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The WISE Learners were at the Pratham Urban Learning Center located in Jahangir Puri, one of Delhi’s underprivileged areas. We were interacting with the students, especially in the English class, since none of us can speak fluent Hindi to take part in a Hindi class. After we shared our experiences, I encouraged the students to aim to become prominent members of Indian society. I told one boy that one day he would be Prime Minister of India. He smiled but look confused, as if there was something that he wanted to say.
When we were heading for our car to go back to the hotel, the boy approached and nudged me, then he said, “Sorry sir but I won’t be a Prime Minister.” Still surprised by his courage, I asked, “Really? Why not?” He responded,”I will never be a Prime Minister because I want to be a doctor,” and then he gave me a huge smile. I could see the confidence and hope in his eyes despite the unfortunate situation he lives in. And I am happy for them that they are receiving a good education, so they can aim high in their dreams.
Right: India’s next rocket scientist | Left: Future
Prime Minister No.1 Doctor from India
WISE Learners 2012 visited Madhav Chavan’s Urban Learning Center in an underprivileged region of Delhi. The center is run by Dr. Madhav Chavan’s Pratham Education Foundation and its influence is extending to benefit over 2.6 million students with the help of about 60,000 volunteers. It uses locally available materials at nominal cost and thus constitutes a living example of the possibility of education for everyone.
The center is open from 9 am to 5 pm with different shifts to suit students’ school schedules. It is meant to bridge gaps between the knowledge schools provide and that which students actually gain in math, science, English and Hindi.
The centers target underprivileged children who have to work, despite their tender age, just to help their parents support their family. Volunteer tutors visit the parents, introduce the center and convince them to let the kids join. There are tests to evaluate students’ current abilities so the tutors can group them appropriately and customize teaching materials. Regular progress evaluations are shared with the schools they attend.
To receive tutoring, each student pays a nominal “responsibility fee” of a maximum of 100 rupees a month. The actual amount is based on the financial situation of each family.
Volunteer tutors are usually from the neighborhood and receive a stipend, depending on the work they do. Furthermore, they learn working skills which are definitely helpful for their full-time jobs.
“I used to sell gemstones but I gave that up. It was such a bad business in which sellers try their best to get as much as possible by asking for 10 times the actual price. I switched to selling copper and brass goods for the home and I now have a better life. Copper and brass do not require much care and thus ae better than gems. If you drop them, just pick them up and use them again. If you get them dirty, just wash them and use them again. If you break them, you can use the material to make something new.”
A life lesson from a wise lady of 87.
We had two passionate debates on social issues with four teams of three people. Each debate involved two teams and was conducted in three rounds, namely: motion, rebuttal and open house. The debates were conducted to select a team to compete with last year’s winner of the same debating format on the third day of the ADB conference.
The first debating topic was, “Social media can bring about positive behavioral change in society”. Team A, who favored the idea, won for concrete arguments that prove the undeniable benefits of social media such as providing a direct platform for self-expression and discussion, an effective means of networking and fast information dissemination. Team B, who were against the idea, mentioned some drawbacks of social media that were worth considering such as difficulty in controlling anonymous information, or violence, pornography and privacy violation.
The second topic was, “Social revolution rises on the shoulders of the young”. Team C, who were advocating, won with convincing ideas of youth’s capabilities to contribute to social revolution such as substantial energy to sustain activities, willingness to receive and adopt ideas, and strong commitment to strive for a better future. Team D, who had not yet been successful, recommended youth to pay attention to gaining hands-on experiences so as to better conduct revolutionary initiatives.
As some of you may be aware, during our Delhi trip for the ADB Annual Meeting, we had a unique opportunity to visit Pratham Urban Learning Center. Dr. Madhav Chavan, Pratham’s CEO, is the 2012 WISE Prize Laureate for his immense work in providing quality education in rural and underprivileged areas across India. Here are some of the photos that I hope give some impression of what the Pratham Urban Learning Center looks like.
“Science is Rock!” A painting hung in front of the science class.
Most of the subjects are taught through active project work, making them more engaged and developing their creativity skills.
Some of the projects are on display to showcase the students’ hard work.
Besides basic education, Pratham also provides classes in computer skills, so the students are better prepared for the job market.
Bored in class? Never! Pratham teaching methods incorporate innovative ways of helping students learn while still having a lot of fun.
The faces of future leaders of the world?
Pratham’s Approach to Developing Children’s Minds
Pratham NGO is working on different aspects of child education and development. It is also providing internships to teachers who want to get their teaching license as well as benefiting from the creativity and innovation of expert teachers. The drawing you see in the picture is a creative mind developing activity used by a Pratham teacher.
As homework, the teacher asked the kids to think of the differences between a mud huy in a village and a building in the city.
The kids processed this and started drawing. They used mud and grass for the village house and provided a written explanation of the differences between the village house and a city building.
The village house is made of mud, grass and timber.
The city building is made of cement, steel and bricks.
Science tutoring class at the Urban Learning Center
Assembling to wait for the bus in front of the YMCA - an official hostel for the Asian Youth Forum - brought back some sweet memories for me. In Vietnam we assemble every day before class for announcements concerning our school activities, schedule updates and contests, to name but a few.
Participants on the “Deconstructing ADB Climate Finance” panel.
The participants in Asian Youth Forum seemed shy for the first day but they got into the swing of things so fast that they looked much more confident on the second.
On our way back in the bus, everyone found out that it was Audry’s birthday and peer-pressured him into singing for them ..- It was a lot of fun - for us! They were all very sweet and encouraging.
Today the WISE Learners had the privilege to visit WISE 2012 Laureate Madhav Chavan’s Urban Learning Center in Delhi, India. The Center is providing tuition to children in a friendly environment to enhance the skills they could not develop in their schools. The Center has different focus groups. The way it works is that first assessors go into a community and conduct a survey. They show children a page in a small booklet and check the children’s skills in three categories: first, to see if they recognize the alphabet; second, to check if the child can read a sentence; and third, to see if the child can read the full story. The focus of this part of the Urban Learning Center’s work is to develop story reading skills among children.
Their policy is that those families who are able to afford it give a very small fee to the Center. This way, the children and their families value the tuition more.
The other Great Side to the Urban Centers Set Up by WISE Prize Laureate Madhav Chavan
This is Prem, a high school graduate who is currently working in an electronics company. Prem means “love” in Hindi. In his job he has to deal with lots of receipts in Hindi script.
Prem says, “I was not able to do my job well because I had difficulty writing and reading Hindi. Now after 23 days of training I have seen a change and I am satisfied with my work.”
When I asked him how was he able to improve his Hindi in such a short time, he wrote the word “Prem” for me in Hindi and explained that the factor of love is very important in doing anything. “Here,” he says, “I was taught with love and care.”