Building Hope – One Step At A Time
Aman Singh is like any other 13 year old. He loves to spend time with his friends, play an occasional game of cricket and discuss cars with fervent enthusiasm. What sets him apart from most of his peers is the leadership stance he has already developed and the clarity of thought that’d usually be hard to associate with someone his age.
Aman comes from the low-income Khadi community in Mumbai and lives with a single parent who more often than not struggles to make ends meet. A Teach For India student at the Eksar Talao Municipal School – Borivali, he recently passed the BMC scholarship exam as one of the top 10 rankers in the state. It was when Mohini Pandey – Aman’s teacher & TFI Fellow 2013-15 – began planning and conducting solution-oriented sessions with the objective of helping her students understand the problems and need gaps their communities faced, that Aman struck his biggest revelation. “I wanted them to internalize the fact that we ourselves can work to make the world a better place – that all we need to do is step up and take the initiative instead of waiting for someone else to do so. Aman instantaneously came up with the observation that a lot of his classmates were not able to cope up with the academic grade level of their class” she remembers.
Through collective brainstorming, Aman and his classmates hit upon the idea of starting informal learning circles that could be run by the students and for the students. “Teachers sometimes have a lot of admin work because of which it might be really hard for them to focus on each and every child in the classroom. I thought LCs would be a great way for us to make a difference to this problem that some of our classmates face everyday” he says with wisdom beyond his years.
Mohini and her class piloted the learning circle within the school itself to see how the students could be beneficial for each other as it was important to understand if they were able to share their ideas & concerns and whether they were able to empathize with the problems being faced in each subject. Once they realized that this was working, she suggested that the kids scale up their initiative so that it could impact more kids from their communities – those who were facing the same problems in different schools or those who were not able to go to school at all. “We formed student leaders for each LC who then sat together with Mohini Didi to plan lessons & understand how to conduct the same. We decide the objectives for each day and even join the LC along with all the participants so that everyone can also learn the importance of team work. The participants are given worksheets to practice their learnings. Also, all the student leaders and even the participants give feedback to each other – this helps us be better at what we’re trying to do” says Aman.
It’s been 8 months now that the circles are running well. The LCs, which are usually held in a student leader’s house for about 2 hours everyday, measure their progress by conducting assessment tests. “I’ve realized that my own class has improved a lot on English speaking and critical thinking skills for other subjects as well – all of them showed atleast 0.5 year of growth in every unit which was mind boggling. They also developed planning and organizational skills – discussing ways to deal with a difficult child for example or brainstorming on making customized lesson plans for him/her!” exclaims Mohini. The learning circle till now has impacted around 45 to 50 children including the kids not being able to go to school at all.
As Mohini observes, Aman has matured into a prudent boy in the process – one who understands the situation of others and reacts responsibly. “The LCs have brought about a sudden change in Aman as well the other student leaders – they have started to talk with so much love and respect for their peers and are eager to help in any way they can. They have become independent human beings and I’m confident that as they grow up, they’ll carry their learnings from this exercise to continue helping their communities in the future as well.”
“I’ve have become a lot more confident and I understand now the importance of self-action” says Aman himself as he beams with pride, “My dream is to be in politics and become the Prime Minister of India one day. Even if I don’t, I want to be in politics so I can change the mind-set of the people around me because if that changes, India will become a more developed country and a better place for everyone irrespective of their background!”
Here’s to Aman and to our collective vision – that one day all children will attain an excellent education!