Mini-Schools continuing in July-Aug 2020

Asha Chennai is continuing to run mini-schools. Due to greater demand from the communities, we are now running more mini-schools (24 mini-schools at the end of August).

Click here to see photos from these Mini-Schools in July/Aug.

Here is an update on the happenings at our mini-schools in the months of July and August. If you haven’t read it already, read our first report which talks about why we are running these mini-schools.

We have also created a video below to explain how our mini-schools are functioning.

New Mini-Schools

These mini-schools have caught the imagination of the teachers, the parents and the community. When we started these, we were also afraid there may be a negative reaction to it from the community because of the fear of the pandemic. In couple of villages the mini-schools did shutdown after some people nearby contracted Covid-19. In particular Valasai Vettikaadu mini-school closed down. The mini-schools in Neyveli and Pondhavakkam closed down only to reopen after a week. The mini-school at Nandhimangalam is going through a similar cycle.

Against this, we have had a strong demand for the mini-schools and several new ones have started especially in areas that are more rural. In Thiruvallur, new mini-schools have been started at Annanagar (near Periyapalayam), Ramanadhapuram (near Seethanjeri) and Pandur. In Thoothukudi, new ones have started at Kazhugumalai, Natarajapuram (near Kovilpatti), and two at Koovaachipatti (actually just across the border in Thirunelveli dist.). And in Villupuram new schools have started at Nagalampattu and Gangavaram. So currently there are 22 mini-schools running across these places.

Here are some photos from our new mini-schools.

Curriculum and Teaching Methodologies

As mentioned in the previous report our initial focus was in ensuring that the children could revise what they had learnt in the previous years and remember that going forward. While doing that we wanted to bring in some conceptual clarity which we usually find lacking in most of the children. While this continues to be our focus, we have also expanded the teaching to introduce some of the concepts that they will be learning this year. In terms of subjects, we initially restricted ourselves to Maths, English and Tamil. We have expanded to teach Science as well. Health and hygiene remain important focus items as well both in practise and in what we teach.

Here is a brief walk-through of different methods that our teachers use to teach the children.
Chalk and Board – Teaching the Textbook Lessons
While this is not the primary goal or method, this does remain an important aspect of what we do.

We have created and downloaded a wide variety of worksheets as exercises to teach all concept. Often these worksheets teach a concept orthogonally. For eg. Connect the dots puzzles teach reading numbers and their order.

Hand-made and Store-bought TLM
We have been supplying good Maths and English kits to schools before this pandemic struck – things like dienes blocks, abacus, Ganit mala, card for phonetics, charts of sentence constructions etc. We managed to get these from the schools and have been putting them to good use in our mini-schools. Further most teachers have engaged the children who come to their schools also to create good Teaching-Learning-Materials (TLM) and use them to teach the children as well. These provide the conceptual clarity that I talked about earlier.
Subject Activities
There are several games and other classroom activites to teach various Maths and English concepts. It goes without saying, showing experiments is probably the best way to teach science. Our teachers have been conducting several such activities in their mini-schools.

Technology and Learning
Asha Chennai has always been focussed on using technology to bring the best contents to our schools. Further we have also been teaching digital literacy and programming to the students. Each of our teachers have a laptop. In the mini-schools too, they have been using the laptop to teach subjects as well as continue teaching them digital literacy and programming.
Craft Activities
The teachers have been conducting various craft activites like making artifacts out of paper, painting, etc. These help in developing the thinking capacities of the children and also provide them an avenue for their creative Energies.
Physical Activities
One of the main things that the children miss out on during these Covid times is structured physical activities. Unstructured game time is still part of their activities in their villages. But structured physical activities are also important part of growing up. The teachers have conducting these too, to the extent possible. Things like Yoga, playing of games like football or musical chairs etc. have been conducted in our various mini-schools.
Independence Day at the Mini-Schools

Some of our mini-schools also managed to celebrate in a small way functions such as Independence day. One of the schools even had a small dance programme with the parents coming to watch it.

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