Project Sangamam - Poondi
Report for Jun - Dec 2006

ASHA Chennai Projects
Sangamam Poondi ? Working with Primary schools near Poondi

Jan 8th, 2007
Contact Rajaraman Krishnan

Recall ?

The project was approved and started in September 2004. We have been running the project for more than two academic years now. We were supporting four schools at Kuppammal Chathiram, Kanagavalli Puram, Pattarai Perambudur and Kunnavalam in the academic year 2005-06. We added support for schools at Pudhur and Nemiliagaram.


Happenings during June - Dec 2006

1. Selection of Additional Schools

We visited four additional schools in June of 2007 for potentially extending our support. These requests came to us mostly from other headmasters who have heard about our program at the existing schools and from the AEO’s office. We visited the following schools.

Primary school at Nemiliagaram

This was a village somewhat removed from the Thiruvallur, Thiruttani highway. The school had a nice area close to the entrance of the village. There was also a Balwadi adjoining the school. The school just had 70 children and two government teachers (incl. the Headmaster). Only one of the two buildings was being used. The other was in a state of repair. The compound was surrounded by paddy fields. The headmaster was close to retirement and did not seem too motivated. The village was a very backward village even in that area. The Balwadi has a really spirited Ayah. An old lady much in the mould of all these “Aachis” you see in the movies like say Manoramma. She was a firebrand and really had a very strong rapport with the children. The children also did way better with songs and rhymes than other Balwadi children I have seen. I felt we should do something for the Balwadi.

Primary school at Pudhur

The school had very little space but a brand new building in that area. This also had about 65 students and two teachers. The school maintained very good order. Even when we had gone unannounced we could see that all the children had left their footwear outside the class in perfect order. The headmistress was quite young, in her late thirties. She seemed very organized and motivated. The other teacher was pregnant and was expected to go on a maternity leave in two or three months. They needed an extra teacher.

Primary School at Thomur 

This was a much bigger school than the other two. This had 300 students and 8 teachers. Two of the buildings in the school were very badly damaged. Two other buildings were functional. What was very disturbing was that in one of the good buildings, all the teachers had parked their vehicles. Instead of having classrooms, they had parked their bikes there!!! Then they had the temerity to tell me they did not have sufficient space in the buildings and needed the other two buildings repaired! The community in the Thomur village was also relatively better off and even then did not support the school in any way. I decided it will not be in our best interest to support such a school where both the teachers and the community were not cooperative.

We decided to extend our support to the schools at Nemiliagaram and Pudhur from this academic year. We also visited the middle school at Placepalayam. The request for support at this school came from the ex-Headmaster at Pattarai Perambudur who is now the headmaster at the Placepalayam school. We decided to support this school as well but decided to not club it with this project. One of the main reasons is that Srinivasan the coordinator for this project will not be able to monitor the Placepalayam school in addition to the other 6 schools. Further since the support is going to be directly through the headmaster, potential conflict of interest situations come up (i.e. the headmaster can just take the easy route of getting funds for something through Asha while he ought to get it from the government). Therefore we decided to keep that project separate.

2. Financial Update

Proposed Amount for academic year 2005-06: Rs 7.4 Lakhs.

Total Funding Received: Approx Rs 7 Lakhs

In particular the funding came from,

Asha Canada Can $3000
A US based donor $5000+
Another US donor $3000
CSS Foundation Rs 1.56 Lakhs.

We have met most of the needs for this academic year and should be able to implement all the activities we have taken up for this year.

3. Teachers

With the growth in the number of schools we have increased the number of teachers to 10. Srinivasan continues to be the coordinator for this project. The teachers are,

Kuppamal Chatthiram
 Deivanayaki and Sumathi (no changes).
Kanagavalli Puram 
Arputhamani (no changes).
Pattarai Perambudur
Jayanthi and Sophia. Mythili was unable to continue with us as a teacher because of family responsibilities. Also her husband got elected as a ward member to their Panchayat. We replaced her with Sophia. She is from Pattarai Perambudur. She has finished upto her 12th std and also has some computer knowledge.
Kunnavalam Saraswati, Vijayalakshmi and Charumathi. Saraswathi is an old teachers. Vijayalakshmi has finished 12th std. She has taught in an English medium school for 2 years at her native place before marriage. Charumathi has also finished 12th std.
Nemiliagaram . Rekha She has passed 12th std and was already a PTA teacher at that school. She is now being supported by Asha.
Pudhur  Jayasudha. She has also passed 12th std.

4. Infrastructure work undertaken

There were some infrastructure work undertaken at the two new schools, Pudhur and Nemiliagaram. At Nemiliagaram, one of the buildings required significant repair to the roof tiles, door etc. At Pudhur, the school had a toilet but without any plumbing work. We provided that to make the toilet usable. Further we also contributed a bureau, tape recorders, black boards etc. to these schools like we have done for the other schools. There hasn’t been any infrastructure work at the other four schools.

5. General Update on the Other Work

As we have done in the other years, we staggered the starting of all the activities of the project so that we do not take up more than we can raise funds for. Similarly we have postponed the activities at the Balwadi as well as the uniforms for all the children. These will be undertaken shortly. We have replenished the sports and learning materials for the schools. 

6. Observations from Recent Site Vist

I visited Pudhur, Nemiliagaram and Kunnavalam (the three newer schools) recently on the 9th of Dec. Viswanathan and Bhaskar, Asha Chennai volunteers also accompanied me. Since it was a government holiday and further the teachers were in a training on that Saturday, the government teachers couldn’t come to the schools. However the headmasters at all our schools were willing to give the keys and full access to the schools to Asha teachers. So the Asha teachers together managed to run these three schools completely on their own. It was heartening to see the level of trust.

At these schools we tried to assess the level of educational attainments of the children at these schools. For 4th and 5th standard kids I asked them to multiply two 2-digit numbers. I also tested their general understanding of the transitive property of multiplication and its relation to division etc. I asked 4th standard children about the planets and Earth’s satellite. I tested 3rd standard children knowledge of English by asking them questions in Tamil which they had to answer in English. I also asked some counting kind of questions to 1st standard children In general the levels were lower than I had hoped. In particular at Kunnavalam where we have worked for over an year, I expected the level to be higher.

The Nemiliagaram school was the worst of the three where most of the 5th standard children could not do the two digit multiplication and the other questions also did not yield favourable results. Kunnavalam fared slightly better with some of the 5th standard children being able to do the multiplication and the 4th standard kids knew about the planets/satellites with some prompting.

A little surprisingly the school at Pudhur was the best of the lot. All credits to the motivated Headmistress there. Here even the fourth standard kids could do simple 2 digit multiplications.

On English I realized I had too high an expectation. On Maths I hope we are able to intervene and improve standards better. Srinivasan assures me that atleast in Kuppamal Chathiram and Kanagavalli Puram the standards would indeed be better.

On of the things that has been delayed a lot is the report from the evaluation done last year. We hope to conduct this year’s evaluation and submit a comparative report in the next month or two.

Expected Activities for Upcoming Months

Some of the activities which were delayed like uniforms, materials for Balwadis etc. will be taken up shortly. The 2nd evaluation will be conducted at all the schools in the next one month. 

We also hope to have a meeting with the heads of the different schools and the district level officials to have a discussion about the longer term focus of our efforts etc.