their family. About 9% of the kids' parents are not willing to send the kids to school. 50% percent of the kids do not go to school because they don't find anything interesting there! Remaining 40% percent of the kids do not go to school due to 'bad' company!! This bad company is of kids who do not go to school and earn and learn their living through personal experiences of the world around! This non-formal experience bases education makes them much smarter than the formally educated school going kids and hence these smart kids can attract other kids more efficiently!
Other factors affecting a kid's life, especially girls, in the 513 slums that we have in Pune so far, is that the social burden is more on girls and hence they take more time to open up to new ideas. Most of them would need counselling before anything else. Also noticeable is the kind of hobbies these kids pursue. The surroundings decide these hobbies. Boys love to save up some money and use 'em later for short outings, watching action movies in local theatres, etc, whereas girls stick to in-house games.

5) Formal vs non-formal: The problem with the non-formal education that people like us give to the dropout kids, is that they are the rulers in our class. We decide, plan and execute our classes according to their moods and in a complete friendly and fun-learn style, giving personal attention to each of the kids. The scene in a school is totally different. The kid might never be even noticed in a mighty class and there would be zero importance attached to his actions, leading him to drop out again!

SSA does:
1) External exam: External exam for all stds is conducted by SSA, any kid (5 to 14 age group) can attend any exam, causing him to get into the respective std at any corporation school. This is of great use, since elder kids cannot go to lower stds.

2) Admission drive: A month before the admission season, surveys are conducted to search for out-of-school kids and they are admitted into schools later. Primary education is compulsory in India, for kids less than 14 years old.

3) Non-formal centers: Those kids who do no go to schools even after the drive, are taught for a year non-formally by some local recruited teacher and are then put back into the school.

4) Evaluation exams: SSA checks kids' performance through evaluation exams conducted every 3 months.

5) Teachers' training: 21 day training courses are offered every month for teachers. The syllabus is revised every 5 years and teaching methodology is also changed accordingly. Hence it's important to train the teachers. The training also aims at increasing the sense of belonging towards the school and kids.

6) Officers' training: Education officers are trained at Giriwan through various innovative methods. This is a residential training. (We are to attend this. Bravo!!)

7) Syllabus and material: They take part in deciding the syllabus, providing free material to schools, etc. We have the latest editions already! :')

8) Collaborating with NGOs: SSA works along with all the functioning NGOs in Pune. The aim is to take the help of whoever who knows things better. Good for us!

9) Workshops: Workshops, outdoor training sessions, etc are arranged for teachers. Summer camps (which include all-fun-no-study activities such as magic shows, craft, etc) are arranged for the kids just after their final exams, just so that their interest in the school does not fade away with the vacation.

10) Special projects: Special and specific projects such as the Pune Station project are taken up by SSA via sanctions from the central govt. The station project successfully dealt with rehabilitation of station-based kids, which, by the way, brought down the crime rate from 174 per month to 47 per month! SSA conducts special purpose health drives in slums as well.

11) Many more:

We can do:

1) Admission drive: We can help them by conducting the drive in the ares we know better.

2) Monitoring non-formal centers: We can monitor the non-formal center closer to us. We just need to go there once a week to check if the teacher's doing her job well, if the kids are enjoying the classes, etc. We might conduct some interesting activities for kids on weekends.

3) Monitoring schools: Volunteer should decide upon a conveniently located school, go there regularly to check out if things are in place, if they are not then make the HM take proper action, etc. This would have a great impact on the system!

4) Teaching: Train ourselves!

5) Counselor: As mentioned earlier, sometimes a counselor is a necessity. We can bring our own or point it out to SSA so that they can provide one.

We learned:
1) Attack the reasons: than the disease!

2) Formal first: For dropouts, formal education should be the first step, non-formal can come into the picture later.

3) Utilize existing system: It is of utmost importance that we shake up and wake up the existing system, which already has all the facilities on paper. This way is more sustainable than doing things through other channels temporarily. There's a system already in place, why not use it?! Why let the system stay idle and let increase corruption?! For example, conducting health camps in slums is a govt duty. They have a special office in Aundh (for Pune) for it. Let's make good use of it!

4) Study: Keep our eyes open, watch out for the policies and schemes of our interest, observe, study them in detail, and implement!

5) No immediate returns: Note that the effects might take more than 5 years to manifest! Chill!

6) Training: For primary education, proper training is necessary. We need it. :')

7) Kids first, parents later: Parents counselling was considered to be a major issue. But the fact may be that, if we start teaching and make a great impact on the kid, then no one can stop him/her from coming to the classes!

8) More thought, less action: Think more! Rather than picking up dropouts and putting them back into the schools over and over again, think about the reasons causing dropouts!

9) Notes later, execution first: In our way of teaching, i.e., the non-formal way, it is sometimes better to execute projects quickly than spending time in paper work. But do not forget to analyse the project and document it properly, once it is done!

10) The ugly world that it is: Now that we are considering working alongside govt initiatives, please note that we may come across bad officials or even some unpleasant news about good officials. Doesn't matter! Just concentrate on our basic goals and we'll be through! :')

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 at 7:36 PM

0) THE BASIC NECESSITY TO BE A TEACHER: A teacher should know at least 5 different and creative "punishments" at a time. A teacher cannot afford to be so stupid as to physically hit students everytime there's need for some punishment.

New volunteers:
1) Should be made to simply observe at least 5 classes before they start conducting classes on their own.
2) Can get better attached with kids while playing games.
3) Conducting activities in the class where 2-3 kids can be assigned to each new volunteer helps the volunteer know kids better.
4) Details in the attachment.

1) ALWAYS REMEMBER: DISCIPLINE IS A TOTALLY RELATIVE CONCEPT. I might be obsessed with kids sitting properly in a line while in class, someone else might allow kids to sit wherever they want and get better results!
2) So, whenever we ask kids to follow a certain rule in the class, always ask ourselves "Why???".
3) Try this- When some of the kids start fighting in the class, call the attention of the rest to them and say to those fighting, "C'mon kids, fight! We are all watching you fight for such small and stupid reasons! C'mon, you can be even more stupid and keep on fighting!!" ........ And they stop! They actually realise that they are being stupid.
4) Once a level of comfort and love is reached between the kids and us, conducting an unruly class becomes really easy. When kids are not paying attention to what we have to say, try to make them talk more, let them answer more. Keep a keen eye on all the kids all the time and make sure they understand everything that goes on.
5) If one has to face a totally bored bunch of kids and conduct some important activity, tell them, "Hey! Today we'll do something really really really boring! Let's see who gets bored more!" ........ Well, this isn't funny, it works. Take my word! :')
6) Ask them to make the rules for the class. They follow their owns rules with better conviction.
7) This list can go on if I don't stop myself here. You can get better ideas through the entire blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

22/11/09: Zarna madam. Along with some simple interest problems. At BC. Classroom not available. Me = not available.

Kids told her that I had promised them on Saturday that if they study well in that class then I would let them play on Sunday!

:D :D

I got to know of it when Zarna actually requested me to not tell such things to the kids!

They are so so so smart...

30/11/09: More by Zarna. Me = exams.
21/11/09: Banking. Children were made to answer it all.

What was it like when there were no banks? Where did people keep their money? What if someone needed more money than he actually had?

What will happen if all of us start keeping money in a safe in our houses? What are the dangers of keeping all the money like this? What are the advantages? Isn't bank a safer place?

How do banks work? What if I want to borrow some money? Where does this money come from? What if one fine morning all the customers go to the bank and withdraw all their money?

Why would anyone lend you any money? How will the lender ensure that he is profited through this deal? Have you ever heard of interest rate on loans?

Why would you put your money in the bank? Safety? Interest on deposit?

Why do fixed deposit schemes have greater interest rate? Do they give some kind of assurance to the banks?

Would you tell me, without solving for PNR/100, how much money will I have at the end of 1, 3.5 and 7 months, if I keep 100 rupees in a bank today, at a simple interest rate of 3% per month? Would you write down today's discussion after going home and show it to me tomorrow?

They answered almost all the questions eventually. Right from Saawkaars exploiting the needy to banks being supported by the govt through our tax money! Phew!

The objective behind this discussion was to study banks. The objective behind studying banks was to understand the meaning of rate of interest. The objective behind understanding the meaning of rate of interest was to solve simple interest problems. The objective behind solving simple interest problems was to study rationals and irrationals (which is yet to materialise).