Being an Empathetic & Supportive Adult Can Prevent Teenage Suicides

Pradeep (name changed) is a cheerful, lanky seventeen-year-old student aspiring to join the police force in the future. He lives in Bangalore and hails from a family of humble means whose sole expectation of him is to pass his secondary school examinations. Sitting for his tenth board exams last year, he failed in Mathematics and Hindi. Pradeep knowingly shared, “I was so weak in academics that I was expecting to fail in at least four subjects. There is an older boy, part of a gang in my society who bet that I would fail in all six subjects. Failing in only two subjects meant that I surpassed everyone’s expectations and passed in the rest!” Fortunately for him, his parents cajoled him to try and pass his supplementary exams. His elder brother who is currently in college, having been through the same ordeal, insisted that he try and pass the exams, instead of dropping out.Two weeks later, he sat for his first supplementary exams and still didn’t clear them. Pradeep felt bad initially but instead of losing hope, he wondered how he could do something productive in the one year that it would take him to sit for the second supplementary exam. This is how he ended up at the Career Connect Centre (CCC) run by Dream a Dream last year.“Failing in my tenth-board exams brought me to the Career Connect Centre.” Unfortunately, not everyone gets a second chance like Pradeep. According to NCRB (National Crime Bureau Records) report in 2015, a student commits suicide every hour in India, unable to fulfil aspirations, cope with failure, or find emotional support.Source: WHO, https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/In the month of April 2019 alone, we saw the rise of students taking their own life, because of failing state examinations, which would determine their future. The World Health Organisation says that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29- year-olds, globally. As per the Indian government statistics, there has been an increase in the number of student suicides, from 8068 students in 2014 to 9474 students in 2016, the last year for which this data is available. Out of the 9474 students in 2016, 2413 of them committed suicide after failing in examinations.This is becoming an endemic crisis. Increasing pressures on students from parents, teachers and peer groups to perform well in standard examinations, increasing expectations from colleges who are consistently upping the cut-offs for admissions and employers who only want to hire the best of the lot are symptomatic reasons for students taking such drastic steps with their life when they fail in academics. However, as we scratch the surface we see a deeper systemic challenge. Students don’t have the critical life skills and social and emotional competencies to deal with failure. Moreover, parents and educators don’t exhibit the skills needed to support children and students who are struggling with anxiety and stresses of not performing well in examinations. Educators are worried about their students not performing well and end up coaching them by taking extra classes for months before the exams. In turn, they fail to address what life could be like, in the eventuality of them not passing examinations. With parents and family members setting high expectations for students, failing them leads to students unable to live with the shame and guilt.When Pradeep failed his 10th grade examinations, his friends told him about the Career Connect Centre (CCC). The CCC is home to young people between the ages of 14 and 23, who are either shunned by systems and families, having failed examinations or are lost and clueless about their future or are looking for a supportive peers to hang out with. Through various skill development programmes, the centre helps young people develop skills needed for the job market but more importantly help build their identities, own their stories and make meaningful and purposeful transition to adulthood. For Pradeep, this was a whole new world.While Pradeep had made peace with the fact that he had failed two subjects, the guilt and shame of failure stayed deeply entrenched within him. Friends and those very close to him hurt him deeply, by their words and actions, by referring to him as a failure. His mother called him a failure when she was irritated and then tried to smooth it over and make up for it, by lovingly asking him to have some food.The facilitators shared, “Pradeep was struggling with his own identity, and how his friends and family recognise him as someone who has failed. On the outside, he put up a brave front and didn’t show that this is affecting him, but during vulnerable moments he shared how their taunts made him feel low.”“Young people like Pradeep have multiple ups and downs in their life which can be overwhelming and not having supportive adults could push them to sometimes take drastic steps.” says another facilitator at the Career Connect Centre.In our work with young people like Pradeep, we have learnt that they are seeking emotionally safe spaces where they can be themselves; they are seeking authentic adult relationships based on trust, empathy, love, care and non-judgmental attitudes and they are seeking acceptance and validation. Hence, while we offer various skill development programmes as a hook for young people to come into the centre, the approach uses empathy-based pedagogies to build healthy, trust-worthy and safe relationships between facilitators and young people.Pradeep found it refreshing to come into a space where his feelings were heard and found acceptance from the facilitators. He was not treated like a failure. It was a whole new experience for him and he embraced it wholeheartedly. The facilitators say, “When we open the doors at nine, every morning, Pradeep is waiting, and he is at the Centre till we shut the doors, at the end of the day.”Before coming to the Centre, he didn’t have an adult who had the time to listen to him and encourage him to invest in himself and his dreams. While his father was busy trying to make ends meet and his mother was ensuring that Pradeep was fed and clothed, there was nobody giving him space to express what he was feeling. At the Centre, he was met with not one but many caring facilitators who validated what he was going through and held space for him as he overcame his feelings of dejection and transformed them into something optimistic.Soon, Pradeep learnt to accept his failure, overcome his feelings of shame and guilt and learnt to Thrive.Research shows that children who do well in adverse situations, such as failure in examinations, have a biological resistance to adversity when they have strong and healthy relationships with the important adults in their family and community. These relationships buffer young people from developmental disruption. When Pradeep experienced failure in examinations, it is manageable stress, which can be growth-promoting, when helped by supportive adults. Supportive adults can support development of key capacities like the ability to plan, monitor and regulate behaviour and become adaptive to changing circumstances. By refraining from teasing, labelling and mocking them for performing poorly in academics and instead by creating a safe space for them to share their feelings, we are creating strong support systems for young people. Making them focus on areas they might be skilled at could lead to them feeling better about themselves. Over time, they become better able to cope with life’s obstacles and hardships, physically and mentally (Centre on the Developing Child, 2015).It has been a year since Pradeep started going to the Centre and he recently gave his second attempt to clear his two pending subjects but cleared only Mathematics. Pradeep walked in to the Centre, with a wide smile on his face, laughing and overjoyed that he cleared that one exam! The staff at CCC were worried that he still had this one exam left to clear and he immediately told them to look at the bright side as it’s just one exam that he needs to clear now!Pradeep today looks as passing exams as just one more milestone in the expansive life he has ahead of him. While, waiting to clear his last exam, Pradeep has discovered who he is and is confidently moving forward in life.Note - It was originally posted here - https://medium.com/@vishaltalreja/being-an-empathetic-supportive-adult-can-prevent-teenage-suicides-4d876d7b4c92
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Of Warping Time and Leading with Hope...

    It was Einstein that said “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once” but, given the pace of the past few months, there were definitely times where we were trying to warp and curve the time-space continuum to get everything done! There are three things that I’d like to share with you. First, we’re investing in teachers and building their capacities to improve classroom practice and learning. Our teacher training vertical is taking on the role of a Teacher Development Centre. This will encompass training, coaching and classroom observation. Most of us agree that teacher training is not sufficient in improving learning outcomes --- training has to ‘stick’. We think this will happen if training is supported by real-time coaching, teacher support and an immersive programme of building a cohort of trainers that are aware of innovative teaching practices in the government system. As with our other work, we will lead with proof points to demonstrate the model, gain evidence of impact and then scale the effort by integrating the programme into government systems.Second, we’re deepening our work in Madhya Pradesh. We kicked off our deeper engagement in MP with three ‘design thinking’ workshops that helped us involve voices from the ground (Principals, teachers, DIET lecturers and principals, BACs, CACs, DPC, APC), to co-create the programme that we will roll out (20 individuals in each cohort). We didn’t want to sit behind a desk and design the programme ourselves and there’s no better insight than the perspectives of those that are doing the hard work of running schools and teaching children on a daily basis. Third, our codification and knowledge management effort has begun under the direction of Urmila (our Director, Education). We think codification is critical to helping us scale our work and are investing in standardising our teaching practices, our school processes, our teacher training rubrics and modules, etc. As we get deeper into this effort, we will be exploring the use of a technology platform to make this easy to access and disseminate.So, as we enter 2020, I am incredibly hopeful that we’re building a special organisation here. One that is going to work towards delivering high-quality education in government schools and bringing hope and positivity and inspiration to the work we do, every day.With love, hope and the belief that we will build a better world,KrutiCEO,Peepul PS We’d love for you to support our work as we grow. One way is to donate through our new donations page: https://peepulindia.org/donate/ - We received our FCRA recently (yay!) so individuals based outside India can also contribute and donate to our programmes. If you’re based outside India, please email me and I’ll give you the details on how you can fund our work.
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Muktangan: Quality Education for Life

The Muktangan initiative began in 2003 in a small classroom of an existing MCGM school building. Its objective; to provide a quality English - medium school education program to local, under-served communities in and around Mumbai’s G - South Ward. While, at the time English Medium schools were available, they seemed inaccessible to the children from these working-class communities due to high fees. Parents also found the education provided by these schools to be theoretical in nature and to lack any ability to prepare their children for practical life or a globalized job market. Muktangan’s Founder Elizabeth Mehta, being a veteran educationist, was well aware of these prevalent gaps in mainstream education and empathized with the communities need for a more holistic education. Believing in the potential that lay within the communities themselves, the initiative drew on members, mostly women, with few opportunities for economic independence and a passion to see the children of their communities succeed; and empowered them to become educators capable of delivering a free, learner-friendly, developmentally supportive schooling program. 16 years later, Muktangan’s seven schools and integrated teacher education center act as labs for action research and innovation in classroom strategy, facilitating the development of well-rounded learning experiences for students and teachers alike. The education model, based on active-constructivism, engages learners and encourages them to…Participate in classroom discussionsExplore concepts introduced, contextualize them to everyday life And understand how to practically implement what they learnThe model’s interdisciplinary approach supported by a seamless integration of curricular (Academic) and co-curricular (non-academic) content allows learners to unlock their true individual potential, empowering them to be adaptive, empathetic, thinking and contributing members of a 21st century global society. Through our schools alone, we annually deliver quality education to 3700 plus children and have, so far, developed more than 800 educators (teachers, faculty and school leaders). Muktangan’s model and methods are now being studied for further scale to the mainstream. Some of the teaching - learning processes from our early years’ and elementary education programs have already been implemented in Balwadis/Anganwadis and Zilla Parishad (ZP) schools in other rural and urban areas of Maharashtra benefiting 1000s of on-field educators and students. We are also in the process of building user-friendly Education Tools allowing educators and parents alike to adapt Muktangan’s methods, independently to various learning contexts. To know more about us visit our website and/or follow us @ngomuktangan on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. 
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HOW YOGA TRAINING ENABLED A LITTLE GIRL TO STAND ON HER FEET?

YogSeYogya..HOW YOGA TRAINING ENABLED A LITTLE GIRL TO STAND ON HER FEET?Who knew that just yoga training could empower a little girl to aspire and achieve what she had never dreamt of? A government school student, daughter to a BPL family with father as a daily wage worker goes on to become a champion, exemplifying the unrealistic paradigm of hope for hundreds like her. Such is the story of K. Srujana Pujitha studying in Government Residential School in the small village of Thanam, located in Andhra Pradesh.A narrative of hope and aspiration, the acceleration to her untouched talent has been the protagonist of this success story. An academically average student, with reasonable health but minimal expectations, made her maiden encounter with yoga in 2016. Despite Pujitha’s interest in the form, for a long time she couldn’t find an avenue to exercise it. Studying in a residency school, her inadequate outdoor exposure couldn’t translate her interest into aspiration.A certified yoga trainer engaged by NTPC Simhadri changed the narrative for her uninspired tale. She began training regularly and diligently. With discipline in action and precision in training, her energy and aptitude were accurately channelized in the direction for excellence. She began learning at the age of 10 and in 3 years now stands at the brink of a national feat that will secure her future. Provision of aids and financial assistance further gave the liberty to experience uninterrupted guidance and development that otherwise stood as hurdles. Having developed much affinity for the practice, yoga soon became an indivisible element of her life. Internalizing the art, her academic and health quotients saw a positive leap. With increasing appetites, stamina and greater concentration, she was elated to express how she is now a top ranker in her class. From securing the silver medal in Nellore State Level Competition in 2018, to a gold in Karnool State Level in 2019 and bronze in Visakhapatnam District Level, she became the first girl in her district to ever be selected for an International Yoga Event conducted in Chandigarh in 2018. With a league of achievements tailing her, she is undergoing relentless training for an imminent national victory, one that will assure her a government job in the future and absolute financial stability for her entire family. And it is her skills, carved with meticulous training guiding her and her family to a long-term secured sustenance.As daily wage workers, her parents identify themselves with her accomplishments and gleam with pride and sentiments witnessing unfamiliar contentment. Despite financial constraints limiting their scope to be live spectators to her shows, they derive immense pleasure in having their daughter travel the country for her competitions and express immense gratitude to NTPC for creating such financial possibility. More so, ambition actualization has led them to involving their younger daughter in the art as well. What she has led is not a solitary tale of unexpected accomplishment but a domino of aspiration and excellence. Such ray of possibility for a girl from that community is a sturdy pillar for many to build their hopes on. With pouncing success, now over 4000 students are under the mentorship of Shri. Ch Anjaneyulu with an overwhelming response. Multiple students have been regularly acing the performances at District and State Level Competitions and participating in national level as well. Clearing the path for countless dreams to be realized, NTPC Simhadri has been sponsoring yoga suits, equipments, mats, travel expenditure and most significantly ensuring uninterrupted commendable training to school students across multiple villages in Parawada Mandal. NTPC CSR support has propelled an undiscovered purpose for thousands of girls who from being regular students have become advocates of art and discipline, and empowered individuals who will have the confidence to pursue what seemed like a distant dream in all spheres of life
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Making History Interesting, Engaging and Relevant in Schools

Our journey started after having a small discussion with an 8th grader who said, History is one subject that he hates but on the contrary he likes watching history-based movies, listening to stories of past and exploring monuments. We could relate to him as we had felt the same when we were in school. We felt there is a disconnect between what a child reads in books and what he/she experiences. To bridge this gap and make History Interesting and Experiential for students we came up with a history-curriculum based Theatre where we pick a theme from their history curriculum and make a theatre play around it. Since our foundation, we have done 6 plays for schools in Delhi-NCR.But making history interesting out of the classroom wasn’t enough. We wanted to take this impact to the classrooms so that it could be sustained. And we started using Drama-In-History -Education to build classroom sessions. This helped us catching student attention in the classroom and make this subject Engaging for students. Not just the in-class sessions but, engaging with the primary evidence of past which are well-preserved in the museums, helped them engage with their subject better.Still making history Interesting and Engaging wasn’t enough as there was this question of “Why study history ?” in minds of students. They used to ask us about the relevance of studying history which raised a lot of unanswered questions in our minds. We started our research to connect all these dots and worked around the “Thinking” that the study of history develops that doesn’t only define what’s significant to look into the past but also, ‘How’ to look at it. It talks about Evidence Vs Interpretations, Contextualisation, Multiple Perspectives, Changes and Continuities and forming Judgements. The thinking skills, which are highly relevant to resolve the matters of the present society. Hence, we started working with school students and teachers, developing these skills through research-based history projects. And it helped us achieving the third paradigm of making history Relevant in schools.With this thought of making history interesting, engaging and relevant we impacted 4000+ students from 20+ schools in Delhi-NCR. To scale the impact of this work we are reaching out to teachers through our teachers' training program.
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PRAGYANAM SCHOOL

‘Pragyanam’ meaning wisdom or understanding in Sanskrit, is a new K-12 school in Gurugram. We stand on the core belief that the objective of learning in the 21st century is to raise mindful, conscientious individuals who root for competence over competitiveness and aspire to live a life of happiness and fulfillment.Pragyanam- a CBSE affiliated school operates the unique ‘No Limit Pedagogy’ developed by PARWARISH. This pedagogy has been designed by Parwarish through their extensive research with children, parents and teachers for more than 10 years. WHAT IS NO- LIMIT PEDAGOGY?Our ‘No-Limit Pedagogy’ is about children discovering their own ‘No Limitness’ where subjects are used as a medium to develop life-skills. While the main focus is on developing these life-skills, learning happens along the way.The Objective of the curriculum delivery is to nurture and inculcate the following in very child:Problem solvingSelf-beliefIngenuousEmotionally and mentally healthyPhysically HealthyEffective communicationInterpersonal RelationshipsSedulousSelf-reliant / ResponsibleHumaneThese elements are the amalgamation of the innate qualities of children, the life skills prescribed by WHO and well researched and published lists of 21st Century skills our children will need to thrive in their lives.ASSESSMENT MATRIX: Each child is assessed on the above parameters, using the No Limit Scale/Assessment Matrix. Grades/Marks are replaced with detailed descriptors, charting each child’s growth and progress against the descriptor. Educators at Pragyanam go through an extensive 3 month training program conducted by Parwarish to not only equip themselves with these tools but also through a journey of personal transformation. This training is mandatory for all educators (academic and non academic) before they start their work with children.Operating from a basic premise that every child can achieve whatever s/he wants to; the no-limit pedagogy supports the educators in creating a stimulating safe space; where each child discovers the innate abilities and grows to be a ‘No limit’ adult. Parents are a integral part of the child’s growth. The approach partners and empowers parents to facilitate the process at home to create an environment, free from the limiting beliefs of ‘limited abilities’; thus, empowering each child to explore and grow.Our mission is to kindle a positive change in the country’s prevailing education system and partnering schools to implement this pedagogy where children are inspired learners being happy every day, living meaningful lives and creating value for themselves and for those around them!
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