Project Sangamam - Poondi
Report for Jan - May 2006

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

June 7th, 2006
Contact Rajaraman Krishnan

Recall …

The project was approved and started in September 2004. We have been running the project for two academic years now. We have been supporting four schools at Kuppammal Chathiram, Kanagavalli Puram, Pattarai Perambudur and Kunnavalam for the last year.

Happenings during Jan - May 2006

1. Financial Update

Proposed Amount for academic year 2005-06: Rs 4.28 Lakhs.

Total Funding Received: Approx Rs 3.7 Lakhs

Total Expenses Incurred: Approx Rs 3.9 Lakhs (June to May)

Expense Breakup (June – May)

Honorarium to teachers Rs 1.6 Lakhs
Uniform Rs 63K
Infrastructure & Maintenance (incl labour)  Rs 85K
Learning Materials etc.  Rs 24K
School Day Events  Rs 26K
Administrative (office rent, office materials, photos, travel etc.) Rs 19K

This year we did not distribute uniforms for the children at Kunnavalam. We have also provided only two teachers for the school. Most of the other work proposed in the project proposal have been carried out.

2. General Update

There were several events that occurred at the schools over the last few months. These include the baseline evaluation of the academic standards, school day functions at all the schools, and a survey of Kunnavalam conducted in Summer.

All the Asha teachers are continuing to work at these schools. There haven’t been any changes in this regard. There continues to be very good support to our work from the government teachers and officials. This has also meant that we are getting a lot more requests from other schools and NGOs for support! We hope to continue expanding the scope of the project gradually.

3. Infrastructure work undertaken

The only major infrastructure work undertaken during this period was a new cooking area for the Kuppammal Chathiram school. The cooking area was very unventilated and leaking. They were also storing all the materials there and there really wasn’t enough space for both. For a cost of about Rs. 15000, we constructed a new kitchen for the school. It is noteworthy that the Panchayat allowed the school to extend into the Panchayat land for the new kitchen. It therefore didn’t eat into the play area for the children.

4. Baseline Evaluation of the Schools

This is something we have already done at the Corporation Primary School in Besant Nagar supported by Asha. The idea of this is the following.

  1. Understand the level of educational accomplishment at the school. See how this compares with other schools with the Asha fold and elsewhere.

  2. See what are specific areas of weakness at the school and look for ways to improve it.

  3. Over time see if there is any real improvement to the quality of education that we are able to bring about.

At the four schools of this project we conducted the baseline study in February. This is essentially question papers which test the grasp of the educational objectives as laid by the state board of education. The process was designed by Lakshmi Suryanarayan (principal of Olcott Memorial school and a volunteer of Asha) along with her teachers. Two teachers of Olcott Memorial School (Lalitha and Jyothi) went to these schools to assist the Asha teachers there to conduct the evaluation.

They have conducted the tests and corrected the papers. However collation of the data and preparing a report has been delayed due to various reasons. We hope to have a report on this within the next couple of weeks.

5. School Day Functions

All the four schools conducted their school day functions in April. Kunnavalam and Pattarai Perambudur conducted their school day functions on the 8th of April at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm respectively. Kanagavalli Puram and Kuppammal Chathiram had their functions on the 22nd of April at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm respectively.

Viswanathan, Mrs. Viswanathan, Deepak Vasudevan, Lakshmi Suryanarayanan and myself attended these functions. Asha had funded part of the expenses for the functions. To their credit the school teachers wanted a good function and funded whatever more was required to have the function to their satisfaction.

The functions were very well organized at all the schools. The function at Kuppamal Chathiram was especially good. The teachers there had brought in a professional beautician to dress up the children for the various dances and dramas. It was a joy to sit back and enjoy the programmes. The functions comprised of mostly dances for Tamil film songs, some nattupura padalgal, and some morally uplifting dramas (usually lifted from their text-books). There were occasional sparks of originality on the part of the teachers. More of these were visible in Kuppammal Chathiram. The children there also performed better partly because of more training by the teachers and also importantly the profile of the families in Kuppammal Chathiram is better off than their counterparts in the other villages.

The function also gave us an opportunity to talk to the teachers and other officials. The support for Asha and our activities was very strong. The praises heaped on us made us a little embarrassed if anything! During these school days they read out an annual report about the activities of the school. More than half of the report in every school talked about Asha. They openly admitted that Asha was doing more for them than SSA or their department!

The headmaster at Kunnavalam was retiring. While he was a sincere person helping us in our efforts. He was not motivated to create some change in the area. While Sadeswari at Kanagavalli Puram is not very accommodating of all our requests, she has motivation and has the initiative to improve the school which is her mind is “her school”. We could see the same motivaion at Pattarai Perambudur and Kuppamal Chathiram schools as well. It should mentioned that Pattarai Perambudur has been chosen as one of the schools for ABL (Activities Based Learning) centers. It also had 5 or 6 teacher trainees when we went there. There also seems to be a concerted move to get additional land for a new building. On the whole it seems to be going through some significant improvements. We are happy to be a part of that.

The AEO for the Poondi block. Mr. Shankar Reddy who has always been supportive of our efforts and a humourous companion in the stage during these functions, is also retiring. We hope the new AEO will be as supportive and as entertaining on the dais! J

6. Survey of Kunnavalam

This summer the teachers of Asha conducted a survey of Kunnavalam like they had done at Kuppamal Chathiram last summer. The intention of the survey like the last year’s was to find out the level of school attendance in the population, their feeling towards their government school etc. We conducted the survey mid to late May. Because of the RightStart teacher training the report has not been prepared yet. This will also be ready in the next couple of weeks.

7. Other Activities

The teachers from the project participated in two training camps conducted by Asha. In March two teachers participated in a training camp organized by Learning Network (which was created and is funded by Asha Seattle). The training camp involved innovative ways to teach Maths by Jodo Gyan using inexpensive kits produced by them. The teachers can also make these kits on their own from scrap. We plan to provide two kits to these schools as well.

All the Asha teachers participate in the RightStart III teacher training program held from May 24th to 28th at IIT.

They have also been coming to Chennai to get regular training from Lakshmi Suryanarayanan.

Expected Activities for Upcoming Months

The schools are beginning their next year. We have been late in putting together a proposal for the next academic year. We will be visiting some new schools from where reports for support have come and putting together an expanded proposal shortly. The infrastructure work at the existing schools is likely to reduce this year. We hope to keep the overall proposal to a similar amount this year as well.

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.