Transforming government primary schools
ANKURAM focuses on the holistic development of children studying in government primary schools. These children belong to underprivileged sections of the society and are often deprived of quality education.
ANKURAM addresses five major identified focus areas - Infrastructure improvement, Pre-school education, Primary education, Upper-primary education, Health and hygiene, and Capacity building.
Currently, ANKURAM is spread over 100 government primary schools including, 26 schools in Gosaiganj, 25 schools in Chinhat, 3 schools in Sarojninagar, 9 schools in Bakshi ka Talab and 37 schools in Lucknow City, 7 pre-schools (Aganwadi), 13 Upper-primary schools, reaching out to more than 13500 children. Under the chairmanship of District Magistrate (DM) of Lucknow, a committee has been set up to provide necessary support to run the programme across schools.
In the pilot phase of ANKURAM, icareindia is working toward improving basic amenities in schools, enabling an environment of learning and identifying volunteers/interns from Universities to support school teachers. The second phase- ANKURAM SMART, will focus on leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of teaching content and capacitating teachers.
1. Identifying schools
Based on a set of pre-requisite criteria, such as children strength, teacher-student ratio, available class rooms, colleges in the vicinity and local community involvement, icareindia identifies government primary schools for the programme. These schools fall under both urban and rural areas. The ANKURAM team then conducts a SWOT analysis of every school to create baseline data before initiating the programme.
2. Recognizing school concerns
Most government schools in India face terrible infrastructure and human resource issues. In the initial survey, icareindia’s team found that 19 schools did not have proper toilet facilities, 21 schools did not have drinking water, 17 schools were facing encroachment issues, 15 schools had extremely skewed student-teacher ratio, 24 schools did not have a boundary wall surrounding the campus and 39 schools did not even have electricity.
Such conditions force children to either drop out of schools or leave after the mid-day meal. Inadequate number of desks and chairs, lack of campus security and frequent absence of teachers further worsen the situation.
Furthermore, teachers are very often absorbed in assignments other than teaching, leaving the children waiting in the classrooms. When they do teach, they stick to traditional methods of teaching and do not (or cannot) give attention to extra-curricular activities or children with special needs. The teaching methodology does not encourage students to learn and attend classes regularly.
The school authorities do not include parents from the local community to discuss progress of children or methods to improve the school environment. Through ANKURAM, icareindia is taking steps to make School Management Committees (SMCs) more active, involve parents and connect them with the activities of the school. The ANKURAM team is also motivating the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to participate in the decision making processes of the government primary schools to bring about a transformation.
3. Initiating ANKURAM
After the baseline data is created, the ANKURAM team meets the district administration and state authorities to leverage their support in connecting with various universities and degree colleges, conducting orientation sessions of student volunteers and mapping colleges with nearby schools. The team also receives regular guidance and support from the Chief Secretary, government of Uttar Pradesh (UP); DM of Lucknow; Chief Development Officer (CDO), and Former Chief Secretary, government of UP, Atul Kr. Gupta for effective implementation of ANKURAM programme.
Together with the government, icareindia has formed a District Review Committee (DRC) led by DM and an Advisory Board that helps in leveraging technology and social media.
4. Activating ANKURAM
The ANKURAM team connects student volunteers (who undergo orientation training under the YOUTH DEVELOPMENT programme with mapped schools and creates a schedule for them. Guided by a faculty, a group of 20-30 volunteers rotationally visit their assigned schools and perform several activities with the children, such as campus cleaning, creating dustbins from waste material, posters on pollution, hygiene awareness lessons, plantation drives, health camps, drawing, music and sports competitions, besides assisting in parent-teacher conferences and school annual day preparations.
ANKURAM provides these volunteers a ground for their own personality development (by learning soft skills), field exposure and recognition.
5. Supporting academics
The trained volunteers also help students with several academic activities to help them learn the subjects being taught in school and perform well. The icareindia team gives special emphasis on certain difficult subjects, such as math and language. Since the volunteers are well-versed with the syllabus, they support students in completing homework and class work, besides helping in handwriting improvement. ANKURAM also thrusts on developing etiquettes and discipline in children.
6. Recognizing efforts
The organisation recognizes efforts of volunteers and schools teachers toward ANKURAM by providing a certificate signed by the DM of Lucknow, vice chancellors (VCs) of participating universities and Chairman of icareindia. The team organizes events for distribution of certificate in degree colleges and universities, in the presence of concerned managers, principals and faculties. The initiative encourages youth to further associate themselves with ANKURAM.
7. Involving local communities
The School Management Committee (SMC) is responsible for ensuring participation of local community and PRIs to make the programme sustainable. This initiative forms the basis of the BHAGIDARI programme of icareindia.
Important milestones of ANKURAM
On July 11, 2015, the ANKURAM team organized a workshop to formally inaugurate the programme. The workshop focused on discussing the basic framework for connecting various universities with identified government primary schools under the ANKURAM programme. The Chief Secretary, Government of UP, Alok Ranjan attended the workshop as a chief guest along with Principal Secretary Basic Education, Dr Ashok Ganguly, Former Chairman CBSE and Former Chief Secretary Government of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Atul Kr. Gupta, vice chancellors of various universities, including University of Lucknow, besides faculties from various degree colleges, NSS officers, primary school teachers, officials from civil organizations, Civil Defence Lucknow, NCC, NSS and district officers.
Workshop on improving education
The icareindia Chairman Anoop Gupta participated in a panel discussion on 'Leveraging community participation for quality improvement in education' in a two-day state level workshop on 'Improving quality of basic education' organised by UP Centre for Good Governance (CGG) on March 16, 2016 at Hotel Clarks Awadh. The workshop was graced by Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC), Pravir Kumar along with Chief Secretary, Government of UP, Alok Ranjan. icareindia's efforts toward improving quality of education in Lucknow were well appreciated by the chief guests.
The icareindia team organized a workshop to connect with corporates in Lucknow and encourage them to extend support through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), on December 21, 2015 at PhD Chambers Lucknow. The workshop received participation from senior representatives of more than 30 top companies. These companies are spread over various public and private sectors, such as banking, telecom, automobile, IT, food &beverages and real estate. The DM of Lucknow and Former Chief Secretary Government of UP also interacted with the participants.
Despite his busy schedule, the DM Lucknow graciously helped the icareindia team in organizing a felicitation event at his residence office on December 17, 2015 to award and recognize well-performing volunteers, faculties and headmasters. Among the awardees were students, principals and faculties from 3 private universities, 10 colleges, and teachers from 6 government primary schools. The DM and VC of University of Lucknow awarded certificates to the participants.
The icareindia team conducted an event at Indira Gandhi Pratishthan, Gomtinagar on November 25, 2015 to connect various stakeholders on a common forum and increase their involvement at various levels of ANKURAM. The Secretary of Youth Affairs -Government of India, Rajeev Gupta, Vice Chancellor of Universities, Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC) of UP government attended the event. The UP Government Minister Abhishek Misra graced the occasion as chief guest. Deans, faculties of colleges, teachers of primary schools and many volunteers participated in the event. The best performing teachers of primary schools and volunteers received recognized by the chief guest. Students of various colleges also presented cultural performances.
To overcome the challenge of providing basic facilities to children, such as drinking water, toilets, playground, electricity, furniture, boundary wall and security, ANKURAM deploys a three-level intervention strategy.
The first level of intervention is to achieve a clean and green campus, an activity that requires no monetary investment. The volunteers, supported by the school children and the local community invest their time and labour to build a green environment.
The second level involves addressing issues through the local panchayats and district administration. These include renovation of buildings and civil work, hand pump installation or re-boring, electric fittings, and providing drinking water facility and functional toilets.
The third level focuses on bringing CSR participation into the programme and further improve the school campuses by providing proper furniture in classrooms, libraries, computers, sports equipment and creative work material for children.
Under this component of the programme, the team emphasises on the physical and mental development of the children. The most important phase of a child's development lies between zero to five years. Unfortunately, parents and schools are unable to provide an environment a kin to positive growth. The ANKURAM team focuses on covering up this gap in pre-primary school children (through Aganwadi) before they reach the primary classes.
The team also pays close attention to the health of the mother and empower her with ways to ensure her child's health as well. Pre-school education is one of the most important components of ANKURAM and the team is steadfastly working toward making Aganwadi centres vibrant with activity. These centres will help impart teachings on health, nutrition and support early learning of children. The programme aims to involve various stake holders, such as youth volunteers/interns, PRIs, local community groups, parents/guardians and the district administration to improve the learning environment in these centres and organise effective day-wise activities, besides periodically hosting Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) meetings.
Besides supporting children on class and home-work, the ANKURAM volunteers supplement learning through games, music, art, craft, clay and competitive activities. These not only help in retaining their interest in the classrooms but also provide grounds for holistic learning. The volunteers use various tools to help make the sessions informative and responsive, such as educational charts, posters and modules.
Upper Primary education
It's another area, icareindia has decided to work upon. Given the limited resources and priority on Primary Education transformation, only limited efforts are being made. However, in near future a focus on upper primary education would also be in place.
Health and hygiene
The ANKURAM team gives special attention to developing hygiene awareness among the children. Most children suffer from malnutrition and various other unattended health issues due to lack of awareness of parents. The volunteers regularly impart health and hygiene knowledge to children using posters and a hygiene calendar. The district health department also supports the programme through health camps.
Capacity building of teachers
Teachers are essential in the development years of a child. The ANKURAM programme aims to strengthen the capacities of teachers of these schools by synergizing with the college volunteers. Having extra help with the lessons motivates the teachers to perform better and in turn leads to children's betterment. The team regularly receives feedback from the teachers on ways to improve the intervention, besides organizing workshops, seminars and cross learning activities.