Udaan…to take flight. A more apt name for the science assignment, given this summer, to the middle school students, living in villages along the coastlands of Kutch, Gujarat, would have been difficult, if not impossible to find. Not because the project, quite literally, was about learning how to make an aircraft – model ones, of course – fly. But for its smartly yet sensitively designed structure that lets every child’s imagination to take flight, her innovative skills to soar, unbridled. “We are very happy here. We made our own ‘aero plane’ within our group. We have learnt so much about the plane now, but we did not study at all for it. We just did it,” declares a student of Standard 5 in Gundiyali Primary School, Mandvi Block, as he frolics around the room, a paper plane in hand.
No, these children were not participating in any exotic game show or even an adventure sports event. They were attending one of the Shiksha Saarthi Science Workshops held regularly within their school premises, albeit on different themes. The sustained energy and excitement surrounding these seemingly routine affairs have to be attributed to the organisers of Shiksha Saarthi, who have mastered the skills to transform mundane into magical.
The Partners behind the scene
The alliance between Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), the wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company, and Pratham Education Foundation, is a powerful one. CGPL brings commitment—to the local communities living in and around its project site– to the table. While Pratham’s contribution is its competence and its redoubtable reputation of being the largest and most experienced NGO working to provide quality education to the children of India.
And together they have drawn up a plan that is potent enough to transform the profile of school education in that region.Located in the Kutch region of Gujarat, the CGPL project is mainly spread over 6 catchment villages. Tunda-Vandh, Mota Kandagra of Mundra; Nanabhadia, Tragadi and Modva of Mandvi Taluka of Kutch
Shiksha Saarthi, flagship programme of the CGPL-Pratham partnership, now has a network of 83 schools, spread across Mandvi and Mundra. It is a comprehensive education programme which is focussed on increasing the learning achievements through various interventions. Education fairs, Science fairs, Learning camps, volunteers classes, establishment of library, fun events, sports events, Community awareness programme, educational exposure visits and implementation of Government sponsored programmes—every avenue is explored to keep students, teachers as well as the parents engaged and interested in the education system. Volunteers, hailing from CGPL staff base, are also encouraged by Shiksha Saarthi to attend different types of educational programmes and extend their quality time as an esteemed volunteer.
Counted among the more popular activities of Shiksha Saarthi these workshops like Udaan are conducted by trained Vigyan Mitras of Shiksha Saarthi to handle science-based events at vacation time. When schools are in session, these workshops operate as science clubs for children in classes 6-8. Their main agenda is to simplify scientific concepts and minimise the perceived dread that children have towards the subject.
Once the theme is finalised, the science team meets village Sarpanchs, members of the School Management Committee and the larger community to explain the purpose and process of a science workshop. The topic is introduced to the students through a freewheeling discussion session. In Udaan, for instance, the Mitras drew diagrams of the craft with basic measurements. On the next two days the student teams had sticks, paper, glue and their innovative instincts as raw material to create their dream machine. They obviously made good use of all of it. The glow of pride in the faces of the guardians, who were invited on the final day, as they watched their wards display their model craft, proved that beyond doubt.
The real deal-clincher however, are the testimonials of the main stakeholders, the teachers. Here is a sample. Such workshops involve the children completely, and such practical activities hopefully would encourage children to take a greater interest in science,” says Farukbhai Node, teacher, Salaya Group of Schools, Mandvi, Kutch.