Asha Chennai is continuing to run mini-schools. With lowering concerns about Covid we have been able to start 45+ mini-schools. With schools still not open, mini-schools are teaching the contents of their textbooks as well.
If you haven’t read it already, read our first report which talks about why we are running these mini-schools.
Click here to see more photos from these Mini-Schools in September.
We have also created a video to explain how our mini-schools are functioning.
We wrote a second report in late August with an update about the mini-schools.
As the threat perception of the Covid pandemic moderates and restrictions are lifted, we have also changed our priority. In June we were leaving it to the teachers whether to start a mini-school or not and assured them alternate work even if they do not start mini-schools. In Sept we started changing our own guidance to the teachers. If we determine that a mini-school can be run in a village, we required the teachers to run it. This has resulted in many more mini-schools starting up in various places.
Another relaxation we have implemented is to allow more than 10 children in a mini-school. Earlier we were trying to restrict the numbers. With this relaxation, many of the mini-schools have upwards of 20 children. The average number of children in a mini-school will be about 15 for a single-teacher school and about 25 for a 2-teacher school.
Here is a list of the mini-schools running at various places.
Thiruvallur (Project Sangamam): 23 mini schools run by 34 teachers.
Thoothukudi/Thirunelveli (Project Pearl): 10 mini-schools run by 12 teachers.
Villupuram/Thiruvannamalai (Project Thulasi): 8 mini-schools run by 10 teachers.
Chennai/Kanchipuram (Project Poorna Vidhya / Manigal): 4 mini-schools run by 6 teachers.
That brings the total to 45 schools. Another 5 schools will probably be added over the next couple of weeks which will end up fully utilising all our teachers. Another change that is starting is that the school HMs have also started allowing the mini-schools to be conducted in the school premises. This is happening for now in 6 schools (Thomur, Nemiliagaram and Ammambakkam in Thiruvallur, Moolakazhani in Kanchipuram, Shastrinagar in Chennai and Chidambarampatti in Thoothukudi). Here are a couple of photos of these mini-schools taking place in schools.
With 45 mini-schools running separated from each in their own isolated villages, it is a challenge to establish a certain normal in terms of practices, whether it related to safety and hygiene or curriculum and pedagogy. A common curriculum was created and shared to all the teachers running the mini-schools by our lead teachers. Necessary worksheets and masks were distributed to these schools by our coordinators in various areas. Teachers buy their own materials for sanitation and also teaching locally. The coordinators (Srinivasan at Thiruvallur and Murugan at Thoothukudi) have also been visiting these mini-schools periodically to ensure proper functioning. During the last one month there were also visit by myself to 15 mini-schools on Sept 17th and 18th, and visit by another volunteer Sugumar to 5 mini-schools on the 25th of Sept. Here are some pictures from these visits. See all pictures from this visit here. A separate detailed report of my visit will also be uploaded separately.
It is often stated in education and development circles that it is very important that teachers have a forum to discuss their work and challenges. We created a Whatsapp group for the mini-school teachers. Our initial reason for creating this group is more of the lead teachers and volunteers to monitor the performance of these schools. But these became forums for teachers to exchange ideas. Teachers post photos and videos of activities conducted in their schools in this group. Best ideas disseminate fast and we can often see a good activity conducted by one teacher spreading rapidly to all the other schools.
This has worked so well that I think we should continue something of this type even when the normal schools reopen.
With the mini-schools running for so long, their pedagogy is also becoming more formal. Many of the teachers felt a need for a blackboard. Where there was some space available to paint a blackboard, we engaged a painter to go to about 12 mini-schools and paint blackboards there. Note many of these places are teachers’ homes. It is a sign of the teachers’ and their families’ commitment that they have first of all opened their homes to run these mini-schools and now to also allow a blackboard to painted in some part of their wall is really great commitment by these teachers. Here are some photos from the blackboard painting.
More photo of this effort can be seen here.
Our focus remains bringing conceptual clarity to the children whichever subject they are learning. To achieve this the teachers perform several classroom activities. Children also learn through real objects and manipulatives where possible. We follow this up with worksheets and exercises from their own textbooks. As months pass with the schools still closed the focus is more on the contents of the curriculum for their children’s current year’s syllabus. Here are some pictures showing our mini-schools in action.