Category Archives: Education

Malala wins Anna Politkovskaya Award

Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai wins the RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in War) Anna Politkovskaya Award for women human rights defenders from war and conflict.

The Award

Malala defied the strict ban imposed by the TalibanMalala Yousafzai on girls attending school. She was only 15-years-old when she was shot in the head by the Taliban on 9th October, 2012 for campaigning for education for girls.

“I am extremely proud to have been chosen to receive an award, which bears Anna’s name and hope that I may be as brave as she was. I greatly admire Anna’s dedication to truth, to equality, and to humanity,” said Malala Yousafzai.

The Anna Politjovskaya Award is being presented by 104-year-old British humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton in London on 4th October. Malala and Sir Nicholas are the oldest and youngest persons ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

Other honours

Following her attack, Malala was flown in to Birmingham for treatment and made a remarkable recovery in March 2013.

Malala is one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2013 by the Time magazine. She is the first Pakistani girl to be nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

She is also the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, the Simone de Beauvior Prize and has been honoured with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award and Harvard University’s humanitarian of the year.

This year, on her birthday, 12th July, Malala spoke to the UN to call for worldwide access to education.

The Malala Fund

Following the outpouring of support that Malala received throughout her ordeal, she set up an international fund, the Malala Fund, which is dedicated to help promote education for girls throughout the world.

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“I am addicted to teaching as a volunteer, not to the money”

“I am addicted to teaching as a volunteer, not to the money,” says 63 year old Lily Sawant. The best way to describe Sawant is that she is a serial volunteer. For the last 40 years, she has been teaching children in Delhi, Aurangabad and Mumbai.Sawant’s journey began in 1972 when she was at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi with her research scholar husband. “During the holidays, I saw many children playing in the hot sun. That’s when I decided to help these children utilise their time constructively. Since I had graduated in Chemistry and Maths was my favourite subject, I decided to teach the children Maths and English using stories and puzzles,” says Sawant.

Sawant then moved to Aurangabad when her husband got a job at the Aurangabad University. In 1984, Aurangabad and other parts of Maharashtra were affected by drought. At that time, the armed forces had advertised vacancies for entry level posts and many youngsters from peasant families wanted to apply. However, they could do so only if they passed a competitive entrance exam and English was compulsory. A colonel contacted Sawant and requested her to help these youngsters. “All the boys passed,” recalls Sawant. “They came to me with a box and sweets and told me that whichever part of the world they may be, they will never forget me. Till today they come to my house and visit me,” she exclaims.

Sawant and her family moved to Mumbai in 1988. Since then she has been teaching Maths, English and Moral Lessons as a volunteer. “Education is a must, a degree is not necessary and that’s why I did not study B.Ed. and become a professional teacher,” says Sawant. “My husband has done a Ph.D. and my two daughters are currently pursuing their Ph.D. degrees. I am the least educated in my house,” she exclaims.

In 1995, while teaching science to students at a municipal school, she had to use a projector. That’s when she realised that only sighted people would benefit from slide display and not the visually impaired. She then went to Vikas Shorewalla, a visually impaired person who taught her Braille and within the next few months, she started teaching maths at the National Association for the Blind. Today, Sawant can read English, Hindi and Marathi in Braille. Sawant learnt to read Braille and Morse Code at the age of 53.

Sawant takes pride in using innovative methods of teaching her children. She teaches children how to make litmus papers using flowers and demonstrates the solar system with the help of fruits. Sawant does not use a blackboard while teaching. “I don’t believe in showing my back to the class,” she exclaims. While teaching the children, they all sit in a circle.

For the last 40 years, Sawant has taught many children but she has done all of this free as she has never had a job in her entire life and therefore never felt the need to charge anybody for her service. I have taught children belonging to all classes of society. Parents of privileged children have offered to pay her for her teaching but she doesn’t take the money. “Children are children after all. It’s not their fault if they are rich or poor,” says Sawant.

Currently Sawant teaches Maths and Science in English, Hindi and Marathi to underprivileged children at Baljivan Trust near her residence at Santa Cruz. She spends three to four hours a day on volunteering. “I don’t waste my time watching movies or going to hotels. Time is in my hands, my hand is not in time,” exclaims Sawant.

Sawant takes pride in the fact that at the age of 63, she has no health complains. “All my worries and tiredness vanishes when I am amongst children,” says Sawant.


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VOICE of the voiceless

Raju, a porter at the railway station chooses to study after a hard day of work so he heads to the NGO VOICE for his daily dose of education.

VOICE (Voluntary Organisation In Community Enterprise) Victor and Rajashri Bansiwar with the childrenwas started in August 1991 by the husband and wife team Victor and Rajashri Bansiwar who began teaching beggars, porters, rag pickers, vendors and shoe shine boys at railway stations. VOICE started with just 20 children. After 18 years of serving street children, the couple has touched the lives of over 5000 children into becoming educated and independent individuals.

“During my MSW (Masters in Social Work) course, I was posted as a trainee at Matunga at a remand home. During that time, I felt sad to see the dehumanising conditions of the children who were not looked after properly,” says Virctor Bansiwar, founder of VOICE. “By the time we finished our course, our attention got diverted towards children on the railway platforms,” adds Victor. The Bansiwar couple completed their MSW course from Nirmala Niketan College.

“Initially it was very difficult to start the organisation as we neither had the funds nor the resources to do anything. We registered our trust and opened the office in our residence in Andheri,” says Rajashri Bansiwar, founder of VOICE.

The organisation provides not just non-formal education but also encourage children to join the mainstream schools. “Due to unavoidable circumstances, some children could not go to school hence we give them non-formal education at our centres. “We cater to the needs of the Mumbai street child. We do not focus on book learning but on all-round development of the child such as value education, computers, yoga and music. We start with literacy skills and if they become interested, we send them to municipal schools,” says Rajashri. From its inception till 1996, the volunteers and staff of VOICE were teaching at Churchgate, Dadar, Vile Parle, Andheri, Jogeshwari, Goregoan, Borivali, Bhayander and Virar railway stations. “We wanted to teach children at all railway stations but the railway authorities objected to us being there. Everytime they asked us to leave, we would come back only because of the children,” adds Rajashri. Due to the non cooperation of the railway authorities, VOICE could not continue at railway stations. Instead, they taught all the children in their 1BHK home cum office.

After years of struggle, with a grant from Sir Dorab Tata Trust, the Bansiwars obtained a one acre plot at Virar and have constructed a home in August 2006 called Sanjivani for homeless girls who are particularly vulnerable to rape and molestation. The capacity is for about 100 girls. Sanjivani now has 53 children aged between three years to 17 years, seven volunteers and team of teachers who work along with the Bansiwars. “At Sanjivani, in addition to academic education, we teach the girls cooking, tailoring, gardening, yoga, music, computers and so on,” says Rajashri. The couple has now started reaching out to the Adivasi community in and around Virar. Currently, 30 tribal children go to Sanjivani.

VOICE has devised several programmes for the benefit of children. “One important initiative we undertook is Prayas. Under this programme, bank accounts are opened for the children. This inculcates the habit of saving money. The children are expected to save a part of their earnings into their accounts,” says Rajashri. The children have been taught screen printing on gift wrapping paper, cards, letter heads and to make diyas (earthen lamps) which is sold during Diwali. The proceeds of the sale of the gift wrapping papers and diyas go to the children itself who save it in their bank accounts. So far four children have purchased new bicycles with the money they saved while 14-year old Santosh saved Rs. 15,000 over a period of three months.

Other programmes include counselling sessions, debates on social issues and current affairs, educational camps to places like Delhi, Rajasthan and Dharmsala, yoga, singing and playing musical instruments like the tabla, harmonium, guitar and keyboard.

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“I find satisfaction in teaching underprivileged children”

Maria D’Souza, a resident of Bandra retired from St. Stanislaus High School in May 2008 after completing a fruitful teaching career of 21 years.Maria Dsouza

Post retirement, life could not get any better for this teacher who taught English and History to students of Std. 10th in addition to music and drama to students of St. Stanislaus High School in Bandra. D’Souza joined the Bandra based NGO Aseema that is an educational centre for street and underprivileged children as an education officer. D’Souza now teaches at the Pali Chimbai Municipal School that was adopted by Aseema in 2001. In addition, she also oversees the administration of the school that currently has 426 students. The Pali Chimbai Municpal School was earlier a Marathi medium school but when English medium education became the need of the hour, many students dropped out. The school now offers education till Std. 7th with English as the medium of instruction. D’Souza now teaches English, History and Geography to the students.

“Teaching at Pali Chimbai Municipal School is a big challenge in itself. The students here are first generation learners of English and their parents don’t have a concept of education whereas St. Stanislaus was a mainstream English medium school with students who were smart and affluent and could grasp easily,” says D’Souza.

After the students complete Std. 7th, they move to the Santacruz Municipal School, another school adopted by Aseema that is located at Santacruz and offers English medium education from Std. 8th to Std. 10th.

Maria D’Souza has been associated with Assema since 1998. She used to conduct social service activities in St. Stanislaus. Post school hours in St. Stanislaus, D’Souza along with the social service students used to tutor the underprivileged students. “I feel very happy now. I now feel I should have done this long back and not waited for so long till I retire. But it is human nature to stay back for material things like pension and provident fund,” she adds.

D’Souza lives with her husband and sons at Mount Mary’s Road in Bandra. She is also an active member of the Mount Mary Road Advanced Locality Management (ALM).

Even though the children come from humble backgrounds, the quality of education they receive is not compromised upon. “Most of the students don’t understand what the teacher is teaching them. Hence, we use teaching aids like charts, slides and movies wherever possible. Recently, we conducted out first practical lesson on democracy by conducting elections for the class monitor through secret ballot,” informs D’Souza.

Aseema has several other volunteers who teach the underprivileged students. Most of the volunteers are school students who study in the International Baccalaureate board of education. These student volunteers donate their old reference books to the Pali Chimbai Municipal School Library for the use of the students.

“I find immense satisfaction in teaching these underprivileged children. Even though they are weak and backward in studies, they are very loving, affectionate and ready to learn. Even though they don’t pay high fees, they still know and appreciate the value of education. For these students, their teacher means everything to them,” says D’Souza.


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Mumbai Resident Trains Autisitc Children Only

Mumbai resident, Dinesh Kumar is on a mission to impart music to children with autism. DSC01918It all began five years back, when he saw an advertisement inviting applications for the post of a music instructor for Priyanj Special School for autistic children for which he had applied. “I did not know who special children were and thought a special school is for high profile kids and for those who have extraordinary talents and abilities,” says Kumar. When he entered the school, all the children there looked like anybody else and later on got to know the condition about the children“When I began teaching, I thought that the children were deaf as I was not sure if they were listening to me,” adds Kumar. As time passed, Kumar read about autism and devised a plan of action on how to teach them.

“Initially I had to observe the behaviour of the children and see if they respond to music,” says the 30-year old Kumar. Kumar started by imparting music sense by making them clap their hands and bang the table tops to a rhythm. “If they clapped or band according to the beat or rhythm, I could gauge the musical abilities,” he adds.

This resident of Kandivali, a suburb in Mumbai now knows all the minute details about the condition of autistic children. No more does he feel as though something is wrong with them. “If the children do not respond, I feel as though something is wrong with me and my teaching,” says Kumar.

Since the students have a difficulty in deciphering the notes and chords, Kumar teaches them to play by the ear. Kumar makes it a point to teach the children popular Hindi songs. He just gives them the starting note and the pitch and they can play with ease. In order to teach the children the notes and the lyrics, Kumar has to teach them over and over again for them to retain and remember. “Sometimes it takes over a year for the children to learn one song,” Kumar mentions.

Thirty-year old Kumar feels that music has made a difference in the lives of these children. Music has increased their concentration and even started keeping eye contact with others.

Today, Kumar has come a long way. He currently teaches music to 60 children in Priyanj Special School and visits 20 children at their homes to teach them music. He plays the guitar, keyboard, bongo and the tambourine. However, he teaches the children just the keyboard as that is the easiest way the children can learn to play music.

Kumar has many invitations to teach others but he refuses as he has decided to teach children with autism. “Anyone can teach music to normal children but teaching autistic children is challenging as you have to keep up to their pace and wait for them to respond to your teaching,” says Kumar.

Kumar has also benefitted by teaching autistic children “Teaching these children requires lots of patience and tolerance and hence my patience and tolerance levels have increased,” he adds.


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Retired doctor couple from Bandra adopt village to serve people

For Dr. S. Shrinivasan and his wife Dr. Usha Shrinivasan, life could not get any better at this stage of their lives.

DSC01759The 64-year old Dr. S. Shrinivasan and his wife want to make a small difference to the world around them. They have adopted the Khanavadi village in Purandar taluka of Pune district which is approximately 40 kilometres from Pune city. “We wanted to do something for society and we had two ways of doing it, either donating money or doing something ourselves,” says Dr. Usha Shrinivasan. “We could have done cheque book charity but we chose to do it ourselves as it was more fulfilling,” says Dr. S. Shrinivasan. Khanavadi is the birthplace of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule.

The couple met years ago during their MBBS course at B. J. Medical College, Pune. Dr. S. Shrinivasan further went on to pursue the MD course in Pharmacology while Dr. Usha Shrinivasan pursued MD in Pathology. The need to do something worthwhile for those in need brought them together. “We have fulfilled our family commitments and our two children are well settled abroad with good jobs,” says Dr. Usha Shrinivasan.

Dr. S. Shrinivasan took an early retirement from the post of Vice President at the pharmaceutical company Aventis in 1998 while Dr. Usha Shrinivasan who worked at Tata Memorial Hospital has set up her cancer diagnostic laboratory in their home at Bandra. In 2001, they set up the Shastri Memorial Foundation in memory of Dr. S. Shrinivasan’s father, Pandit K. A. S. Shrinivasan who was conferred the Rashtrapati Award for life-time contribution to Indian values in 1977.

The couple spend their weekend at Khanavadi village working for the village. During the week, Dr. S. Shrinivasan receives honoraria for writing and editing medical journals. He also conducts seminars and workshops on education, healthcare and human values while Dr. Usha Shrinivasan attends to her laboratory. “We need to earn in order to sustain our organisation. My father always told me to think high and live simple. We live a very simple life and we do our own household chores as we do not have any maids working for us,” says Dr. S. Shrinivasan.

The couple adopted Khanavadi village in January 2007. Prior to that, they have worked with several NGOs that worked in Kasara and in Raigad. Since then, the couple have set up an office at Khanavadi village and they provide uniforms, books, notebooks and other educational material to needy students. They also provide calcium and multivitamin tablets to needy women and children. In addition, Dr. Usha Shrinivasan talks to the women in the village about issue concerning women’s health.

Dr. S. Shrninivasan is trained in Hindustani vocal music by Pandit Askaran Sharma and late Pandit Datta Kerkar. He has been an Aakashwani artiste for over three decades. He has now begun focussing on music as a tool for value based living through the lyrics of songs written by saints Tukaram and Dhyaneswar. Dr. S. Shrinivasan has also authored books such as ‘Value-based Wellness for the Service Sector executive’, ‘Value-based Management in the Indian context’ and ‘Health @ Your Finger Tips’.



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