a) Prestha – light in her eyes
Fair, light eyed, 8-year-old Prestha
mingles with children of her age at the Government Kannada
Higher Primary School, Marenahalli. But for her complexion,
she is like any other child. A brief interaction & you
unearth an interesting fact – this is Prestha’s
first schooling exposure! Her parents have migrated from Hissar
in Haryana to make home at Marenahalli. Her father is a carpenter,
while her mother stays home to cook meals for the children.
She was enrolled in this government school,
thanks to an extremely proactive principal. Dull-eyed Prestha
watched other school kids playing from behind the electric
pole adjacent to the school playground. The principal noticed
her, counseled her parents and finally got her (with her two
elder brothers) enrolled into school in November 2004. Prestha
is a Class 2 student.
On joining school, incidentally she was
right in time for the reading programme. Qualifying as an
0 level child, her tryst with Kannada letters & words
began in ARP classes. The start was difficult; unable to comprehend
anything, her interest to concentrate dipped downward. She
carried the cards home routinely, watched them intently –
as they were colorful; her brothers at home (also enrolled
in the same school), were in the same learning boat. Every
evening, they sat together gaping at the story cards. But
soon, their curiosity to understand the story grew. Prestha’s
eldest brother approached a neighbor asking for help. Slowly,
the neighbor’s involvement became a daily event. The
three children with another boy of their age met up every
evening to learn a new story. The interaction was promising.
Prestha waited to bring home the story cards each day; she
would not miss school a single day. “Initially she was
very shy, but after a week she would demand the card &
take it from me” says Parvathamma, ARP teacher at the
school. But after the 30th story-card, the change was even
more noticeable.” An unusual spark lit her eyes. Her
38th story-card assessment indicated that she had moved from
0 to L level. The sense of achievement was palpable as she
jumped & played, walked & talked hugging the story
card – like it was her personal weapon. She would just
not let go.
The reading programme was completed –
45 story cards distributed. But for Prestha, her take-home
is life-long confidence. The stories may fade in her mind,
but the confidence she gained may never leave her. Indeed
a miracle for the young girl!
b) Motivation – held the key
At the Railway colony school, the classroom
is small, closeted & box-like. A low roof, with alphabet
charts crisscrossing the ceiling; the walls are covered with
charts of various types & size. In the small room are
19 children (Class2-5) braving the afternoon heat, seated
in an Accelerated Reading Programme class. Notwithstanding
the obvious space constraint, Parimala, their teacher tries
and makes them sit in a semi-circle. Little Nagesh a tiny
boy much smaller in appearance than his peers is upset as
he gets pushed around. His hands are folded; he guards his
alphabet flash card very close to his heart. “Miss,
I made these flashcards using some scrap cardboard from the
dust bin. See miss, I have stuck the alphabet on the card
with ragi mudde. Isn’t it nice?” he asks, innocently.
The teacher is thrilled. All the children clap for little
Nagesh. He smiles shyly.
This ARP class isn’t like any other;
thanks to a very dynamic teacher. A senior teacher at the
fag end of her career, Parimala has few who believed in the
potential of the ARP from the very beginning. “Even
after so many years of teaching, every day I feel what I have
done is not enough. The ARP is a boon for government school
children. They are really learning a lot,” she says.
Apart from the prescribed methodology, the enterprising teacher
has even written songs to summarize each story card. At the
end of class everyday, children sing the story. Besides this,
she maintains a daily diary to document changes in each child
& any ot interesting incident during class.
The children love her class. As she completes the 45 story
cards, children are upset that no more cards will come their
way. But a distinct sense of learning remains well imprinted
in their young minds.
c) Kunal – student or teacher?
7 year old Kunal is a Class 2 student
at GKHPS, GKR galli. Essentially the colorful cards kindled
his interest in the reading programme. “They are so
beautiful. I feel like simply looking at them,” he confesses.
Averaging in his academics, Kunal studies in a Kannada medium
school although he comes from a Tamilian household. His father
is a daily wageworker at a construction site, which he also
guards by night as a watchman. The family stays atop the tall
building. Nobody has been to school before Kunal in the family.
Indeed a matter of pride, as his mother Chellamma says, “we
didn’t study in our childhood. We want Kunal to study;
he should study Kannada, as he needs to live here all his
Kunal’s association with ARP began in January this year.
The story cards fascinated him. Each day he would head back
home with the cards and place them inside the only trunk that
his family owned. “He wont even let me touch the cards,”
adds his mother. When we finish dinner, & his father sits
under the skylight getting ready to head for his night duty,
little Kunal commences the reading class at home. He apes
his teacher in totality. Points to the words, reads aloud,
waits for his father to repeat, & actually mimics a full
ARP class. Over time, this became a regular after dinner activity
for the father & son. “In the beginning, we would
feel bad that we can’t correct him when he reads. We
were ashamed of ourselves. I never imagined that my son would
teach me to read. I am proud to say that these story cards
have helped me also learn Kannada” expresses Kumar,
Spin-offs from ARP
Children are more regular to school;
attendance has improved drastically.
Children have become interested in reading;
this can be observed from the fact that children enrolled
in ARP have been referring and borrowing books from Akshara
Education Resource Center libraries, set up in schools, more
frequently than the others.
Parents have been involved to the extent
that children share their reading cards and help illiterate
parents read and vice versa.
Teachers feel better bonding with children
in their class. Children are by far more attentive.
With increased self-confidence, the slow
learners are mingling better with their peers in class.
The District Committee’s of Karnataka
State have included the reading programmeme as part of their
annual plan under SSA for the year 2005.
The State Project Director, SSA has in
principle decided to implement the programme across the entire
state of Karnataka.
The ARP will soon be carried forward
to other states, as it is an easily replicable private public