Thursday, 31 December 2015

Mantra4Change: The journey of 2015

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it. - Greg Anderson

At MANTRA, our journey during this last one year has been truly magical. 
Our associations and partnerships have grown tremendously. As we reflect, we feel elated that through our initiative STEP (School Transformation and Empowerment Project), we have been able to put our partner schools on a path to provide quality education to our children.

From implementing STEP in three partner schools, we are currently in partnership with nine under-resourced schools, which are working with a singular vision of providing education to children coming from neighbouring under-privileged communities.

One major component of STEP is ongoing, in-service professional development for teachers. Today, we are part of a 230 members' strong teacher community. As we work together, we keep learning from each other and keep sharing the best practices.

Across our 9 partner schools, there are approx. 7100 students who are being positively affected by the improved quality of teaching in schools.

As we move to greater number of schools, our own team at MANTRA is growing too. From a two-member on-field team in Jan 2015, today as the year comes to an end, Mantra4Change has an amazing team of seven mavericks, who are passionately working towards the vision of providing high-quality education to children, no matter what background do they come from.

We thank all our amazing supporters and awesome volunteers, who have joined us in this amazing and beautiful journey. Lets weave an even more beautiful and inspiring story together in the new year..! 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Filling the world with hope..!

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”, said Mr Barack Obama. 

Mitisha Dodderi and Prakhar Saxena are two such amazing individuals, who are filling the world with hope in their own way. Both of them are currently in the third year of their engineering and when they are not busy decoding the mysteries of Computer Science, they teach Mathematics to the students of grade 10th at one of our partner schools.

Mitisha, who wants to take up teaching as a profession, writes, "I love helping people and sharing my knowledge; and I often help out my friends or cousins with their curriculum. Since, I had a liking to teaching and was considering teaching as a profession I thought volunteering to teach would be a wonderful start."   

She adds,"My journey with Mantra4Change has been incredible. It has been a delight to teach math to the 10th grade students. Every day that I spend with these amazing students has been imprinted in my mind. The students have been extremely co-operative and welcoming. Although a talkative lot, they are bright and eager to learn. Teaching them is something I to look forward to every single day. This opportunity has made my will stronger to take up teaching as a profession."

Prakhar is a gaming enthusiast and loves to spend his time programming on computers. Sharing his experience of being a teacher to grade 10th students, he smilingly says, "The voyage has been a roller coaster ride for me. Although, I have work experience in the technical field, I was a newbie in the teaching field before I grabbed onto the wonderful opportunity provided by Mantra4Change. Teaching maths to these students has been an adventure, which every person must look forward to and one must experience the joy in sharing knowledge at least once before dying. Bill Nye, an American scientist, aptly quoted, 'Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don't'. So, not only sharing knowledge, but gaining knowledge from the 10th graders also held much importance while volunteering for such an amazing opportunity. It feels like I am crafting the future of the young India in some sense."

Its said that Volunteers are not paid - not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. Mitisha and Prakhar are two of such priceless gems of our team at Mantra4Change, who are filling the world around them with hope. We feel so privileged to have them with us. Way to go, guys..!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Thanks for supporting our Run2Liberate

Thank you all for your overwhelming support to our crowd-source fundraising campaign, Run2Liberate. We are glad to share that with the help of over 31 amazing supporters like you, we were able to raise approx. INR 1,50,000. It always fills our heart with deep gratitude and enthusiasm to have your support.

On October 18th 2015, Team MANTRA participated in the Bengaluru Marathon to spread awareness towards the cause of quality education for children from under-privileged communities. We also requested our supporters to help us raise funds to support our Target program - the pre-service, community-based teacher training program. The campaign was meant to support these amazing youngsters from community who have taken the responsibility to change the face of education in their neighborhood.

Related posts: 

Every morning, I wake up with a purpose..!  

Bengaluru Marathon 2015 and MANTRA's Run2Liberate

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Every morning, I wake up with a purpose..!

I am Azra Bano and I teach grade 4 students in a Government school. I am glad to share some amazing moments of my life.
I had finished my secondary school in 2011 and joined the Pre-university College to pursue Science. I did well in my PU College. But I was not allowed to study further. In the year 2014, I had to stay at home, looking after my parents. That was also a very good experience of my life, but soon I realized that I wanted to achieve more in my life. I used to see girls around my house, who were never given a chance to go to school. I used to feel sad for them because I knew what they were missing in life.
I wanted to share the knowledge that I had got throughout my years at college and school, but did not know where to start. Then one fine morning, one of my friends told me about the teacher training program by Mantra at a Government school in our community. Immediately, I went there and enquired about the program. I submitted my application and after interview, I was selected. I was so happy. It felt like my dream was about to come true.
Today, after 6 months, I spend my time with 25 amazing students from grade 4. I am their class teacher. I have learnt so much in these past months. Training sessions were fantastic and even today, they are fun. I maintain my logbook to record my lesson plans. I have learnt interesting ways to teach English and Maths. I conduct many fun activities in my class to teach the subjects. Actually I am supposed to spend my time teaching the kids, but the fact is I am also learning so much from them. I am enjoying every moment and want to remain in such an environment forever. My life has become beautiful and every morning, I wake up with a purpose- a purpose to help my students learn better. 

The post has been submitted by Ms. Azra Bano, one of the teachers from our pre-service, community-based teacher training program.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

..when those beautiful smiles appeared all over..!

At MANTRA, we understand that education and health cannot be seen in isolation. Health education is an integral part of education. And hence, we conduct regular awareness sessions for our school children on various preventive healthcare topics, like hygiene, sanitation, how to prevent malaria & dengue etc. This also helps us build great rapport with our students.

After one of such sessions, Shalini, a 12 year old girl from grade 7th at one of our partner Govt schools came to us and hesitantly, asked us some questions around menstruation. She had got her first 'period' a week back and her mind was full of confusing questions. Afraid to ask her mother at home, she had only discussed this with one of her elder cousin sisters, who herself did not have answers to all questions. We knew we had to address this.

So, we contacted Aunna at Pasand
They have a well-defined program for students to 'understand puberty and personal hygiene, examine gender norms and to be safe and happy on their journey through adolescence'. She readily agreed to conduct the 3-day workshop for our children at the school. 

Students loved the session. There were so many things they were being told for the first time. They felt relaxed after knowing that menstruation was a normal occurrence for any girl/woman and that they were not facing an unknown. The activities during the workshop was fun-filled. Gradually the girls started finding it less awkward and less uncomfortable to talk openly with the facilitator. Questions started pouring in. 

We repeatedly tell our students it is important to understand what is happening and why is it happening; More importantly, they should call out for help whenever they need it. Ignorance is definitely not bliss under such circumstances. Knowledge gives confidence and confidence is indispensable to one's life. As our girls shed their veils of embarrassment, they became more candid and gradually, the room was filled with those beautiful smiles all over again. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Bengaluru Marathon 2015 and MANTRA's Run2Liberate

18 Oct 2015:

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and the City of Bengaluru woke up to thousands of running enthusiasts participating in the Bengaluru Marathon 2015. People have different reasons to run at such events; some run for pleasure, some run to test their fitness etc. At MANTRA, we ran for the cause of quality education reaching all those amazing and awesome students, studying in under-resourced, low-fee schools. We had our 'Run2Liberate'*.

Two members of team MANTRA participated in the Half Marathon (21 KMs) to spread awareness about the issue of quality education for the less-privileged and to raise funds for our Target (Pre-service community teacher training) program. We understand that what started as a program to create a pool of effective teachers for our students in the under-privileged community had today turned into a skill-building and empowering experience for the (educated) youth in the community. And hence, we took it upon ourselves to raise the required resources and to continue this program for many more batches of community teachers.

We reached out to our supporters, friends and family to contribute to this cause. And today we stand overwhelmed with their support..! Thanks to our awesome supporters whose faith in us has and would always continue to encourage us to test & expand our limits, whether physical or intellectual.

* Run2Liberate: MANTRA's crowd-source fundraising campaign to support its pre-service community teacher training program

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Sowparnika Foundation partners with MANTRA

"Creating a better world requires teamwork, partnerships, and collaboration, as we need an entire army of companies to work together to build a better world within the next few decades. This means organizations must embrace the benefits of cooperating with one another." - Simon Mainwaring
At MANTRA, we are glad to announce that Sowparnika Foundation, headed by Mr. and Mrs. S.D. Shibulal, has partnered with us. Under this partnership, we will be implementing STEP (School Transformation and Empowerment Project) - our key initiative, in ten low-fee schools in Bangalore, serving children from the under-privileged sections of our society over next two years.
Mr. and Mrs. Shibulal's love for children and the need to give back to society has found fruition in a number of charitable endeavours, like the Advaith Foundation, the Samhita AcademyVidyadhan etc. Born out of the conviction that quality education is the cornerstone of all developmental progress in society, Sowparnika Foundation was formed to promote philanthropic exercises in the field of education and research. 
STEP is MANTRA's key initiative to improve the quality of education in under-resourced schools. To know more about STEP, please click here.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Joining hands with Govt teachers

Recently, Mantra was invited by Mrs. Nagarathnamma, BEO- South Range II, Bangalore to conduct training for Govt English teachers in her block on use of phonetics in classrooms. The training session was conducted at the BRC, Hosahalli School and was attended by 22 teachers and 2 CRPs (Cluster Resource Person).

Our team at Mantra was overwhelmed by the response, we received. The excitement among teachers was contagious. They loved the way sounds of alphabets could be used in classrooms to introduce new words. The games and activities that were planned as part of the session saw enthused participation. Even as the clock ticked 5:00 PM, teachers showed no sign of hurry to head home. Some of the teachers stayed back asking us various questions. It was amazing to be part of such a group.

Seeing the positive response, one of the CRPs, Mrs. Nirmala Mary has asked us to further conduct this training for more teachers in schools of her cluster. We look forward to joining hands with these new set of teachers to take the best practices forward.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Bringing parents and teachers together - one STEP at a time.

At Mantra, we religiously believe in the power of collaboration and purposeful participation. Establishing an effective school-community connect is, hence an important aspect of our initiative, STEP (School Transformation and Empowerment Project). We consciously work on this in all our partner schools. Here's a story from one of our Government partner schools.

The school principal is an amazing lady who supported the idea of inviting parents and community members to school with great enthusiasm. Parents were familiar to the concept of parents-teachers meeting, but hadn't expected finding us at their doorsteps with the invitation. Four of the SDMC members, whom we lovingly call 'Didi' accompanied us to several houses in the not-so-closely-knit community. Thanks to their expert guidance within the narrow lanes , we could invite many parents personally; and in the process, gulped down countless cups of tea. Some of the women would just not permit us to leave without having tea. Seema didi (one of the students' mother) actually smilingly 'threatened' us that if we didn't take tea, she won't come for the meeting. Quite a deal..!

Since then, we have conducted four such meetings. And the attendance has seen a constant steep rise. Parents come to school on days of these meetings and ensure that they bring along 2-3 extra community members with them. Next, these parents proudly take the visitors to the classrooms and explain the purpose of various charts that have been put on the walls. These expressions of happiness and pride are priceless. Parents have voluntarily agreed that to cooperate with teachers to keep track of their children's learning. The school diary has now become a medium for two-way communication.

And now comes the best and the most recent part of the story..!
During our last meeting, parents suggested that we should fix first Saturday of every month as the Parents-Teachers meeting day. Whoa..! The school principal, teachers and us were completely taken by surprise because we had been internally discussing along the same lines. And so, we agreed.....instantly.

Any of you, reading this blog want to see how community comes together to participate and contribute in the process of their children's learning, please write to us and we will take you to the site of this amazing action..!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

STEP to a healthier community..!

Meet Dr. Ayush Gowda, Dr. Sindhu and Dr. Vaishnavi- young medical graduates from JSS Medical College, who have come forward to help Mantra team build a healthier community.
We started with interesting, activity-based sessions on personal hygiene for children in our schools. The excitement was palpable. Students just loved the session and pledged to maintain personal hygiene.
From students, the obvious next step was to address the mothers. We invited women from the community to the school auditorium one afternoon. The topic of presentation was nutrition needs during pregnancy. Kudos to the efforts of the trio..! The presentation was well-designed and was kept simple so that women could understand it.

At the end of the session, many women put forward their queries and doubts. It was amazing to see the level of enthusiasm among the women. "I have a child of 2 years of age. But during my pregnancy, I wasn't even aware of what to eat and what not to. Due to constant vomiting tendency, I used to avoid taking food and even the iron tablets.", recollected Mrs. Zeenat Abdullah. About the session, she further told, "Today I understood why it is important to take fruits, milk etc. I know how my unborn baby will suffer if I compromise on my diet." Mrs. Rabiya Sultana, the 62 year old lady, whom the whole community lovingly calls 'Ajji' told us, "This was very good. You must also conduct session on how to take care of nutrition needs of young children." And we promised her, we would.

PreCIOUS (Preventive Care for Inhabitants of Urban Slums) is one of MANTRA's key programs. Over the coming months, we plan to conduct several such sessions for different target audience, including topics related to teenage health, women health, nutrition, ante-natal care, tobacco consumption, communicable diseases etc. These awareness sessions are aimed at encouraging the parents and children to adopt preventive and promotive healthcare practices as part of their lives.
As the saying goes, "Prevention is better than cure." :)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Lets put a book in every child's hand.

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” - Jorge Luis Borges

At MANTRA, we have always believed that.
In today's world where information is abundant, it is the joy of reading that can be the best gift for our children. It was almost an year back, when in one of our partner schools, we designed a library. It was an experiment. We chose a classroom, painted its walls with beautiful colors & design and filled the shelves with lots of books. And then what followed was amazing. We never saw children so excited about their library hour before. Even after school hours, children started staying back to spend time in library reading. They had just discovered a new love - that of reading. They had just developed a new friendship - that of books. And for us, this was a Eureka moment.

It was during this time, when we were wondering how to setup libraries for children in all our partner schools that we came across the wonderful 'Library in a classroom' from Pratham Books. To test its effect, we purchased five sets of this 'Library in a classroom' and put them in one of our partner schools. Whoa, we were pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the effect, it produced on children. Sharath, a class 5 student - smiles and reveals his secret, "I love all the story books of my classroom library. Every week, we are allowed to take one book home. So, Vishnu and I exchange our books at home and thus every week we finish two books instead of one." Kulsum shares similar experience. She says, "I used to hate reading my Hindi textbook. But now, I like reading Hindi books. Every alternate week, I ask my teacher to issue one book in Hindi to me. The stories are very interesting and when I read them out to my Ammi, she understands it too."

Looking at these success stories, there was no way we could have missed participating in the 'Donate-a-book' initiative by Pratham Books. We are participating in the ‘Donate-a-book’ campaign by Pratham Books to provide books in 30 classrooms across 6 under-resourced schools. For every rupee you donate to our campaign "Lets Read Together",, Pratham will give books to our students.

Let us put a book in every child's hand. Donate now.

Monday, 27 July 2015

There's a secret behind the gleam in her eyes....

When you meet the 18 years old Afreen, what first catches your fancy is the remarkable gleam in her eyes. She was one among the first to register for Target* - our pre-service (community) teacher training & development program.

Clad in ‘burqa’, she comes from a traditional Muslim family. She was forced to leave her studies after grade 12th because it is not considered good for girls/women in her community to go out. Today, she teaches Mathematics to grade 3 and 4 at one of our partner schools. Her students adore her.

She says, “I was made to leave school almost 2 years back. My future was already chalked out for me by my brother....until MANTRA started these classes. When I first heard about the program, I knew I wanted to be a part of this. Look, today, I am a teacher.” She pauses and then smilingly adds, “It is such a life-changing opportunity for me. I learn so much; have gained confidence and now, I can even work because my parents have no qualms about my working in the neighborhood. Honestly, now that I have discovered what bliss it is to with children, I really cannot imagine my life otherwise.

Afreen stands as a role model for many girls in her community. Over past couple of months, she convinced families of three of her friends to join MANTRA’s Target* program.
What started as a program to create a pool of effective teachers for our students in the under-privileged community has today turned into a skill-building and empowering experience for the youth in the community..!

* Target: Target stands for Talent recognition, engagement and training Program. It is a community-based, pre-service teacher training & development program.