Saturday, December 14, 2013

Burden of the Indian expectation for AAP

I confess that I am not a follower of politics at all. I don’t know the names of the parties, their ministers and much political history. However, there are moments of public interest when my easily distracted mind gets interested in the proceedings. Sadness at the fall of Vajpayee’s government and inspiration on hearing Obama’s oratory are previous instances that come to mind. Delhi elections this year will be another. Arvind Kejriwal has brought unimaginable interest in these elections. There is an interesting event unfolding daily. The underdog beating the giant. The hung assembly. Reluctance of the big-wig parties to form the government.

I personally think that Kejriwal has already done a fair bit. He has inspired countless people and tried to redeem their faith in politics. Hundreds if not thousands will join politics with purer motives in the years to come. They have an avenue. They have a precedent. They might not know the policies, administrative structures and many other things complicated things. But some of them will learn and try to make things better. Maybe some will form a separate party. In any case, all of them will be working for betterment in their own ways. Institutional ways. Not with hunger fasts like an attention seeking child or illogical, nonsense statements like our very own douchebag, Baba Ramdev. We need these motivated people in our political scene. And India might have a lot to thank Kejriwal for in the years to come.

I think Indians have a long history of suffering from the ‘too-many-expectations’ syndrome. We are so devoid of people to look up to that we want the single person, who we look up to, to do everything. It doesn’t matter if we don’t give them adequate support or training.
Sachin should win all our matches single-handedly. We will criticize him even though we can’t provide him 4 other half-decent batsmen who can provide him adequate support or 4 quality bowlers so that the poor guy doesn’t come out every time with a mountain to chase. IAS and other 1st tier officers should be able to solve all administrative problems of this country with a team of moronic and largely untrained 2nd and 3rd tier 'support' staff.

It is very hard to be a good son to this country. It is like the parents who have given up on the other children and accept their misdemeanors with a shrug saying ‘that’s how who they are’. But the good son must do everything. He must sacrifice, slog his ass off and not enjoy like the other children because that’s his moral duty. And he must remain committed to it in spite of the criticism that is deserved, of course, on not doing a good job. 

How is this relevant? Coming to our current scenario, AAP has been invited to form the government by the Delhi Lt. Governor. BJP, the party with the largest number of seats, has declined very nicely. AAP has asked for some time to make its decision. It has also asked clarification from the Congress and BJP party leaders on their stance on various issues.

Hindustan Times today (15th December), printed the results of its online poll -
Is Aam Aadmi Party running away from responsibility by not coming forward to form a government in Delhi?
Almost 50% of the people have said 'yes'. More than the people who have said 'no'.

I have been reading a few comments on various articles and posts. There are numerous comments condemning AAP for not taking the initiative to form the government. Comments such as these -

“Don't waste your time on AAP. I feel they have missed the bus. This is no way to negotiate. It is running away from responsibilities....”
“Arre bhai to form govt. to do all this naa... why all this drama... if they won't agree on some issue then expose them by being in govt. .. truth is AK is a big Phattu!!”

This post is not about the competency of AAP or Kejriwal. It's not about who should form the government. It's also not about Sachin's performance. It is about what people, who I will call langurs, think and expect.
The Indian Langur - no patience, no support, only result
 The langurs who are not involved except during their coffee chat discussions in which they pass judgments like veterans of the craft. And frankly, langurs do not really affect the proceedings. However, I still have a hard time grasping the langur's opinion. 

I don’t understand this. First of all, why are they, the langurs, not saying the same things for BJP? After all, BJP does have the highest number of seats. Why is BJP not taking the initiative to form the government? Hasn’t it made promises to people? Is it not supposed to work for the people and care for their well-being? Or have langurs already given up on it thinking – ‘Arey, wo to waise hi harami hain. Unse kya baat karni?’ AAP has not won majority. People have not given it that kind of support. But we seem to say to AAP - 

You have the second most seats as a sign of our support but you should take the initiative to form the government. We also want you to deliver on all your promises immediately. Never mind that the other parties have not done anything for 60 years. I know that your people are novices and these issues are deeply entrenched and not easy to solve. Yet you must do it. Without majority. ASAP. With the other parties providing obstacles in your path. And we don’t want you to be sure of the support that you get from the other parties because that’s their job of opposing you.

So not only does Sachin have an incompetent team, but the other batsmen are actively trying to get him run out. But he must lead India to victory because we langurs can have expectations only from Sachin. There is no hope from the rest so let them indulge. Many greats have failed and given up because of our attitude. It's alright. We will resign ourselves to our fate and go back to our original state.

Training the 'blue-collared' worker

Vocational education has been a poor orphan in our educational system. Only the ones who are deemed as incapable of doing well in our 'regular' education system turn towards vocational education. In the past one year working with Funfirst Global Skilllers, post-Teach For India, I have learnt quite a lot about the current vocational system. A small event happened in my early days at work that gave me hope and the belief that this work is worth it.

A few years ago, Government of India created Modular EmployableSkills (MES) framework with the aim to provide, improve and certify employable skills to school leavers, existing workers, ITI graduates etc. MES courses are demand driven, short term training courses identified in consultation with the industry. While there is a lot to be desired, these MES courses are a good attempt at outcome based vocational course design.

One of the first steps was registering Funfirst as a vocational training partner (VTP) and our Kolhapur site as a Vocational Training Center. Like all government processes in India, it was long and tedious. It took months and was very frustrating. So it was a big deal when we finally got the approval. We decided to start with Electronics 101 and Material Management 101 and chose 20 employees from our plant to be trained. We could start training!

Well, not really. We faced a challenge in the form of the Government web portal for this scheme. Long hours were spent registering our people and then enrolling them according to the planned training calendar. The servers were down most of the time. One of us had to spend the night in office to upload data on the server since it worked best at night. The battle against the portal’s vagaries took many days but we plodded on relentlessly. Finally, one sunny day (or a dark night), our course enrollment was complete. Now, I hoped we could start training!

This was our first time training so all of us were nervous and excited (understandably). Our new trainers spent hours planning their course and many more studying in preparation. After all, this was also their first time in training. Our trainees, who are existing plant workers, showed a lot of enthusiasm and grit, doing their best to balance their education and work at the plant. They regularly took small assessments and exceeded expectations.

All too soon, the course was completed and it was time for the final assessment by a third party assessor. While we were confident about our training we nervously asked our trainees about their performance on the assessment. The wait for the result seemed to last for eternity. One afternoon while checking the portal, as had been the hourly ritual, we noticed that the results had been uploaded and each one of our trainees had passed. We were overjoyed with our first batch.

However, we were not satisfied with just the results. Vocational education has always been short changed in our country and we wanted to find out if our trainees had really derived some benefit from the course. I personally spoke to more than half the students and their feedback was more than a little surprising.

Almost everyone felt that they understood most of their course. Some of them have worked for many years but they had only a superficial or mechanical understanding. For the first time, they realized how things were done. Even in cases when the courses were not immediately related to their field of work, all of them were happy that they gained some more knowledge. It enabled them to ask more questions, submit better reports and take initiative in doing simple tasks which earlier, they relegated to their colleagues and superiors. Couple of them said that they always had an interest in electronics but could never get trained in it. Now they have repaired small appliances in their own homes. All of them are eager to do more such courses in the future.

Drilling techniques in a Mumbai Training
For far too long, the ‘blue-collared’ workers have been marginalized and their careers have stagnated due to lack of advancement opportunities. They are treated as inefficient machines who should not have a career path. Professional development and work satisfaction is not even in the vocabulary. Good quality, sincere training leads to more productivity, efficiency, confidence and satisfaction at work.

And this is just the start. In India, there are many people waiting to have their story taken forward.

This post was originally written by me for Funfirst's blog which can be accessed hereIt has been edited and posted on this blog.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Problems with 'Smart' people in the social sector

Let me start by explaining my use of the word 'smart'. There are a lot of large and not-so-large social sector organizations that seek (and get) validation because they hire 'smart' people. Usually, this means that they have people from the urban upper middle class, having elite university education, who have (or could have) joined the traditional higher-paying corporate jobs. Even if we ignore the dubious quality of university education in India, we are still talking about people who have little experience with the problems at the grassroots - be it the urban slums or the rural poor. Normally, they also don't have the relevant experience and certification in the particular social sector field. This leads to a lot of problems and resource wastage.

The title is a little more provocative than what I really feel and the post is not a rant. There are a lot of really good people working in the social sector. They have adeptly avoided the issues that I am going to talk about. Also, I have mellowed down with age.

First of all, some people carry the their socioeconomic background and elite education with arrogance. I am sorry, but just because someone graduated from IIM Ahmedabad in finance and worked in Private Equity for 5 years does not make him/her an authority on maternity healthcare or low-cost housing or primary education.

Almost 3 years ago, I was visiting a slum in South Bombay with a bunch of graduate students from Harvard Design School. They were here to look at slums for a few hours for a few days and then present a design for restructuring housing construction of that area. We traveled through two slums, met a few people, went inside one house, saw a community toilet from the outside (they wouldn't go in) and asked about sewage. Towards the end of it, the problem they identified was the lack of drainage construction in the area. This prevented every household from having a bath and toilet. So drainage must be built. And then, people must invest a considerable sum of money in having their own bathrooms. Hence they were stuck since that could only be done by uprooting the whole area and digging drains in it first.

This is a good example of the lack of understanding of people disconnected from ground realities. I am not sure if people living there really thought about having their own toilets. Did they want private toilets? Is it a priority for them? Were their complaints about lack of hygiene of community toilets or lack of private ones? Could we not just focus on ensuring maintenance of existing community toilets and maybe build additional few of those so that accessibility and rush is improved?

That can be the problem with foreign experts and consultants. India is not Germany or Japan. Upper-class Indians also have the same problems. The class difference is so wide that a lot of us have no clue about life on the other side of the fence. A person working in the social sector needs to have expertise in the field as well as a thorough understanding of the people. The people that they are working for (sometimes with) have grown up differently with different mindsets.

Then there are the financial constraints. Normally, salaries will not match up to the salaries 'smart' people were previously getting or would have gotten. It translates to lowered earnings throughout their working period. This leads to a few problems -

One is the 'charity' feeling which leads to a sense of moral and intellectual superiority. 'Smart' people get accolades from friends in 'regular' jobs about their tremendous sacrifice. It almost feels like being a messiah to the people in need.
Mandatory Anurag Behar excerpt from another brilliant and polite article
"... but a significant minority seems to believe that they are doing a favour to society (or me) by even considering such a movement and the mere idea of the material sacrifices that they will make in such a transition entitles them to a “leadership” role. Do I need say more about such people?"

This 'charity' feeling gives rise to another problem. Some 'smart' people don't push themselves hard enough. After all, they are not getting paid as much and they can take it easy. They can work long days and weekends to draft that report selling underwear to partners but it's alright to give sub-excellent service to many children because they are doing this to feel good about themselves.

High attrition is the third problem. A lot of people think that they are not getting as much money as they can or deserve (very questionable). Some people think of it as time off to do something that makes them feel good. Young 'smart' people do this for the 'experience' before they can join the regular higher paying jobs. At some point of time, however, family and peer pressure gets to a lot of them. After all, who will marry you if you are not earning enough? Hence, these organizations struggle with retaining 'smart' people who go for greener pastures and MBAs.

The problem for organizations is getting the money. The donors are rich corporate businesses and the like. They like to give money to people like them and organizations who are hiring people like them ('smart' people). After all, 'smart' people need more money to work for these causes. Add in buzzwords like 'technology', 'measurable outcomes' and you have an entire fundraising campaign.

I strongly feel that people who have the problems should be involved in solving it. Instead of throwing money and hiring more 'smart' people to provide complete solutions, communities should be involved. 'Non-smart' people should be trained and empowered to make changes which they seem right. And if these people were given the same salaries and training, we would have 'smarter', purposeful and happier workers in place of the inexperienced 'smart' people who are 'compromising' on their lifestyles and careers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Can we make teaching cool?

I have been putting off writing for a long time now. It's impact is clearly visible in the drastic decline in the number of visitors. It took the Teach for India Alumni gathering last night to push me off my butt to write about something that I have been thinking for a long time.

It's a fact that quality of teaching in India is extremely poor. I discovered yesterday that India has around 13000 teacher training institutes. That's a huge number. In comparison, China has around 60. As Azad of Central Square Foundation put it last evening, it's a massive scam. The instruction in these institutes is pathetic. And all of this has been around for many many years. As a result, there have been generations that have absolutely no idea what good education looks like. That's why policy and discussions about poor education quality are based on a very superficial understanding of what excellent education looks like.

Recently, there was an exhibition on education and skills in Mumbai. There were a lot of colourful, shiny stalls with gadgets. Almost half the stalls were of smart classes which is usually a camera and some software facilitating interaction. Some were on classroom furniture. Almost nothing on human resource development. There was nothing on improving the quality of teachers or principals. It's assumed that having a camera and some buttons will automatically make teachers interactive and increase student participation. As if colourful furniture will empower teachers with the skills to increase student engagement and learning.

There was one stall which provided CDs developed in-house after years of research. CDs which spoke about contextualized quality teaching, student engagement using things available readily in villages, role of art in teaching, great Indian writers and noteworthy women of India. The stall was simple and no-nonsense. Predictably, it was of NCERT. Unfortunately, it had a deserted look.

We are trying to improve the system with gadgets without focusing enough on empowering manpower. We cannot have a functioning system unless we have capable and motivated people at all levels in the system who are trained in content, educational philosophy, pedagogy, assessment, technology and learning processes.

Coming back to teaching. According to estimates, India is short of around 12 lakh teachers. We need more people becoming teachers. More people respecting the teaching profession. More people making classrooms better.

I taught around 120 students in my 2 years. All of us in the school (and most from Teach for India) are novice teachers. It's a struggle. But at the risk of sounding arrogant, I will claim that our students got much better teachers than they probably would have otherwise. Our quality is certainly questionable but we were better than the alternative. At the very least, we made the classrooms different. Classes different than what their peers and siblings go to. Classes that were safer, more colourful and open for students.
Something is surely changing. Our children are more confident. After 4 years of Bhaiyyas and Didis, they refuse to be taught by other teachers. They do not accept corporal punishments. They demand a certain standard of teaching. They ask for access to books and other resources. They look up to their Bhaiyyas and Didis. People in the community respect us. We make teaching cool - for them and even for my peers.

My little students are growing up. They will learn even more. A lot of them tell me that they want to become teachers. Some even want to join Teach for India. Maybe some will. They will have families. They will demand more from their children's teachers. They will push the teachers to be better. They will teach their children personally. It will take time. It will be slow. But it's a drop in the ocean. And it matters.

Teaching is awesome. It's incredibly hard. It drains you physically, mentally and emotionally. But it's completely worth it. Teaching is cool. People need to know this. 

A good teacher according to children.
From: Coursera

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Student Writing: Salman turns poetic

I visited the school after a long time. It was pure joy to see the kids again. They looked like they had grown up in the summers. The library is being managed well and the kids are still flocking to it.

Salman is one of the critically thinking students. His ideas and language have always been very interesting to read. During my stay, he demanded attention from me and secretly showed me the poem that he has written. The poem is presented here in its original form except some (not all) minor grammatical corrections.

Coming back to school

When the summer holiday ends,
I slowly walk to my school,
and thinking how will the day spend.

When I gone to the gate 
I realize that I am late.

I have a pretty teacher
that shouted at me like a monster

I have a helpful friend
that can't give me a single pen.

I have a tasty tiffin
which I lost and cannot be seen.

I had done the test
but does not do the best.

I have a respectful classmate
who teaches me with sofate. (He told me that this word means 'mockery or irritation')

My school day work like this way
which I don't see in holiday.

I think that this poem is brilliant. Knowing him and his family background, I feel there is so much sarcasm and satire in this. My favourite is the line about the (un)helpful friend. In fact, my friend and I had a debate about the underlying emotions in the poem. She feels that it's inherently a happy poem. Irrespective of who's right, it's fantastic that this poem leads to much discussion. It's such an excellent piece of work. 

In other news - this article and the documentary totally made my day. One should really subscribe to 'The Better India' for the frequent doses of good things happening in our country. It does it without being cliche or sentimental. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

I am a teacher. What is your superpower?

On taking over my 4th grade classroom, I found that the students could neither read nor write simple sentences in any language. Most of them were very poor in basic math operations deemed appropriate for their age. They could be quite a handful when they got into their mischievous moods. Later on, I could see a similar lack of knowledge in a lot of students in 7th or 8th standards.

A commonly held perspective goes something like this –
What are these students doing in school? Why aren’t they learning things that are being taught to them? They shouldn’t be coming to school if they can’t learn. Being a student means devotion to education and improvement of one’s self. And this is true for a majority of them in this school. We have an attitude problem in these students. Nowadays, the government is doing so much for them. Education is free in government schools.  Government schools also provide books, bags, stationery, meals and what not. These students don’t want to learn. After all, if they were interested, with hard work and perseverance, they can overcome the barriers of illiterate parents, poor teachers, dysfunctional school and a pedagogically unsupportive environment. I think that most of them are not capable of self-improvement or grasping the prescribed curriculum.

Thankfully, this mindset is beginning to change in the recent times and a lot of people are questioning the status quo of education. The focus is shifting to providing quality education and the onus is being laid on the teacher to improve learning in students and get better results. Still, learning in students is abysmal. Words like creativity and argumentativeness are ideas only discussed in all-India-teacher meets in AC rooms in Delhi.

I had the fortune of participating in a wonderful workshop on Active Math education by Navnirmati this weekend. During this workshop, I met an engineer who has left his core engineering profession to work in the education field. He conducts math workshops with students and teachers. The idea is to propagate activity based math which makes it a flow of ideas linked intricately with each other instead of reducing it to independent chapters which remain abstract concepts coded in numbers in our textbooks. He has been holding workshops for teachers, from elite to low-income schools, for the last 4-5 years. However, he finds that even after the workshop, these methods are not used by the teachers in their classrooms. He was very upset about this.

His perspective –
This is not erudite knowledge. It is freely available for anyone who wants to learn and improve. Even after holding these workshops and making them experience hands-on learning, they still don’t do this in their classrooms. What are they doing in school? They shouldn’t be teaching if they are not motivated enough. Being a teacher implies constantly innovating and striving for improvement. We have an attitude problem in these teachers. I have seen this in teachers across high-income to low-income. After the implementation of the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission, even the teachers are getting high salaries. It’s common to see them with Blackberrys. I have left my cushy engineering job to improve education. Still, these teachers don’t want to improve. If they were interested, all of our kids would be learning irrespective of other factors. This can also be attributed to the fact that only uninterested and incapable people become teachers. None of them wanted to be a teacher. They became teachers because they couldn’t do something else. Most of them are not even capable of understanding their subjects and implementing these pedagogical methods.

I couldn’t help but smile. There is very little difference between the mindset I mentioned earlier about students and the mindset about the teachers.

I spoke to the teachers in the workshop. For almost all of them, this was their first workshop on professional development. This included teachers who had been teaching for 10-12 years. I had a group partner who had 25 years of teaching experience. Her last training, she recalled, was 15 years ago. She still remembers what it was about.

When I was a fellow with Teach for India, I was lucky to have city-wide training every month. This was in addition to regular classroom observation and one-on-one feedback by my manager, feedback and support by my peers and monthly manager group meetings. A lot of these sessions took us back to remember why we do what we do. They celebrated our work and made us feel good about ourselves. After all of this, I was just an average teacher working tremendously long hours. Despite being in the system, I was outside the system. This was a strong factor which gave me support and motivation.

The teacher is just a human who is a part of the system. She (for convenience, I am going to stick with the pronoun ‘she’ because I think females form the majority of the teachers in our country) has herself studied through the same dysfunctional system. Most of her beliefs regarding education have been built on her experiences as a student and then as a teacher. To change, and in some cases transform, these perspectives built over years, the professional development should be rigorous and of a very high quality. Unfortunately, this is completely absent in India.

As a teacher, she is being supervised by a principal whose knowledge and mindsets are usually even more outdated, if not outrightly incorrect. She has been repeatedly told to prioritize her administrative tasks over her teaching, and admonished if she fails to do so. Her pleas for a smaller class size so that she can focus better on her students are lost to idea of more money. She is given examples of how other schools have 80 students per class which highlight her incapability at managing even 60.

The lesser said about the implementation of the curriculum, the better. The prescribed books are usually ordered by the school without taking her opinion. Schools get a commission on this.  All the students need to answer all the questions at the end of the chapter and fill out even the most redundant tables in the workbook of each subject. The principal might call for them any time and judge all her efforts based on how much the children have written according to the syllabus. If she does an activity or a song in the class, the principal might walk in any time and scold her in front of her students for not maintaining discipline. So much for trying out the activity based fractions that she learnt at the workshop. She would have purchased the materials from her own money because she knew the principal would refuse her the additional expense.

On any given day, a teacher has many other responsibilities apart from teaching - parental figure, clerk, sports coach, PR to name a few. Teaching is a rigorous profession by itself which requires tremendous study, practice and self-improvement. In my social circles, when I mentioned my work, I got respect not because of my profession but because I became a teacher instead of what I was expected to do. My unrelated fancy degree and the sacrifice of lakhs of rupees made me a good teacher by default. I think this was the biggest disrespect to the profession and to hundreds of teachers out there who are there by choice and doing amazing work.

This is how I felt when I was teaching. How many of our teachers feel like this about their profession?
Students from Shree Geeta Vikas Vidyalaya, Govandi

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Privatization of education does not make sense

I recently attended the IIT Bombay (IITB) Alumni Conclave with the theme - 'Education and Skill Development.' I was surprised at the unexpectedly large number of people from IITB working in the field of education. What should have been more surprising, had I not seen this before, was the lack of experience these people have in the education sector, except for having been educated themselves. They have not been trained to be or were teachers, administrators, curriculum developers or anything related to education at any point of time.
Quora is another place where lack of perspective on Indian education is apparent. There are fantastic answers on first-world-issues like the worst date ever, should I tell people that I am from IIT, are commerce girls easier than.... you get the idea. But when a meaningful, albeit slightly vague, question like this -
How can educational sector in India be improved?
gets answers, which are voted most popular, with suggestions like
a. teach without a qualified teacher using quora
b. teach with AFI's movies,
I want to bang someone's head on the wall. However, I must restrain myself for I digress from the topic of this post.

In my discussions with various people regarding education, there is a surprising number of people who strongly advocate privatization of education. They believe that privatization is the panacea to everything dysfunctional in our country.
Elite on privatization
Most educated elite on privatization
I am not even sure why people form this image of private players being efficient, dedicated and quality focussed. They are largely ignorant of the huge challenges that India's demography and geography provides in plenty which are extremely tough for any private player to come to terms with. These people also believe that money and profit are the best incentives ever. More the money dangled in front of people, higher the output.
At this point, I ask them -
What's the output in school education? 
They stumble for a bit and say results. Or some vague ideas about quantifying output.
I ask -
If it's profit making, who is the customer then?
They usually reply parents.
Does that mean that education should be tailored so that it pleases the customer most? 
Usually there's no instant gratification in education. So ways are invented to please the customer regularly. This can be seen in the large number of largely pointless events that fancy schools conduct nowadays.

I am actually not even sure what do people mean by privatization of education - Do they mean an education service run for profit or having a service with private like efficacy?
If education is a for-profit service where the quality depends on the amount of money that is pumped in, then it is logical that education quality will be compromised for people who cannot afford to bear its costs . This goes against the most fundamental principle of universal education which I hope most people stand by.
If it is just about improving the State provided service, typically characterized by lethargy, bureaucracy and low quality - then yes, it should be done. Padma Shri Dr. D.B. Phatak summarized it succinctly at the conclave -
"Education should not be a business but it should be run like a business."

Private education comic
It's just the hat and the suit
Without even going into deep philosophies of education, there are various obvious advantages of education being provided by an autonomous, knowledgeable service provider whose motivations are not clouded by profit. If it's autonomous, it cannot be bullied. It can focus on learning outcomes and not on appearances and events. Since it's non-profit, there is no temptation to fake results for there's no money spent on marketing.

Anurag Behar is one of the best writers on Indian education system that I have come across. I have mentioned excerpts from his writings that I find most relevant.

Cost of Privatized Education is probably the most compelling out of these. It also suggests further reading.

"... The belief that private schools perform better persists in spite of evidence, systemic experience and theory... First, consistent evidence across the world, including India, shows that private schools do not necessarily perform better than public schools. The difference in student learning levels between private and public schools arises primarily from differences in socioeconomic background of their students (relatively privileged ones go to private schools), selection of students (private institutions select one’s who are already able) and other additional support factors outside the school (tuition, going through pre-school etc). In simple terms, this means that private schools in themselves do not do a better job at education than public schools.
This dominant belief and public perception about superiority of private schools is also influenced by superficial markers of quality that are more social in nature—such as wearing ties and good shoes, “good” classmates, “English medium” etc.,—rather than educational... 

... On the one hand, private schools don’t do a better job of providing individual access to good quality school education, on the other hand, a substantially private (for-profit) schooling system works at cross purposes to the societal goals of education, hardening socioeconomic differences and inequity.

... Let’s look at the extent of privatization of basic schooling across countries in terms of percentage of students attending private schools. These are the rounded-off numbers: the US 9%, Japan 6%, South Korea 2%, Scandinavia 1%, the UK 6%, France 14%, Germany 4%, China 4%, all OECD 10%. The world average for basic schooling (up to age 14) is about 14%. The number for India is 25% and growing rapidly; our contribution is what is pushing up the global average. We are global champions of privatization in schooling–by a long margin.
Even countries completely committed to free markets and a dominant role for the private sector, have a public system for schooling. Shouldn’t we pause and reflect on the monumental mistake we are making as a country?

... The only solution to India’s problem of education is in improving our public schooling system. This will require hard, sustained effort for decades and substantially higher investment. But what we see with schools is merely one aspect of a deeper problem: the widespread abandonment of public systems in all spheres…in healthcare, in water and environment."

Excerpt from Profits and Schools -

"... One set of issues arises from the ever-present information and knowledge asymmetry between the provider of education i.e., the school, and its users i.e., children and parents. In a situation like this, the provider must do their best—an honest attempt to deliver good service—irrespective of whether the user discriminates between what is good and not-so-good.
This is a professional obligation. You do expect that a doctor would do her honest best for her patient, although the patient may have no idea what is good (or best). The school situation is akin, but the professional obligation on the school is even greater...

In this situation of asymmetry, to do an honest job of its professional obligation, the schools’ cost structures become such that the fee required to make it sustainable (forget profitable), is not available. It’s not available primarily because it’s simply unaffordable by a very large majority in the country.

The unfortunate fact is that there are hundreds of seemingly respectable schools giving short shrift to the basics of good education. This pursuit of profits through short shrift is scandalous....
At the heart of all this is an acceptance that money and economics are not necessarily the most relevant frames of reference for all human endeavours. And that profit is not a legitimate pursuit in a social relationship of trusteeship such as education."

Another excerpt from Profit and Higher Education -

"Pick up any list of the world’s best universities and go through those names. You can go through the top 500—not just top 10 or 20. You will not find a single for-profit university.
The point is simple, high quality higher education is not and cannot be a for-profit enterprise. This is not an ideological issue; it is merely an economic implication of what is required to have high-quality higher education. Three of these requirements are: deep and broad-based research, a good student faculty ratio and a multidisciplinary faculty ranging from humanities to applied domains.

... To address our problems in education, both school and higher education, there are just two ways ahead and both are needed. ... for our problems of quality and equity in education, the government has to invest more money and improve its performance."

All the three articles by Mr. Behar deserve a thorough reading (like most of his articles). 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

100th post: Kaanton ko murjhaane ka khauff nahin hota

As my blogger account tells me, I have written 99 posts. 100th of anything usually implies history and nostalgia. And one can say that I am in a historical mood nowadays. Visiting ancient cave drawings in Bhopal, staring at Taj Mahal (again) and experiencing the wonderful old Hindi movies like Chalti ka naam Gaadi, Mughal-e-azam, Chupke Chupke and Deewar. Such cinema! Why don’t we make movies like those anymore? So much trash is being produced (ref vigilidiot). 

Today, I am meeting people from a socio-economic class where sacrifice is choosing to do an exciting fellowship paying me 23000 pm (which, by the way, is more than 4 times the average national income). People who are afraid of failure, risk, lack of Bisleri bottles and absence of air-conditioning. Madhubala's quote as Anarkali to Salim - Kaaton ko murjhaane ka khauff nahin hota (Thorns do not have the fear of wilting) - has become the quote of my life. 

This post is a tribute to my nanaji (mother's father). A fond recount of his stories by his (possibly favourite) grandchild. Stories which make me giggle, smile and salute him. I met him recently during my visit home and this was the first time I saw age showing on him. A year ago, he used to go for 3-4 km walks every day, get milk, lift heavy stuff and do more than what 20 year olds like me do nowadays. I don’t think I have ever seen tiredness on his face or heard a complaint from his lips. However, when I saw him this time, he had lost weight and got tired easily. He is a shadow of the man he was until recent times.

Born in a poor baniya family, my nanaji’s father had a kirana store (shop which sold ghee). These origins were apparent when he was diagnosed with artery blockage.
The doctor said - "aapke khun me ghee kaafi lagta hai." (You seem to have a lot of Ghee in your blood.)
To which my nanaji nonchalantly replied – "Arey! Humaare bapuji ki to ghee ki dukaan thi. Jab man kiya, kanaster me se 1-2 phunki (1-2 handfuls) to aise hi munh me daal lete the." (My father had a ghee store. Whenever we felt, we used to gobble 1-2 handfuls of it.)

When he finished his 12th standard, his father announced – "ab kal se dukan pe aana shuru karo." (Start coming to the shop from tomorrow.
Nanaji wanted to study more. But he knew his father would not allow because he couldn't afford his fees. Most readers (and the writer) of this blog will probably never understand the emotions of a 17 year old boy who wanted to study more but could not afford to. He went to his mother and expressed his desire. His mother patted his head and said – "Chal. Tere nanaji ke paas chalte hain. Wo tujhe padayenge." (Let's go to your grandpa. He'll educate you.)

So nanaji’s nanaji was the one who paid for his college fees. Nanaji wanted to study engineering. However, in order to borrow minimum amount from his nanaji, he settled for a diploma from Roorkee University (now IIT Roorkee). In a way, he is the first IIT-ian in the family, long before yours truly got lucky and made it through.

Piran Kaliyar in Roorkee, Uttarakhand
There’s a Piran kaliyar ka mela (fair) held annually in Roorkee. Nanaji fondly recollects running away with his friends from the hostel in the middle of the night on their bicycles to attend the mela.
Phir kehte hain – "Mele me to hume kya hi karna tha, hum to wahan ladkiyan dekhne jaate the."
Then he says - "There was nothing in the fair for us. We just went to see the girls."
(Yup! It’s in the genes)

After his diploma, he was employed by the UP irrigation department as an overseer. This was a stagnant position. To make the engineering cadre, he did a course (AMIE) and made it as a junior engineer. He was transferred to UP hydel division. In those days when electricity was a luxury and irrigation plans for the country were being made, nanaji created and executed those plans in reality. Take him to small towns in UP and he’ll point out – "ye water tank banaya tha, ye power plant banaya tha, yahan road banayi thi, ye canal and bridge banaya tha." Towns owe their current electricity, water and transport to his tenure. He’ll talk about the days when he used to measure canals for miles on his bicycle in the hot sun. Sounds simple but it's hard work in the hot sun.

I have seen many of my friends complain about 13 lakhs and that all of it vanishes. They don’t have to support their parents, educate siblings and get their sisters married off. In his family, nanaji was the only earning member. He educated all his brothers. He got all his 4 sisters married off. Not to mention his 2 sons and my mother. Everything very happily. He took a lot of pleasure in it. And now after doing all that, he asks me – "beta tujhe paise to nahin chaiye? Mujhse 1 lakh gift le le." (Don't you want money? Take 1 lakh gift from me.)
Iron-man anyone? And just in case someone is wondering, this is honest earning. He used to get transferred from the department almost every year because of his honesty.

The best story about him that I learnt recently - he has been to jail! Post-independence and not for a crime.
In 1980s or 1990s, a certain section of UP engineers organized a strike asking for pay raise and some policy changes in their board membership. All of them were put in jail for 12-13 days. Sounded tough. I imagined it being a hard experience.
Apparently, it was a party inside. All Class-I government officers sitting in jail. Jailor coming and chatting with them every evening. Huge amounts of food, kilos of fruits and dry fruits coming from families into the jail. People were fatter when they got released. Nanaji and his friends ate whatever they needed and distributed the rest to the regular inmates. These jailed engineers wanted better drainage and western toilets.  Nanaji was the only civil engineer in the whole gang. Nanaji spoke to the jailor and said - "Hum banwa denge." (We'll get it made.)
The jailor was delighted and the jail was upgraded during their stay.  Nanaji supervised the construction and voila – jail now had modern toilets. Imagine the inmates' happiness – they had clean toilets and cells and were now getting fruits and dry fruits. Nanaji talks about getting massages every day from the inmates and various people, government and otherwise, coming and congratulating him. I can imagine him lying and getting massages royally while people chatted with him. Finally, all their demands were met and they were released with much fanfare and customary garlands.

I always believe that life should be an interesting tale. I have high standards to live up to.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ulterior motives for the class picnic

The best part about the fellowship was that each day spent with the kids was different. Sadly, most of the precious moments spent with the kids, especially with my poor memory, slip out of the mind.  A few lucky ones make it to facebook. This incident happened in my first year of teaching.

This was the end of unit 4 and I was making the English unit assessment. Students get different English papers based on their reading comprehension ability. I wanted to give ‘Anna’s magic coat’ from readinga-z which has stories based on reading levels. (I recommend reading the story). I have always been skeptical about giving stories from readinga-z. I feel that its content is made for white suburban American children. My kids led a very different life. My kids should not be judged on words and concepts they are not going to be a part of their lives. For example, cupcake was an important word in the story. A game called ‘red rover’ was also mentioned at the end of the story. Even I didn’t know what ‘red rover’ was. As much I liked the story, words like these made it difficult for me to give it as an assessment.
I brought my dilemma to then-manager Katelyn and used this example to complain that it was so hard to find texts based on reading levels, text is American and the levels can’t be trusted. Katelyn just told me to make the kids experience the vocabulary.

 "Katelyn Voice" - You have to expand their horizons. If they don’t know what cupcakes are, show them. Hell, have a picnic and eat cupcakes and play red rover.

I was incredulous. Did she expect me to have picnics for each new word that my kids came across? You got be kidding me.

However, that’s exactly what happened. I announced a class picnic in school since it was too much hassle to take them out. I got cupcakes and cookies and Aditya, an American friend (keeping in tune with the inherent purpose), to volunteer. Actually, I had got muffins instead but I told them they were cupcakes (#superteacher award).
Blue tarp was spread on the ground and kids sat in circles while ‘cupcakes’ and other food items were distributed. Then, all of us played Red rover. Other classes saw this and were jealous. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this event.
A few weeks ago, I asked the kids if they remembered the picnic we had the previous year. And yes they did. They also remembered how many cupcakes they got. They had forgotten the name of the game but remembered that it involved breaking lines.
This memorable class picnic happened just because their Bhaiya wanted to give a story to some students, not all, with the word ‘cupcake’ in their English test.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Student Writing: Amrita's lunch with Salman Khan

The first student writing by Muskan was a super hit and received more publicity than the regular posts. 

Last month, the kids were supposed to write on "Lunch with a celebrity." 
First step, learn what a celebrity is. Then think about the celebrity you want to have lunch with.
I was in class when this was being done. The first response I get - Honey Singh. *Bangs head on wall* Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar were the winners by far with Dhoni being popular among the cricket enthusiasts. Anyway, there were some good writing samples. 

Amrita wrote about her lunch with Salman Khan which includes a foreign trip and other nice heroines among other things. Clearly, my realistic geography teaching has been chucked out of the window. I was pretty happy when I started reading it initially. However, I think I have become 60 years old when it comes to my children. For some reason, I got very protective. I was ranting on - "Is this how she really thinks? She is 11 years old! Why is she talking about make-up and boys?" 
That was until Shruti told me to shut up and stop acting like an overprotective father. I will like to point out certain bits that really made me nervous. As last time, I have tried to present the piece in its original form except for some word corrections. Minor grammatical errors have been kept intact.

Lunch with Celebrity

Hey! My name is Amrita Dinesh Singh. Can you guess what a beautiful thing happened on my last birthday? I got best and beautiful surprise on my last birthday. I had lunch with my favourite celebrity. The name of the celebrity is SALMAN KHAN. I was surprised, because he is so handsome, he had 6 packs (nervousness begins) and he jokes more. No one gets chances to have lunch with him.
But, I got chance to have lunch with him in USA. This is my first time to travel in aeroplane. I have to ready to go USA. I was afraid, because I didn't have new dress. All heroines helped me to find a new dress for me  in shop. But I don't like any dress. I was very afraid. And I was afraid that how will I get ready. I had request to the heroines to do my make-up. 

The heroines said that they will do my makeup. Then SALMAN KHAN (always in capital letters) come and give me a box. When I open the box, in the box, there is a new, pretty and beautiful dress. The colour of the dress is pink which is my favourite colour. I went to changing room and changed the dress and wore the new, pretty and beautiful dress. We went in the airport to take the aeroplane. When we got into the aeroplane, I was afraid because first time I'm going to USA. When we went to the USA we went in the biggest hotel of the USA. We ate the lunch and after lunch we traveled in train and saw all the USA. 

After we saw all the USA we came back to India. When we came back to India, then he take me to his studio. When we went there, then I saw that it was so dark. (I am almost sweating now and wondering what next). When I put one step in, then suddenly the lights switch on and I saw a big chocolate cake (Hallelujah! There are lights and there's a cake). Then suddenly all the heroes and heroines came and wish me 'Happy Birthday.' Then I saw that they had called my family (Everything's safe now that they are here). Then I cut the cake and give to everyone. And played games and dance on my favourite song. It was more fun and we enjoy it a lot. 

Everyone gave me gifts. And they also give me their autograph. And they take some photos with me. I was feeling so happy.

Looking at it objectively, it is a really good writing piece. I might be overprotective or crazy and that's probably the last thing I and people who know me would have expected but they are my kids.

Anyway, I can't find Swati's space adventure with Akshay Kumar. It'll be up if I do.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Student Writing: Muskan on 'our' library

I have had the joy of reading some of the best writing samples recently and I have wanted to put them up for a while. This is the hopefully the first of many in the student writing series. I have tried to present the piece in its original form except for some word corrections. There are some minor grammatical errors which I have kept intact. I have added some pictures as well.

A few weeks ago, Shruti (of the guest-author-of-the-previous-post fame) told a few students to write about the library. Muskan's piece, especially the opening sentence, blew me away. Its simplicity and expressiveness was completely unexpected. Here's Muskan in her own words talking about 'our' library.

Our Library

Our beautiful, little library with a small door painted in red colour above Mahalaxmi Dairy, is every child's dream come true. And it is located in Kamraj Nagar. 

Prachur Goel and Anish Nair, our Bhaiyas, started the library in September 2012. First, Bhaiya gave every student library pass. Our library is small but it is filled with books. Every book were keep in order wise on the shelf. 
Because in our library there are many shelves and one balcony. Library starts at 2 o'clock till 5 o'clock. And I had notice mostly girls come in the library to study. And generally girls and boys were interesting in puzzles. And I had also notice every time on Prachur Bhaiya's mouth there is motto for books. And the motto is
"Keep as it is."

Prachur Bhaiya and Anish Bhaiya and both Didis (Neha and Shruti) are in the library with many new Didis and Bhaiyas come from international countries to see our library and join us in studying. Every day we do something new in the library like brief description, talking about new arrivals etc. In library, my most favourite book is "The Banana Robber and other stories" written by Enid Blyton. 
But I dejected...

Her writing ends abruptly with "But I dejected..." On asking her about it, she replies that she intended to write about her Bhaiyas (which means us - Anish and I) leaving and leaving her dejected. She had left it for later but now wasn't interested enough to complete it. It's brilliant nevertheless. 

Upcoming: Amrita talks about her lunch with Salman Khan (my misgivings included).

If you would like to provide more books for Muskan and others to read, check out my wishlist.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Readers visit a book store

For the first time ever, the blog has a guest post written by my co-teacher Shruti. I think that it's a beautiful write-up and a pleasant change. She is much more succinct and paints a vivid picture of the wonderful experience. Pictures are courtesy Anish who has been handling the camera for the past few months. Here is Shruti in her own words -

Off late, I have increased the number of read-alouds in class. More often than not, the meticulously picked out book from the library, intended to be a novelty for the kids from my side is intercepted by Soumya, who enthusiastically whispers the next events in the story to her neighbour as I read in class. I give her a silent disapproving look, afraid that she might ruin the story for her friend.  I am greeted by her smiling face in the recess, to be told that she has read ‘this’ book too. She even offers to pick out the book for the next read-aloud.

Soumya is one of the nine kids we took to The Comet Media Foundation at Fort on 8th February to celebrate our dedicated, passionate readers. As a bonus, they were asked to pick out a book for their library to be added as their selection. We spent a considerable time chalking out the list; elated about the fact that we had so many avid readers, disheartened that we could only take a few.

The afternoon heat that day did not deter the girls, Gayatri, Ragini, Rashmita, Yamuna, Nameera, Saira and Soumya from dressing up in their finest salwar-suits. The boys, Ravi and Karan wouldn’t be bothered with clothes and were the first ones to arrive, tugging at Anish’s shirt urging us to leave.

It was a comfortable train ride, with conversations having questions like “Didi, will it be a big bookstore?”, “Will we be allowed to talk there?” or the one which was asked every five minutes - “How much more time Didi?”

A brief walk to Hutatma Chawk got us to a building, with The People’s Bookstore on the ground floor. The watchman directed us to the second floor. A narrow but creatively decorated passage led us to a tiny room with bookshelves stacked on all sides with books and games. The place housed a range of books by Tullikha, Pratham, Tara and a plethora of simplistic but interesting toys. Within five minutes, each kid had found a book they liked and had started reading them. Karan was especially fascinated with the wooden caterpillar and suggested we get that for our library.

Karan with a toy
Yamuna playing with the blocks
Ragini is focusing on her puzzle after reading through a few books
By the end of thirty minutes, Anish found himself humming a Malayalam song from a multi-lingual book (which was picked up by Nameera later) and I was busy building the ‘perfect’ house with Rashmita out of colourful wooden blocks. Two hours later, all the kids had selected books for the library, all without any say from our side. Rashmita hoped that all the students liked the book she picked up. Gayatri was confused between two books that she claimed she loved equally. She made up her mind after a twenty-minute long contemplation.

A lovely picture of Gayatri and Shruti sharing a laugh
Rashmita in full concentration

Ravi, our Science enthusiast, was a bit disappointed about the place not having too many science books. But as we stood to get our books billed, he noticed a stack of thin, light-coloured books. They were by Arvind Gupta and contained beautiful science experiments. Ravi’s face lit up when we told him he could pick up two. We ended the day with lovely ginger biscuits and bun-maska at German Bakery.

It's now Ravi's turn to play with the blocks

The library now has these books with the kids’ names on them. Every time those books are picked up, it is a reminder to us about how far we’ve come; from making do with all the books that were donated to us, to having our kids pick out new books by themselves for ‘their’ library.
Soumya is pretty happy here

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Library: Getting them to discover

We have a lot of story books in our library. We have also made a conscious choice of stocking our library with content heavy books on Science, Geography, Math and History . However, most of our students do not read these content heavy books naturally. One reason for the creation of the library was to make students take responsibility for their own learning by providing them an avenue where resources are available. We brainstormed quite a lot about how do we get our students to extract information out of them. We came up with projects.

Over the last 3 weeks, I have started giving them mini-projects. Projects are synonymous with fancy charts, art, glitter and models. Since I am a lazy geek, my projects are less of an exercise in display and more of an exercise in finding out information. My objectives - They realize that they should come to the library, find out the relevant shelf and then browse through the books.

Project 1 - Find out and draw (optional) means of transport.
Result - The childcraft books on science and technology were opened. I saw many versions of the rocket.

Project 2 - Find out names of the countries starting with each letter of the alphabet. Also write capitals.
Result - They know what an atlas is. Globe has been rotated continuously for the past week. They know at least some countries now. I gave a mental fist-pump when I walked into class and 40 agitated and worried kids complained about not finding any country with W or X. We had a discussion about why West Indies is not a country.

Project 3 - Find out any 5 rulers of India before 1857.
Result - All our new Illustrated History books were opened. We had a discussion on why I wasn't going to accept Ram, Krishna and the like. They learnt the word mythology.

Project 4 - Find out the names of 8 bones in the human body.
Result - I announced it today so I'll have to wait and see the effects of it.

Your ideas on this are highly appreciated. And once again, if you are interested in buying books for the library, check out my wishlist on flipkart.

On a separate note, Anurag Behar provides the best reading material on Indian education that I have discovered. Considering all the narrow-minded articles and opinions that I have heard and seen recently, his recent article resonates a lot and makes me want to write more. It's just that it's difficult for me to write if it's not an experience but a general opinion or argument. Education is such a complex issue that it's hard to isolate one factor and analyze it completely. I remain hopeful though. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Social Evils: Adventures of Krishna Mehta in USA

"Bhaiya, my tuition teacher complains that you don't teach everything from the school textbook. He asks: why are you teaching about female infanticide and dowry?"
"My dear child, what's the use knowing about social reformers in your textbook if you don't know understand what social evils are in the first place?"

The Adventures of Krishna Mehta in USA
This is the title that my students wrote in their notebooks at the beginning of the history period. I had initially planned on naming the character as Krishnamurthy Iyer. However, Shruti, (my co-teacher) being South Indian, took offence and I had to think quickly to be in her good books again. It's fictional and any resemblance is purely coincidental.
Krishna Mehta is a conservative Indian who has grown up believing all the social evils like caste system, female infanticide and dowry. He gets a job in America and goes abroad for the first time in his life where his views are challenged through different incidents.

I thought of using a different narrative to make the kids look at these issues from a different perspective without me making any judgement calls on the these practices directly. The plot unfolds like this -
Late on a cold night,  Krishna is lost and stranded. A helpful stranger (NRI) offers to help him out but Krishna refuses and insults him when he finds out that the stranger is from a low caste.
He survives and goes on to fall for a pretty girl. However, his marriage proposal along with his demand for dowry is met with complete shock, anger and insult. He is forced to contemplate about his ideas. He changes himself slightly to return again. However, he is turned down again when he outlines his expectations for a male child and describes female infanticide. Such events only lead to him coming back to India, single and disappointed.

The story is extremely simplified. However, even these ideas were novel. I needed to get the message across to the 5th graders surrounded by superstition and blind beliefs, even in their own homes. Parents of one of the students took him to see the 'mata' because he is extremely weak in studies. Maybe 'mata ke darshan' will change his report card.

What made me extremely angry were the parents of a couple of girls who were made to miss school for 10 days because they started on their menstrual cycle. One mother told me that she had fever (she probably phrased it that way because of my gender – god forbid males should know about menstruation!). Only later did we discover that the girls were ostracized in their own homes. They were kept on a cot in the corner and surrounded by curtains. They ate out of separate plates and couldn't be touched by anyone for a week until some religious ceremony was held. Is this what one would do to a scared, uninformed 11-12 year old who is experiencing something completely natural similar to half of the world? I wanted to storm into the house, defy their conventions and comfort the (possibly) scared little girl. (Fortunately) my co-teachers restrained me. I had a talk with them when they returned. One of them was pretty mature about it and understood the ignorance. For all our teachings, I hope we can ensure that the following generations don't suffer this.

Library - Wish I could enter

The library has been functioning for many months now so a library post has long been overdue. The library today looks very different from when it started operating.  New games, books, shelves and whiteboards have made their way into the library thanks to a lot of support of will-wisher. The books have been reclassified a few times and the shelves have labels. We have even been mentioned in the Mid-day!

For me, this post is a trip down memory lane, recounting my experiences when the library started. I have written about how the place was found and how it was built. As you can see, it's a small space and we teach 115 students in 5th grade alone. We also know how expensive the books are and how chaotic an overwhelming number of students can get. We wanted to ease our students into the system and at the same time, build this desire and interest for the library. 

We decided to go with a limited access system. Students need entry passes to access it and entry passes were given two times a week to 8-9 new students. Once you got a pass, you wrote your name on it to personalize it. It was a great interest building tool. Some of our most notorious students turned into little angels just to get that pass. Behaviour on the day of the announcement was fantastic.
Chandan was an extremely violent and angry kid. His desire for the pass exceeded his desire to fight and it led to a serious decrease in his aggressiveness. It took a few weeks and after 3-4 weeks, he really thought that he was going to get that pass.
Shubham had become one of the cheekiest, troublesome students in class. Despite his potential, his failure to work was troubling us. Finally, the desire to get the pass got to him and he behaved extremely well for a week.

Announcing the recipients of the pass was probably the most dramatic thing we did in class (That was before the Classroom elections). It was a time of euphoria for some and for some extreme disappointment. Chandan broke down in tears when his hopes were dashed and his name was not announced. Shubham was heartbroken and he, of all people, was silently crying after school. He felt so cheated that he denied that he wanted to come to the library at all. On the other hand, Albaz jumped up with joy when his name was announced.

Everyday, there was a long line outside the gate when we went to open the library at 2pm. We had trouble keeping the kids out. The staircase in the picture was full of children who were denied access to the library initially. They were requested, scolded and threatened to go back. These were the same students who practically had no books at home and would reluctantly read anything in class. We had succeeded in our mission to get them interested to come to a place full of books and read. They just wouldn't leave.

See more pictures here.
You can help kids read more by ordering books here on flipkart