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The Rote Education System | New School Year 2017 | Urban Monkey Making A Difference At Goa Outreach | Alfie Pencil Cases

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The Rote Education System, Mapusa, Goa

Rote learning in Indian schools needs to be addressed
Rote learning in Indian schools needs to be addressed

The education system in India has always seemed to lean towards rote learning, with memory rather than understanding being the name of the game. It’s great to know the answers for an exam but it is even better to understand why they are the answers. Since the new school year has started we have been working more closely with the children and are becoming aware of their needs and the extra work that is required to ensure they not only know but understand the principles behind the subjects that are being taught.

I think some of us have an inquisitive mind and are always asking why; others just seem to accept what they are told. I am not sure if it improves your overall happiness as living with blind faith can be easy and with ease I guess comes peace, but with striving to learn and question comes knowledge and independence. Over the last few months I have seen several cases where adults as well as children are just not given the opportunity to grow and end up in a loop where their ability or social standing stagnates and they see it as their place in life.

As we go through this year we hope to engage more and show the children that understanding why is much better than only knowing the correct answer. Hopefully, by understanding how and why will enable them to come to the correct answer, or perhaps they might think outside the box and come to a better one, who knows.

This blog started as we wanted to help one of the younger girls as even though she was getting great marks at school, still seemed to have considerable difficulty recognising letters on their own. She was great with her abc’s as long as they were in order, but understanding the alphabet outside of its natural order was very difficult. Unfortunately we don’t have expertise in this area so we made an appointment with the Sethu organisation in Porvorim who specialise in learning disabilities.

It was our first visit to Sethu so we were not sure what to expect, but as we entered it was nice to see toys for the children to play with and staff who are professional but warm and friendly. Joining Robert and the girl was her father. Generally we don’t see much of the children’s fathers as they are either at work, or drunk in a corner somewhere, but in this families case we are more used to interacting with her father, who is caring which definitely helps. The councillor was great and advised us to organise hearing and sight tests and then return to see a special educator to consider the best way to help the girl.

Thankfully the girl always has a happy demeanor and was engrossed in her artwork while we talked about the next step in her education.

We have another two sessions planned so hopefully we will find a suitable plan to enhance her ability to understand rather than memorise.

Thank you to Sethu, Ishita and the family for their help in organising this.


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New School Year 2017, Mapusa, Goa

School Boy with New Uniform and Bag
School Boy with New Uniform and Bag

The new school year was another huge event with us helping around 130 children with their school requirements; this is an increase of around 30% from last year and it was exhausting. Here is a little break down of what was involved.

BAGS: Our preparations start the same each year as we hunt for suitable rucksacks for the children, this is always a long drawn-out project and takes us most of the year to find and buy suitable bags. We are always on the lookout for good offers and generally find bags for around 500 Rs each, most of the offers we find only allow customers to buy 1 or 2 bags at a time. We have already started buying bags for next year; it’s always good to be prepared. We receive a good selection of different styles and its then up to the children to choose which they like best. Some of the children are quite decisive but others change their minds over and over again (the older children are particularly indecisive).

BOOKS: Books are another huge part of our requirements. The children often need 10 – 20 books each, which is fine when you’re helping a couple of children but times that by 130 the number explodes and to complicate things there are different type of books, some with single lines, red and blue lines, double line and square line books and that is before we start to think about the different sizes required by different schools and standards. This year we were very lucky as one of the stationary shops was closing down so we were able to get around 20% off the retail rate and a couple of supporters also donated books.

STATIONERY: Each of the children also need a suitable range of stationery items, which obviously includes pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, colouring pens, pencils and crayons, for the older ones this also includes compass sets. We were delighted to receive a good selection of stationery and books this year as gifts in kind and this was a great help.

One of the beautiful pencil cases made for the children
SOne of the beautiful pencil cases made for the children

PENCIL CASES: Pencil cases always seem to be relatively expensive so this year we decided to buy some material and a sewing machine so we could start making our own with the hope that this will save money in the long run. As well as making pencil cases the sewing machine could also be used to teach the children and to help make other items in the future. The sewing machine was quite a large expense but we hope that it will pay for itself. We currently have two 'sewing ladies' creating pencil cases and they enjoy a the creative freedom and are producing several different patterns. Instead of buying material we are recycling extra large clothes donations that have been donated. This helps the environment and also saves us buying new material. It’s a win, win.

SCHOOL UNIFORMS: Each year we provide the children with new school uniforms. Most of the children receive a single uniform unless they transfer schools or are starting school when they are given two.

Organising uniforms is a long laborious job as all the children need to be measured, the style confirmed, material bought and instructions given to the tailor. The uniforms are stitched in batches by school, with the first batch given to Janta school followed by the govt school which together relates to nearly half the children we help.

SCHOOL SANDALS: All the children receive a new pair of school sandals for the monsoon. This is another hand’s on job with all the children given the chance to choose the style they wish and then we find the appropriate size to fit. There were around 10 styles in total from three different brands. This years’ sandals seem to be much stronger than last year so we hope to use the same company next year.

RAINCOATS and UMBRELLAS: The final 'school' items are umbrellas and raincoats, most of the younger children having raincoats whiles the older children umbrellas; continuing from last year we stayed with the same supplier although slightly more expensive they are much better made and harder wearing, which allows them to be used throughout the year, to keep students dry during the monsoon and give them shade from the sun once the monsoon finishes.

HEALTH PACKS: As well as the school items, we also provide all the children with basic health packs which include soap, toothpaste, brush and shampoo. It’s just a small extra so that they can go to school looking clean and smart.

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Urban Monkey Making A Difference At Goa Outreach, Mapusa, Goa

With Urban Monkey support we have helped around 130 children with their education this year
With Urban Monkey support we have helped around 130 children with their education this year

Thank you to everyone at Urban Monkey who continue to support us and the work we do to get and keep children in education. Their donation has allowed us to help even more children, part of their donation has directly supported over 130 children with their education this year.

Urban Monkey highlights their view on social responsibility.

"Education is the most effective way to break out of the poverty cycle. Education teaches how to develop and improve compared to the current lifestyle of the underprivileged, which is based out of needs and sustenance. Sustenance hinders your ability to do things out of the box as the first priority of these people is food and shelter.

When the cost of education comes in the way of providing basic needs for family and children the homemakers always choose to spare the cost of education and spend it on necessary needs.

We want to lift the cost burden associated with education so that more kids end up staying in school.

Businesses and organizations are places in a way that we can directly have a positive impact in our society. This is our primary aim at urban monkey."

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Alfie Pencil Cases, Mapusa, Goa

Pencil Cases made from Clothes donated by Susan and Alfie, RIP Alfie
Pencil Cases made from Clothes donated by Susan and Alfie, RIP Alfie

Alfie, one of our visitors who joined us at the Christmas party last year sadly, recently, passed away. He and his wife, Susan wanted to do something for the kids at Christmas and spent time helping us prepare the goodie bags and wrap the final few presents. As well as helping set up the event both Alfie and Susan helped with the madness that is Christmas day (when 100+ children partied, celebrating the day).

I am sure that Alfie will always be fondly remembered by anyone who knew him, Susan seems to be doing as well as can be expected and called up yesterday to part with a few of his clothes and footwear. Rob took a trip out to see Susan and had a chat over coffee and returned with 4 bags of donations. Alfie was quite a big guy so the clothes weren’t suitable for the kids, but nothing ever goes to waste. As we sorted the items out we separated them into different piles relating to what might be done with them. Most of the items were split into two piles, one to be saved and given to fathers from the slums and the second pile was the sewing pile.

The sewing pile would be the start of Alfie Pencil Cases. We have a young lady helping us who has great expertise with a sewing machine and Robert suggested that we could start preparing for the new school year and make pencil cases out of the trousers and shirts.

We started by using two pairs of trousers, a thicker material was used for the exterior of the pencil case and a lighter weight material for the liner, out of the two pair of trousers we hope to be able to make at least 10 pencil cases, 5 are already complete.

We shared our idea with Susan and she gave us the thumbs up, I see this as a great way to reuse items and a way for Alfie to be able to continue to help the kids for a little while longer.

Thank you Alfie and Susan for all your help during the Christmas celebrations, it was a pleasure to have you here. RIP Alfie.