The Challenge

As highlighted in the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE), National Achievement Survey (NAS) by MHRD and the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the quality of education imparted in government schools of Telangana is poor. In fact, the NAS report released in 2018 pointed out that the performance of school students in Telangana in all the subjects was poorer than that of students from most districts of other southern states. Apart from this, several surveys have pointed to the fact that there has been a noticeable decline in values and ethics among school students. This is a roadblock for the Vision 2020 of Dr. Kalam where he dreamt of India which is an economic superpower fuelled by the youth of the nation.

The Opportunity

It is imperative to empower the human resources of the nation with the right tools. This is how the idea of Kalam Bharat  – A program that aims to inject the values of Dr. Kalam into the students and make them ‘Kalams’ tomorrow, was born. This is a 15-week and 100 hours school adoption cum community service program is to empower the ignited minds of the nation with the ability to dream impossible, knowledge of technologies of tomorrow and moral values.

Our Strategy

This program was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu on 28th February 2019 at the third edition of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Innovation in Governance Awards and is being run in collaboration between the Department of School Education, Government of Telangana, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Centre and Yuva Thirang.  Under this program, over 500 undergraduate students were trained and dispersed in 252 schools across four districts of Telangana (Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Medchal-Malkajgiri and Sangareddy) where they conducted classroom sessions as auxiliary teachers. The modules of the program were inaugurated by Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog at the third edition of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Innovation in Governance Awards on 28th February 2019.

Areas of Focus

The fourteen tasks of the module are to train the students broadly on the following:

  1. Personality Development

It is rightly said that “Personalities are not born, they are forged.” In the current era of infinite opportunities and endless competition, it is extremely critical to work on one’s personality. Only good grades would not mean efficient and happy citizens. There needs to be a balance between academic excellence and soft skills.

Even after graduating from reputed schools and sometimes even colleges, millions of Indian students are fearful of speaking in front of a crowd and are low on self-confidence. Personality development not only inculcates qualities like punctuality, patience, willingness to learn, friendly nature and eagerness to help others but also help students identify their latent skills. Therefore, it is important to teach students these life skills from a very young age only.

Kalam Bharat volunteers taught students stories and anecdotes from the life of Dr. Kalam and made them realize that “Missile Man” was just a facet of life of Dr. Kalam who had a multifaceted personality. It was not just his contributions to the missile development program of the nation which made him loved and respected by all rather his compassion, humility and patience.

To boost their stage fear and boost the self-confidence of the students, each volunteer used to randomly select a student from the class and ask them to summarize the whole session while facing the class. This way, the volunteers ensured the knowledge they imparted travelled through the right channels and reached the minds of the students.

  1. Ideology Changing

India has one of the highest suicide rates among those aged 15 to 29 and accounts for over a third of global suicides among women and nearly a fourth of male suicides each year. Coming to the demographics, even though the southern states of India are more developed but they are also more prone to the suicides. One of the major reasons for these increasing suicides in India is the stress – academic as well as social.  It’s not uncommon to see students anxious and under pressure in a society where discussing problems and failures is considered as taboo.

This anxiety and pressure can easily be released over their shoulders if they just start discussing their problems with someone elder to them. Our volunteers took up this initiative and prepared a situation based questionnaire which was to be filled individually by the students.

The answers to these questions were discussed by the volunteers in the class. This was a small exercise done to make students realize that it is very important to discuss their problems and also understand that they are not alone.

  1. Science and Technology

Today, we are surrounded by the products of science and technology. Most of the decision which we make in our everyday life is based on scientific evidence. Not to forget that our natural world which surrounds us is home to infinite scientific concepts. Hence, it is very important for children to be scientifically literate in order to make informed decisions.

The students were first taught the science in the everyday world and then were taught about the emerging technologies which will shape our tomorrow. The former made them inclined towards science and the later sparked dreams to change the world when they grow up.

These students were also taught about the education they need to enroll in, in order to pursue a career in emerging fields like astrobiology, artificial intelligence and robotics.

  1. Social Issues

The children in schools today are going to be the citizens of tomorrow hence; it is our responsibility to prepare them for the real world and have conversations with them about the prevalent social issues. This should be our first step towards finding the solution to every problem prevalent in society today.

Thus volunteers conducted sessions of burning social issues like eve-teasing, child marriages, vote-selling, human trafficking and child labour and made students aware of them. These were more important for the students of Madrasas where the situation is even worse. Students were also educated on de-merits associated with each of them and its consequences.

Lack of Infrastructure

Books are the source of not only information but also inspiration and contribute to the overall development of children. This is where the importance of the library comes into play. The children in the government schools normally come from poor backgrounds and have little or no access to books at home. Since the schools also don’t have a library; they often remain deprived of the wealth of knowledge.

Dr. Kalam always believed that youth of the nation should have access to books as a matter of right. Thus, under this program, we decided to open libraries in all the 252 schools that we have adopted under the Kalam Library Project. On 15th October which is also the 88th birth anniversary of Dr. Kalam all these libraries will be inaugurated as a tribute to the nation’s most beloved President. Apart from a library, volunteers would also be setting up sports equipment’s room to highlight the importance of sports.

The cost of setting up a library and sports equipment lab is being crowd funded by the volunteers themselves through donations from door-to-door drives. Another interesting and emotional aspect of these libraries is the fact that these libraries will be named after the parents of the volunteers and is going to be inaugurated by them only. After the completion of the program, these libraries will be operated and maintained by the Principal of the respective schools.

Impact

The aim of this program was to build a nation full of ‘Kalams’.

Dr. Kalam came from a humble background and used to sell newspaper to support his family. Despite these challenges, he never stopped dreaming. The flight of birds inspired him to become an aeronautical engineer. His life was a living example that with hard work and perseverance you can reach where ever you dream to reach. Hence, it is very important to dream and have an aim in life.

Now, dreams come out of ecosystem. Basically, we had to build an environment where students are taught about things that make them dream. The sessions which these volunteers took on technology not only gave insights about science to these children but also ignited dreams in their minds.

This program has empowered over 250,000 school children from 252 schools with dreams and values to become a ‘Kalam’.

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