To our immense relief it turned out to be a bright and sunny day. We were afraid the unseasonal February rains would play spoilsport at ACTS Nirmala Vidyalaya’s school-wide fest, flushing out a chance for the school to display what can be wrought through only two years of diligent work and cooperation among various NGOs.
The story begins in 2016 when ACTS Nirmala Vidyalaya, Gatahalli opened its doors to Mantra4Change, setting itself on the path to irrevocable change. One of the first things we worked on was changing the culture of the school – of how things were done and what was given priority in the scheme of things, and that has borne fruit.
The school had largely first-generation learners, many of them from orphanages, and so we worked with the school on improving student morale and its focus on co-curricular activities, in addition to helping with the curriculum. As the school management gradually warmed to the idea of change and opened its eyes to gaps in the school’s educational practice, it expressed willingness to engage with more NGOs to fill the lacunae. We provided the school with several contacts with the result that as of today, ACTS Nirmala Vidyalaya has tied up with four other NGOs – Taaqademy, KEF, Qatapult and THOTS Lab – each with expertise in dealing with specific educational stages and needs.
The Habba 2018
The school has indeed come a long way since 2016. It has learnt to become a confident, self-reliant entity that can identify its own problems and knows how to go about solving them. This was in abundant display at the school’s fest called ‘Nammura Shaala Habba’ that was organised earlier in February.
The Habba was much more than a school science and arts exhibition. It was a culmination of all our work with the school over the past two years. It was a roadmap to how different NGOs with varying objectives could work together for a common purpose – to improve the school’s educational outcomes. It was a platform for the teachers and students to dazzle with their as-yet-unexplored flair for building astounding science and arts exhibits. It was a chance for the school to put all its learning into practice, to prove to itself that it was capable of pulling off large events successfully; for Mantra4Change only planned the Habba but the school wholly executed it. The funds for the event was raised by equal contributions from all the NGOs and the school.
Living up to its title, the school wore a festive look on the day of the Habba (To those who don’t speak Kannada, Habba means festival). Temporary art installations and interesting exhibits enlivened the school.
The physical education teacher, Mr Ashok, had set up a games area where anybody could play a game for a pre-determined price.
The NGOs added colour with their stalls that explained to parents what they did at school.
Centre stage: Exhibits
The highlight, however were the working models built by the students. Inspired by video games, one child had created a live game with a miniature racing track where the player had to move the vehicle through obstacles using a mechanical set up and the game ended when it hit an obstacle. An air cooler made of thermocol that sent out cooling blasts of air was a big draw. Topical issues were dealt with through working models of rain water harvesting and solar cooker. A Class 10 student boldly took up a project on HIV and fearlessly spoke about the dangers of unprotected sex.
“It was a brilliant idea. I hope that we can do this every year,” said Mr John Prakash Kumar, the school’s Principal said of the Habba.
The turnout of almost 200 external guests for the Habba took us by surprise. We had only expected half of that number. Parents had got a glimpse of what their children did at school.
“Parents do not come for PTMs (parent-teacher meetings) but they turned up in large numbers for this fest. Hopefully they will attend PTMs too after this,” said Mr Harish, the school’s High School Coordinator.
We at Mantra4Change work with each school for two years and our time with ACTS Nirmala Vidyalaya ends in March. The fest was our way of closing it with a bang. And what a bang it was! It is a bittersweet feeling to part. There’s sadness at having to end a happy association, but towering over that is the immense pride we feel for a school that has become one of our success stories. A School that we know will go a long way as it has opened itself to change.
By Vasundhara, Programme Manager at Mantra4Change