A student’s knack for technology despite neurodevelopmental disorderRegardless of his hidden disability, Ranjeet Thakur’s understanding of complex scientific procedures...
Regardless of his hidden disability, Ranjeet Thakur’s understanding of complex scientific procedures and creation of different science-based models has surprised all
Ask Ranjeet Thakur about how a water fountain or a mixer grinder works, his eyes sparkle with joy as he explains the whole procedure without pausing for a bit. The excitement in his voice indicates how much he loves making science-based models and how deep his understanding of the subject is.
Thakur’s little fingers work amazingly fast when he joins the lower half of the bottle, two caps and wires to make a water fountain as his teachers watch in bewilderment the skills this 13-year-old boy possesses.
This is an extraordinary achievement for Thakur as he suffers from a kind of neurodevelopmental disorder (ND) and has difficulty in understanding the basic concepts in class. But when it comes to technology, he showcases exemplary knowledge about the whole technique used in making an appliance.
“I do not take ideas from anyone. They come to me automatically. I like making different things which involve batteries, motors and wires. I do not like studying,” Thakur said.
The usually active and bubbly boy cannot read or write English and can somewhat understand Maths. He became the centre of attention in his Government Model High School in Mauli Jagran district of Chandigarh when he made the model of a chimney during a class project in August, 2018.
“It was easy for me. I collected old batteries, old toys and wires and made it. I have also made a water cooler and mixer for my mother at home,” he said, exhibiting a sense of satisfaction for his work.
In pure innocence, Thakur claims that dreams about making these machines in his sleep.
Ranjeet with his father
Thakur was identified as having NDD when his teacher Sandhya Shukla attended the Project Inclusion, a part of Rupantar, orientation in August, 2018.
The program educates regular school teachers to identify hidden learning disabilities in students by using simple checklists and then enables them to practice an empathetic and sensitive approach towards these children.
The Project Inclusion trainers conduct four-day orientation program where teachers are given information about the types of NDD disorders for the initial two days and then they are asked to identify any such case in their class as per the checklist provided to them during the training. On the last day, teachers are given the knowledge to deal with the identified children till the time they are not assessed by clinical psychologists.
Thereafter, special educators/psychologists help teachers along with the parents and siblings of these children to practice the techniques to support the child’s learning inside and outside the school. It also helps in improving retention and quality of life of children suffering from NDD.
A total of 276 government school teachers attended the May-August 2018 training that was held in 9 batches in Chandigarh.
“During the training, I got to know what the different kinds of hidden disabilities are. Ranjeet’s case was in my mind and I could relate his behavioural pattern with those being told during the program,” she said.
Shukla said that Thakur has extraordinary IQ level but he lags behind in class due to his inability to read and write.
Talking about the school project of making a chimney, Shukla said that the competition was to make a working or a non-working model and “I did not expect that he would make a working model with so much precision. I was totally amazed by his expertise on the subject.”
Children suffering with neurodevelopmental disorder generally go unnoticed as their behaviour is normally seen as abusive, aggressive, naughty, inattentive or reclusive. Due to these traits, they are mostly avoided by their classmates and teachers, as a result of which they develop low confidence and prefer to remain in their shell.
Situation gets worse when even parents of such children are not able to understand their problem and do not make the effort to know the actual reason behind their condition. Things were not different for Thakur as his family has always thought of him being disinterested in studies.
“He is not utilising his mind in studies. He spends all the time collecting waste material from home, outside and even garbage to make all these things. I would be happy if he starts studying,” said Jaiprakash Thakur, the boy’s father.
Jaiprakash, who is a barber by profession, said the he wants his son to be successful in life and not end up like him.
Sunandini Bhardwaj (right) conducting the session
Sunandini Bhardwaj, Project Inclusion trainer who has forwarded Thakur’s case for assessment, said the boy may be suffering from neurological condition called learning disability.
Explaining further, she said that such children with learning disability have normal intellect but the only problem is in their neural connectivity. This condition interferes with their basic skills such as reading, writing, organizing, time management, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.
Talking about the boy’s dreams about machines, Bhardwaj said that he can be experiencing one of the stages of creative thinking called illumination.
“This is a stage in which the person is not directly thinking about the problem but subconsciously working upon the solution by making connection between ideas. Once he dreams about the solution, he moves on to next stage of creative thinking called verification in which he executes the solution he has dreamt about,” she said.
With Thakur being identified and his case taken up for assessment, his teachers and parents will be trained by Project Inclusion experts on how to support him and fulfill his dreams.
Teachers find solutions for children with hidden disabilitiesGovernment school teachers in Uttar Pradesh enthusiastically bring up cases of neurodevelopmental disorders...
Government school teachers in Uttar Pradesh enthusiastically bring up cases of neurodevelopmental disorders in their class and seek solutions to them
Gunjan Saxena is eager to share the problems of two of her school students. She suspects the duo to be having some kind of hidden disability that separates them from the rest.
Being the headmistress of Government Primary School in Narayanpur block of Hapur district, she has her hands full. Still she keeps herself updated with the progress of students in her school.
She has a feeling that one of the students class 4 students, Suhail, is suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which makes him impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive, while another student of class 2, Anas, is a slow learner as he is showing symptoms like poor memory, lack of focus, is unorganized and talkative.
Gunjan Saxena (extreme right) attending the training session
“I want these children to improve. My role as the head of the school will have no purpose if I am not aware of each and every child in my school and am not able to provide inclusive education to all,” she said during the Project Inclusion training session in Dhaulana block of Hapur district.
Saxena became aware of these hidden disabilities during the Project Inclusion training of Sri Aurobindo Society in Hapur district. It provides regular school teachers with tools and techniques to identify and support children with mental health issues.
Thereafter, special educators also help parents and siblings of these children to support the child’s learning inside and outside the school. The aim is to improve retention in schools and the quality of life of these children.
While talking about these students, Saxena categorically points out their problems and explains her efforts she has taken till now to help them.
“I visit their houses and counsel parents but they do not understand. They feel bad if you point out their child’s mistake again and again. I also make these students to sit with me during lunch break and play indoor games as they enter into pity fights with other students, she said.
Saxena hopes that the training will help her deal with the problems of children with disabilities in a better way.
For Gargi, another teacher who attended the training, said the Project Inclusion training is more about personal development.
“We have to bring a change in our attitude towards these students first and then we have to find ways to keep these children in the mainstream education,” Gargi said.
Explaining about Tamanna, a suspected slow learner, she said that the girl stammers and is a below average student. She gets aggressive and has difficulty in understanding the basic concepts in the class.
“I myself used to get irritated while teaching her but now I understand that she has a problem that needs to be addressed and I need to be patient,” she added.
These teachers are among the 21 in the 7th batch attending the 4-day training. Over 300 teachers have till now undergone the July-Oct, 2018 training and have submitted over 167 case studies of children with suspected neurodevelopmental disorders.
Gaurav Kulshrestha during the session
Gaurav Kulshreshtha, Manager Project Inclusion who is also heading the training sessions in Hapur, said that the aim is to reach each and every teacher and make them aware about the hidden mental illnesses among children that often go unnoticed.
“Not a single child with hidden disability should be left behind. Every child deserves a chance to thrive and follow his/her dreams. Our efforts are just a small drop in the ocean. The real work is done by the teachers who go the extra mile to bring these children to the mainstream,” he said.
Tough Terrains, Unfavorable Conditions But Exemplary CourageFrom naxal-hit areas in Chhattisgarh to curfews in Kashmir, the trainers of Sri Aurobindo Society have...
From naxal-hit areas in Chhattisgarh to curfews in Kashmir, the trainers of Sri Aurobindo Society have proved their mettle time and again in sowing the seed of a positive change in the education system
Living practically out of a suitcase, Rupantar’s trainers are always on the go. Covering the length and breadth of the country, they are spread in the farthest and remotest parts encouraging and motivating teachers to bring out their best skills and be the face of change in the education sector.
Be it Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Daman and Diu or Jammu and Kashmir, this force of 128 trainers of Zero Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI), the biggest project of Rupantar, have set a precedent when it comes dedication and passion towards their work with some even going to the extent of risking their lives.
Considered as the backbone of Rupantar, this experienced young workforce is responsible for imparting training to government school teachers under the project ZIIEI. During the trainings, teachers are explained about the importance of and introduced to small, yet effective innovations that require not monetary investment to simplify the teaching learning process.
They are also instrumental in encouraging teachers to share their ideas which they are practicing in their classes so that they can be included in the ZIIEI Innovations Handbook for the benefit of the teaching fraternity.
Sounds simple! But it is far from that.
From inclement weather in Sikkim to stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir to naxal-affected areas in Chhattisgarh, Rupantar’s trainers have faced it all.
Sumit Arora during ZIIEI training
“I focus on my job and forget about the situation I am in. The fact that I am part of a movement to transform education and make it accessible to each and every child is the force that drives me to take up this challenge again and again,”said Sumit Arora, Capacity Building Trainer.
Arora, who was the state coordinator during ZIIEI training in Chhattisgarh and himself conducted trainings in naxal-hit areas, including Bastar, Dantewada and Sukma of the state, said that the situation was always scary and uncertain in the seven troubled districts.
“I was in Bastar and we had to start our training session very early and wind up before evening as it was not safe after that. Me and two other trainers who were stationed in these areas were always accompanied by block research officers,” Arora, who has taken over 200 teachers’ training sessions in his 2-year stint in Rupantar, added.
Adding further, he said that they faced network issues due to network jammers and it became difficult for them to contact anybody during the sessions. Public transport was limited and that too on specific timings. Sometimes even the trainings got cancelled due to violence in some areas.
A total of 116,895 teachers were trained during the June 2017 to November 2017 training in Chhattisgarh out of which 15,113 were from six naxal-hit districts of Bastar division.
Abhishek Shrivastava during ZIIEI training in Kashmir
Similar was the situation of Abhishek Shrivastava, who along with his team of 21 trainers, got stuck in the stone pelting and curfew in Kashmir but was determined to complete the training sessions.
“The situation in the valley was very hostile. We could never tell when the stone pelting would start and when there would be curfew. There were instances when our sessions were attacked by stone pelters and we had to hide to save ourselves,” he said.
Shrivastava, who has conducted around 200 sessions in 12 Indian states, said, “it is our small contribution in the development of country.”
Reetesh Gupta during ZIIEI training in Kashmir
Sharing his experience, Reetesh Gupta, one of the trainers in Kashmir, had to look for a cover in a podium when the stone pelting started at his session in Avantipura block of Kashmir.
“The protesters were hurling stones from all directions. Everybody ran to hide themselves. I stood numb for a while and could not understand what was happening. I fitted myself in the podium and stayed there for 15-20 minutes,” Gupta said.
He said that he regained composure and resumed the training after the stone pelting ended. As if it was not enough, Gupta faced stone pelting on his way back to Srinagar and hurt his back.
“It was madness. I was in a shock for a while but I am ready to take the session again as it is for a good cause, for the betterment of education in this disturbed region,” he added.
Over 4,000 teachers were trained during the April-August training in the Kashmir valley.
It is the courage and passion of these trainers that has been instrumental in Rupantar’s spread in 22 states of the country in a short span of two years. Their dedication has made possible the dream of making quality education accessible to children at the grassroots.
Post Box: A teacher’s simple solution to students’ critical problemsThis ZIIEI innovation has helped teacher Laden Pulger to bring the children out of their shells and...
This ZIIEI innovation has helped teacher Laden Pulger to bring the children out of their shells and report any issues troubling them, including sexual abuse.
|School||Government Junior High School, Adam Pool, East Sikkim,|
|Innovation||My Postbox, My Voice|
Incidents of sexual abuse, eve teasing and other stress-related issues troubling students led Laden Pulger to find a solution that was simple yet effective enough for students to express their concerns without hesitation or fear.
This Social Studies and English teacher at the Government Junior High School in East Sikkim district introduced a postbox in her class to encourage students to find answers by posting letters to the teachers or friends they want to reach out to. In the ZIIEI Innovations Handbook, this innovation has been hence termed as ‘My Postbox, My Voice’.
These letters, sometimes anonymous, are about reporting any unpleasant incident they faced or ask questions to the teacher about deeper meanings of things children observe, about a complicated situation in a story they have read in the class, or these letters can be to say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ to classmates. The most important aspect is that the Postbox makes children feel comfortable while sharing even the disturbing incidents of sexual abuse or difficult situations in family or neighbourhood.
“Where I found it most useful was in tackling stray eve teasing incident in the school. Children, especially girls, feel hesitant and embarrassed while talking about such occurrences. I counsel and ask the students not to write their names if they are not comfortable with it,” Pulger said. “In today’s world children are very vulnerable and are exposed to all kinds of anti-social elements. If we do not advise them, they can be exploited. We have to control the situation before the matter goes out of hand.” she added.
Pulger is happy that her method, started in 2017, is bearing fruits. According to her, students are coming up with lot of queries and “we try to provide solutions to all of them.”
Her school has a strength of 120 students where 60 percent of them are girls.
The teacher is one of the innovators of Zero Investment Innovation for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI). She had submitted her idea to ZIIEI during the teacher orientation sessions in her block and, as a result, it was selected and featured in the Innovations Handbook released on 5 Sept 2018. This means that in the next few months, as this book reaches every school in the state, Pulger will see her small idea bringing about a big change in hundreds of other schools.
ZIIEI was launched in Sikkim in Feb 2018. Over 7,000 teachers were oriented to the concept of zero-investment innovations and Pulger’s idea was chosen from among 4,500 plus ideas submitted by the participants.
Menstruation: Finally no more a reason for girls dropping out of schoolschool girls attend seminar on menstrual hygiene Hurdles to girl child education run deep in many societies,...
school girls attend seminar on menstrual hygiene
Hurdles to girl child education run deep in many societies, with menstruation being one of the most common causes of grounding girls at home. Teacher Seema Chaturvedi dealt with the issue head on — with the entire village.
|School||Government Middle School, Syahimudi, Korba|
|Innovation||Menstrual hygiene awareness/Incinerator|
Nearly a year ago, Seema Chaturvedi, a government school teacher in Chhattisgarh, was facing a problem of absenteeism and drop out among girls in her school. One of the major reasons was menstruation.
Many girls are subjected to cultural, religious and social restrictions once they reach puberty. They are not allowed to enter the kitchen, any revered place or even touch a pickle jar as girls are considered impure during this time of the month.
“How can someone lose out on studies and their future due to something that is happening to them naturally? The girls want to come to school but cannot. Sometimes they are not allowed and sometimes they are not properly counselled and guided about these sudden changes in their body. They get scared and do not come to school,” she said.
One such example is Kumari Anu, a student of Chaturvedi’s Government Middle School in Syahimudi village in Korba district. Anu got her first period two years ago when she was only 11 years old. She was not able to understand the sudden changes her body was taking at such a tender age as the topic was never discussed even among the female members of the family, given the rural setting she lived in.
Soon she came face to face with the reality of how her life had changed from being a carefree girl to attaining puberty, and facing the taboos and stigmas that came along with it.
“I was scared and confused. My mother said I cannot go outside for the next 4-5 days as I was inauspicious. Slowly I understood why girls in our school used to stay absent for some days every month,” Anu said.
Chaturvedi was disturbed by the way girls were treated during menstruation, but despite her efforts of a dialogue, she was not able to break the ice on the subject with the community members. These superstitions are passed on from generation to generation and are deep rooted in people’s psyche.
“Menstruation is not a very comfortable topic in many societies in India due to the shame and taboo attached to it. The situation is worse in the rural areas. Due to lack of awareness about the subject, girls are not encouraged to share their problems related to menstruation and often grow up with many misconceptions attached to it,” she said.
Finally, in September 2017, Chaturvedi started talking to the village women about menstrual hygiene, the misconceptions related to it, and proper use of pads and their disposal.
Her campaign got a boost when she attended the teacher orientation program under Sri Aurobindo Society’s Zero Investment Innovation for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI) in December that year. Hearing ideas from many other attendees, she began looking at the task at hand from a zero-investment perspective and structured it better, starting with organisation of seminars on menstrual hygiene.
“I approached doctors, women activists and local leaders to sensitise women and girls in schools and villages about the benefits of menstrual hygiene. Initially it was not easy. The villagers refused to talk on the subject. The women didn’t turn up for the seminars. But with repeated emphasis and inclusion of doctors and women activists, I have been able to make inroads into the community,” she said.
By September 2018, one year down the line, Chaturvedi has conducted 4 seminars in Siyamudhi and other neighbouring villages. She is concerned that girls these days are reaching puberty at a much younger age of 11-12 years as compared to earlier days when girls started menstruating around 14-15 years.
“We have to prepare these young girls psychologically so they are ready to handle the situation. There is still hesitation in the society but we cannot brush this topic under the carpet. It is a serious problem and the society will have to address it,” she added.
The teacher explains that while menstrual cycle is a problem for the rural girls, hygienic disposal of sanitary napkins is a bigger struggle.
“Majority of the girls are from poor families and cannot afford sanitary napkins available in the market so they have to settle with cloth. For disposing it, they wash the cloth, dry it and then bury it in a deep pit, so dogs and other animals cannot access it and create a public nuisance,” she added.
So, going a step further, Chaturvedi has created an incinerator from earthen pots and empty tin boxes to dispose off the pads in an environment friendly way. “The used pads are put inside the incinerator along with dry leaves or other flammable material and reduced into smoke and ashes,” she said.
Chaturvedi said that she first created a model in her school and now girls have replicated this in their homes. Gradually, her efforts are paving the way for a positive change in the society. Also, she has been able to address the problem of girls’ absenteeism.
“Girls and their mothers now understand that their lives can go on smoothly even during their periods. They do not have to stay away from school and miss their studies due to this. Now girls rarely miss school during menstruation,” she said.