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Gratitude for a compassionate community!

Sheetal SM
As we continue to wait for the lockdown to be lifted, I hope you all are doing well and staying safe. The daily updates of the impact of COVID-19 takes me through a tsunami of emotions. At the same time, my heart is filled with gratitude for the resilience of our youngsters and the dedication of our volunteers. It is amazing to see that everyone, irrespective of their other commitments, have come together to do their best and ensure that learning continues.Every other day, we have online sessions scheduled on various topics and it is fulfilling to see the enthusiasm and zeal of the youngsters towards learning. There is a spark in their eyes, a love for learning irrespective of the method and their questions have left me awestruck. And, yes, there is fun and laughter in the sessions too. At times, we have internet glitches. On one such occasion, the youngsters commented, “Oh! Sir, has got struck! He has become a statue. Oh God! What to do now? Let’s say ‘release’ and see if he unfreezes.” The best part was that the minute they said the word, the facilitator was back online again! The joke was shared with the faculty and the session was magically filled with laughter.These youngsters are not only enthusiastic about learning but also love teaching Kannada words to facilitators who don’t know the language. I have never noticed such unbridled enthusiasm in a long time; it brings out their authentic character through the things that excite them. Their enthusiasm is infectious and beyond words or stresses that sometimes take hold of life.The most resounding compliment I heard recently was from Krishnan, who heads the Shiksha program at Udhyam. He told me that our online efforts were effective and wanted to know more about how we overcame the challenges of dance sessions through webinar. Well, what do I say? Thanks to our volunteers Smita and Srilaxmi who facilitate the session on dance, it is amazing to see how seamlessly the youngsters learn the steps and enjoy every minute. We are happy to see their continuous zeal in all our virtual learning sessions and are sure that giving them access to joy in learning will make it a lifelong journey.The enthusiasm and eagerness to learn are uplifting and propel us to want to do all that we can to ensure that learning continues through this crisis.A heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers -- Santhosh, Radha Radhakrishnan, Amit Jain, Ravi Maney, Divya Raghavan, Dileep V, Naveen Bhargav, Sunitha, Anchal, Anjali Prayag, Brijesh Patel, Srikala Bhashyam, Nita Thadaka, Preeti Prayag, Shamya Dasgupta, Dr Shashi Rao, Srilaxmi, Smita, Aditya Bose, Jyothi Kunjoor, Jean, Malarkodi , Arunima Chandra, Lakshmi SS, Sherly Kumar, Shalika ,Shilpa N, Venkatesh Murthy & Nagaraj Deshpande -- as their support is an expression of our wish to sustain the learning process. The compassion you have shown towards the youngsters we work with is an inspiration for us all. Thank you for helping us out, truly grateful to you.I am aware that it is a very difficult time to ask for volunteer support, but it is also a time to spread the joy of learning and making a difference. There is no joy greater than lending a helping hand. So, if one wishes to share his/her journey, or is willing to facilitate online sessions, do write to us at – [email protected] or call me on +919945602202 
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A Happiness Bag Serves Both Education and Nutrition

Originally from Raichur, Sophia has resided in Bangalore for the last six years having migrated to earn a better living. She is the mother of two boys, the older in Class 1 and the younger is two-years-old.  Prior to the birth of her youngest, Sophia was a brick layer earning a daily wage, because of a cesarean birth and the complications that followed, she gave up her job, leaving her husband the only breadwinner in the family. Unfortunately, with the lockdown, her husband, a tractor driver for BBMP, lost his job. She says, “Our rent is due from past two months, which is ₹1,500. We have two acres of agricultural land in our hometown. We have given it for rent and receive ₹10,000 per year. We have very little money remaining of it and don’t know what will happen when it is exhausted. We are managing with rations provided by our local authority. Also, as we do not have any facility for online classes, the school provided old books, so that our child can study until the school re-opens. This Happiness Kit provided will help us a lot. I thank you all for the support.”'In a recent survey conducted by The Akshaya Patra Foundation among parents, teachers and children of these schools, 96% of families revealed loss of livelihoods, while most families claimed a two-third reduction in daily intake of food. To support these government school children and their families, the Akshaya Patra Foundation has rolled out the Happiness Bag programme across the country. Through this programme, a Happiness Bag containing dry rations, educational material, and hygiene products for children, including sanitary packs for girl children, are distributed to the families to ensure the continued nutrition and education of these children until schools open. Akshaya Patra shares stories of beneficiaries through our COVID-19 Relief Efforts, as well as of our Mid-Day Programme to show you how a small act of generosity can impact and change somebody’s life.
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Wall of Gratitude Salutes DeCorona Champ, Gaurang Rathi, IAS

On the occasion of our Independence Day, through the "Wall of Gratitude", we salute leaders like Gaurang Rathi, IAS, (Municipal Commissioner - Varanasi, CEO - Varanasi Smart City, CEO - Kashi Vishwanath Trust) and all those in the CivilServices who have been navigating our villages, towns and cities through Covid19.“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma GandhiIn a world confined to its own worries, it is leaders like Gaurang and teams that they lead who have constantly reminded us that service indeed knows no boundaries.Our sincere gratitude to you, Gaurang Rathi and your fraternity for being our #DeCoronaChamps. Leaders like you elicit hope and faith that we shall overcome these clouds and sunny days will soon be a reality!The video is a peek into Gaurang Rathi's past 125 days, based on research by the SetuWorks team. Link for the video: the Wall of Gratitude -Rewind - On 2nd April, we initiated the "Wall of Gratitude" to thank the silent champions of Covid19. They are catalysts to the efforts of the frontline warriors as they help us navigate through these times. Each of them, from different domains ranging from IT, Education, Social Sector, Health, Waste Management, FMCG, etc. represent thousands of leaders and role holders like them. These 'behind the scene' rockstars or as we call them #MyDeCoronaChamps are so purpose driven & rooted that they do not even consider they are doing anything special. The tribute was a surprise to them as well!7th Aug 2020 onwards - On completing 125 days, we felt it is an opportune time to reconnect with our champs and share a glimpse of their lives and their thoughts as they busied themselves in taking care of all matters, professional and personal. We hope it also fills you with gratitude and you find ways to show it to many more #DeCoronaChamps around you. 
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Smartphone Recycle Scheme

Let's ReflectHow many of us have changed our mobile handsets in last five years? I don't think i even need to count; almost all of us would have switched a better gadget with every new launch. But the second and most important question; how many of us have bothered about its recycling? Where are those old gadgets? Are they unusable or we simply discarded them because we got a better one? The Digital DivideWe have all heard of the news of a poor couple in district Kangra of Himachal Pradesh, selling their only source of income their cattle, a young girl in Kerala committing suicide because she couldn't join the online classes and many other unknown stories that portrayed the digital divide and have just not made to headlines but haunt every child, every parent, every teacher and every aware and sensitive individual. In the times of pandemic; while systems, institutions and teachers are gearing themselves and engaging with more and more digital learning; this is one of the most disturbing issues.The InitiativeWell with all these thoughts in mind; Dr. Kalpana Sharma, Principal Swami Vivekanand State Model School, Baneda, Bhilwada, Rajasthan thought of a unique and innovative scheme; "Smartphone Recycle" scheme. While visiting children and households for enrolment, for awarness rallies, and for active participation in online classes;Mrs. Sharma was faced with this challenge of lack of resources and the inability of the parents to afford the same. While at home; she saw one of her old gadgets which was still in working conditions, just that it could not manage my excessive data load. It started by that one step in donating the old handset to one of the needy child on the 74th Independence day and inviting others to do so. This noble cause was noted by many enthusiasts and donors and became the news in Rajasthan and thus the chain began. There are independent donors who contact schools and donate their old gadgets which has also become one of the ways of recycling e-waste.   
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GovTech In Insurance Delivery Ring-fences Poor From Health Risks

Vimala Devi of Lakadhar village in Shimla district never imagined her stomach ache could amplify into a critical health crisis. After bearing the pain for a month, Devi was admitted to Kamla Nehru Hospital, Shimla. To her family’s dismay, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. A surgery was the only remedy to treat this malignancy.Devi’s family lacked the financial wherewithal to meet the steep expenses of cancer treatment. All hopes would have been dashed but for a cashless card that lit up hope. The health card provided by Himachal Health Care Scheme or Himcare offered surgery and other treatment for free. Myriad families like Devi’s are benefiting from the flagship scheme Himcare run by the department of health & family welfare, Himachal Pradesh. The state has been running this scheme since January 1, 2019 to offer cashless treatment to families left out of the ambit of Ayushman Bharat - Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. The scheme offers a family floater cover of Rs 5,00,000 per year. Himcare scheme is designed to inch closer to ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) which identifies universal health coverage with financial risk protection as one of the critical targets. Almost 90 million people across the world are impoverished by mounting health expenses every year. In India, the scenario is unsettling as on an average, each person spends $109 per year from his own pocket to access health services. Today, around 60 per cent of the insurance market in India is government led. And, this builds the case for an efficient delivery of insurance solutions. This is where Himcare stands out. An engagement with Odisha-based GovTech major CSM Technologies, paved the path for Himachal Pradesh Government to put in place an automated monitoring and evaluation system, thus creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders.Before CSM rolled out this solution, the Department of Health & Family Welfare, HP confronted many hurdles in scheme implementation. First - the lack of centralised information made the process tough for authentication and verification of beneficiaries.  Multiple back and forth performed manually for empanelment of hospitals and verification of beneficiary’s credentials had turned irksome. The whole process devoured time, lacked transparency and raised risks of frauds and duplication of records. Himcare Scheme Monitoring System smoothened the jagged edges with an automated ICT platform wherein layers of data pertaining to beneficiaries, hospitals, medical records, treatment packages and claims are authenticated and validated through data mining and warehousing.  Both government and private hospitals can be empanelled under the scheme. The automated system generates health card and offers a DigiLocker for saving it. Settlement of claims is governed by a four-stage verification process. Moreover, the system provides for a Grievance Management System and offers an ‘Audit and Support Service’ where empanelled hospitals are audited by the Third Party Administrator (TPA) to appraise their services.The end-to-end automation solution has delivered and the metrics below speak volubly of its success during 2019 and 2020.Applications Received: 469567Health Cards Issued:  423960Cards Renewed:  97129Active Families/Cards:  307723Empanelled Hospitals: 269Cases Discharged:  102978Claims Raised by Hospital:  90597Claims Initiated for Payment: 67098Claims Settled/Payment Successful: 64789Amount Paid (To Hospitals) for Settled Cases:  Rs 50.53 croreSchemes like Himcare are kindling hope for the poor and disenfranchised- people who have dreaded exorbitant healthcare costs. And when such cashless schemes get a generous sprinkling of the right ‘GovTech’ solution, it changes the way the government connects and delivers to the bottom of the pyramid.CSM Technologies has devised and implemented similar solutions for State Governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
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Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan: Revolutionising public schooling in India

Launched in 2015 by the Shri Naveen Patnaik led government of the eastern seaboard state of Odisha with the objective of bridging the rural-urban educational divide through the provision of high-quality education to the masses, the Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan (OAVS) is a first-of-its-kind publicly funded initiative in the country that sets a precedent for other states to follow. Managed by an apex body (general body) headed by minister, school & mass education, Odisha as president, the OAVS — comprising 214 presently operational CBSE affiliated Adarsha Vidyalayas and 100 more in the making — provides 58,712 underprivileged children from class VI through XII, including 33,049 girls and 33,895 children from SC/ST communities free English-medium education. As a ‘model school’ sited in each of the 314 block headquarters of Odisha, the Adarsha Vidyalaya envisions to promote academic excellence in other government schools in region.“We launched an unprecedented initiative to provide free quality education to underprivileged children through CBSE affiliated English-medium schools so that no deserving child of Odisha is deprived of his/her right to learn. The Adarsha Vidyalayas have been playing a key role in making progressive education accessible to children in far flung regions of the state while integrating the students of small towns and villages into mainstream education. I strongly believe OAV will create leaders who are capable of scripting Odisha’s growth and transformation story,” says Shri Naveen Patnaik, incumbent chief minister of Odisha whose commitment to upgrade and transform the public education system in the state is evident  in the steadily increasing budgetary allocation for the sector over the past few years. Distinguishing features of OAVS OAV offers classes from VI to XII with two sections in each class and an intake capacity of 40 students in each class.Admission is based on performance in an entrance test and students are admitted only in class VI.The test is largely non-verbal and objective in nature and is designed to prevent any disadvantage to children from rural areas.Teacher-pupil ratio of 1:25.50 percent reservation for girls in each category.The reservation of seats in SC/ST category is at par with the percentage of SC/ST population in the respective blocks.Bridge course materials are developed to enable smooth transition from Odia medium to English medium.English is the primary mode of instruction and Odia is offered as second language.Uniformity in logo, school uniform, badge to instill respect, pride and community spirit among the students.Moreover, ever since Dr Bijaya Kumar Sahoo, founder-mentor of the Bhubaneswar (Odisha) based SAI International Education Group, took charge as OAV’s first advisor-cum-working president in June 2019, he has been introducing a slew of measures to contemporise education at the Vidyalayas and develop them into ‘centres of excellence’ in public education. Among them:Implementation of the principles of 5T (Teamwork, Technology, Transparency, Time bringing in Transformation), in true spirit.Launch of the innovative website for OAV head office as well as for each school, which provides comprehensive information for students.Implementation of a robust ERP system that helps in tracking the academic and non-academic progress of each child, monitoring performance of each school and leveraging larger technology-based analytics for better evaluation.Creation of academic development school calendar, annual planner, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and academic calendar for students.Establishment of processes through drafting and implemention of policies and procedures.Capacity building for teachers through continuous teacher education programmes.Redesigned the curriculum through an optimal blend of academics, co-curricular activities and sports for the holistic development of students.Introduction of professional career counselling and coaching facilities for children.“Blending technology with academics, improving the school’s infrastructure, creating road maps, for academic as well as non-academic pursuits and bringing more accountability into the system, have accelerated the transformation of the public schooling system within the OAVs. The outcomes were visible within a short span of six months since my association with OAV. The website, ERP system, close monitoring and my weekly review of all the Vidyalayas has helped bring back the focus of all the stakeholders into the seriousness of our work and made them realise the magnanimity of the vision behind this initiative. We are fortunate to have very young teachers, full of passion and enthusiasm. Healthy competition among the OAVs has led to better outcomes. Moreover, our regular teacher training programme has helped enhance the competency of teachers and enabled them to upskill,” says Dr. Sahoo.Ensuring learning continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemicPerceiving the Covid-19 induced disruption as an opportunity rather than a challenge, the OAV management responded promptly to the announcement of the nationwide mass closure of educational institutions in March 2020 with a multi-pronged interim strategy that includes:Motivating the school staff: Dr. Sahoo reached out to the principals and teachers of the 214 operational schools, motivating them to do their best in these troubled times.Leveraging technology for online learning: To ensure learning continuity of students, the OAV management introduced innovative virtual teaching-learning solutions by leveraging digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, among others. Teachers also provide guidance over phone to students with limited or no access to the Internet.Creating online learning resources: Teachers prepared learning content for students and uploaded them on the school website for students to access. Video lessons were shared through the YouTube platform.Dr. Bijaya Sahoo with OAVS studentsDespite the challenges of Internet connectivity and limited access to smartphones for a large majority of students from rural areas, OAVS has been able to reach out to almost 70 percent of its students and continues to provide them virtual learning. Door step delivery of books: The school management arranged for the text books to be delivered to the students right at their doorsteps with the help of its committed teaching staff.Teachers as COVID warriors: Assuming the role of COVID warriors during the ongoing crisis, several Adarsha Vidyalaya teachers have been efficiently managing the TMC’s (Temporary Medical Centre’s) as well as the QC’s (Quarantine Centers).Uninterrupted mid-day meal supply: With the Covid-19 induced shutdown of schools making it impossible for the mid-day meals to be served at school, the teachers also distributed food ration in lieu of mid-day meals to the children.Strategy for board exams: The Vidyalayas’ strategy for this year’s CBSE board exams included provision of one-on-one mentoring to students. Extra classes and remedial sessions were conducted after school hours by the dedicated teachers which helped students achieve the recording-breaking results in board exams.“Keeping with the vision and mission of our hon’ble chief minister Shri Naveen Patnaik, we in Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya are committed to make it a role model public educational institution in the country. We strongly believe we can build a better Odisha through the Adarsha Vidyalayas,” says Dr. Sahoo.The story has been extracted from 
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Lockdown and Teacher Training: Impressions from DIETs

On March 24, as she heard the news of the world’s biggest lockdown being announced in India, Shreya Singhal, a primary school teacher in Gorakhpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh was deliberating immediate measures she will need to take to ensure that her students’ education does not suffer.“It was clear that the classes will have to move online. Smartphones with an internet connection and video conferencing apps will be needed. Motivating introverted students online will be a challenge,” she says, recalling the thoughts running through her head at the time.“But my training at the DIET had actually prepared me quite well for what is now quickly turning into a norm,” she says.Shreya received her pre-service teacher training at the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), the district-level teacher training institutes established across the country by the Government of India. As a young and motivated private school teacher who is well familiar with digital tools, Shreya has ensured that her students continue to learn under her guidance during the lockdown. This, however, is not a norm across the country.According to the data released recently at the UNESCO Teachers of the World Unite virtual summit, nearly 2.7 million teachers in India who have been impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns are untrained in remote teaching methods.Blended Learning ModelAmong the school-related factors, teachers play a critical role in building competencies of children and enhancing their learning levels. Hence, as classes increasingly move to the online environment, the urgency to train teachers in the effective use of ICT in teaching is becoming clearly evident.“It is expected that when the schools reopen, they will have to operate with curtailed strength to ensure that proper physical distancing is maintained. This means education through digital means will have to fill the gaps due to staggered or reduced classroom hours,” says Dr. Rohen Meetei, Associate Professor at Government of Haryana’s Prarambh School for Teacher Education, Jhajjar.“This blended learning model of education can be seen as the new normal in school education,” he says.The lockdown experience has already set in motion educational reform frameworks that emphasise such blended learning models more than the hitherto conventional in-school education model. In the area of teacher training, the NISHTHA programme launched by the Department of School Education and Literacy and Ministry of Human Resource Development’s ‘experiential learning’ initiative recently launched on the DIKSHA portal, are welcome moves that aim to improve the quality of school education through integrated teacher training, incorporating abundant resources for conducting remote classes.These frameworks and platforms, however, while significant policy-level initiatives, need to be complemented with hands-on technical guidance and pedagogical innovations to translate to any meaningful action on the ground.Experiences from Government teacher training institutes during the lockdown can be a good indicator of what works and what does not in this regard.The DIET Experience“Initially, our approach was kept simple to ensure that students and faculty members adapt to the digital environment with relative ease,” says Prasoon Kumar Akela, senior faculty at DIET Noorsarai in Bihar.To transition from the classroom environment to digital, the starting point was to use the technology and platform everyone is familiar with.“Two separate study groups were made on WhatsApp for each batch of pre-service student-teachers. Digital study content in the form of scanned copies and videos was shared in these groups along with a list of related questions that the students had to answer,” he says.“While the process did help students and the faculty orient towards the digital medium, in a few weeks there was a clear need felt for live and synchronous learning both by the faculty and the students. Hence, the classes were shifted to the Google Classroom and Google Meet platforms.”While the use of ICT has been integral to government teacher training institutes for several years now, it has almost always been rudimentary.“Previously, the use of ICT in training by the faculty members at the DIET was mainly limited to the use of a computer and a projector to make digital presentations. It was broadly accepted to be a non-critical skill as we could always fall back on the traditional methods of training,” says Prasoon.“But today, that is just not an option.”For the tech-friendly students, while the transition has been much smoother, the lockdown has revealed the limitations of their training and they will quickly need to adapt to the changing realities of education transaction. “Practical components of e-pedagogies and remote teaching need to be added to the DIET curriculum in order to make it more relevant to the new requirements,” says Sushmita Patrichi, a second-year student-teacher at DIET Ranchi.“Disaster Management and internet safety are other elements that teachers will need to be proficient in as classes move the online mode,” she says.Pedagogical innovationsRemote learning requires teachers to possess distinct skill sets that go beyond successfully navigating the digital environment. Use of digital systems to effectively conduct classes that result in enhanced learning levels among the students requires a dextrous mix of subject knowledge, relevant pedagogy, engaging content and digital know-how. Pedagogical innovations reflective of local realities play a pertinent role in this regard.“Following the pattern of training received at the DIET, I have divided the entire curriculum of the grades I teach into 50:25:25 ratio of Self-study, Courses and Experiences or Activities, respectively,” says Shreya.“While this teaching methodology is highly effective in encouraging my students to drive their own learning process, it also reduces the amount of digital study material I need to share with them online. This is particularly helpful for students living in areas with low internet connectivity or who lack access to requisite digital hardware,” she says.Similarly, classroom management skills as part of teacher training need a relook under the new normal of school education. Peer learning is a proven method of effective, accelerated learning among students. A noteworthy experience from some of the DIETs has been that in the institutes where a batch of students has been sub-divided into smaller peer groups, the transition to online training during the lockdown for students has been seamless and more effective.The path aheadThe core of teacher training in the new blended learning environment needs to transcend enhancement of ICT skills to include efficient use of e-pedagogies in order to engage students and actually help them drive their own learning process effectively.Fundamental issues of access to digital infrastructure and internet connectivity, particularly in rural India, continue to beset most foreseeable gains from the policy-level changes being introduced by the Government. It is imperative that the digital divide is bridged concurrently – and urgently – with these changes.The COVID-19 pandemic has made it amply clear that the future of education lies in technology-driven reforms at all levels. In case of school education, these reforms are centrally pegged to the crucial pivot of the teacher and optimum, and early investments in their training will decide the curve of learning levels among the children in the coming months. A curve we cannot afford to see flattening.
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Parents as Co-Educators in the journey of strengthening the Foundational Numeracy and Literacy of children

Parents as Co-educators in the journey of strengthening the Foundational Numeracy and Literacy of ChildrenThe Akanksha Foundation has always held a strong value system with regards to holistic development of children. We believe that the learning of a child goes beyond the walls of a classroom and our efforts are focused on helping them to maximise their potential. Our school model also includes parents as our partners wherein we engage with them through volunteerism and community wide efforts which ensure both, the development of their child as well as their own well being. The current pandemic situation has given rise to extreme turns in the education system and forced children out of schools. However, our existing mechanisms worked to our advantage and allowed us to propose a course of action, which is, collaborating with parents to ensure the education of our children continues. Setting the foundation No sooner than the national lockdown was declared, our teams promptly set to putting together an action plan. All of Akanksha plunged into action to ensure the learning of our students continues even at home.The central teams at our organisation have formulated a blueprint to conduct learning processes efficiently at home during the lockdown. Our structure involves passionate mentors who are in charge of assembling a monthly schedule of learning experiences which is immediately passed on to the teachers. The teachers then drive this entire operation by communicating various activities to parents every week. In a nutshell, our teachers act as planners and parents are now responsible executors of education, taking ownership of children's education.Our approach emphasizes on "learning through play" which enables us to facilitate teaching processes through creative learning experiences by simply teaming up with parents. Not only have we redesigned our curriculum for numeracy and literacy but also created a setting which incorporates a holistic learning experience with resources that are available in households. Activities for K-2 grades include  tasks like role playing with parents, creative storytelling, learning through art, etc This not only drives the gross motor skills, listening, observation, memory and speaking skills in kids but also strengthens the parent-child bond and imbibes value education.We are making education meaningful by weaving socio emotional and ethical learning and inculcating values through such creative teaching techniques.Enabling Parents to be co-educatorsWe believe that free and crystal clear communication is an essential part of every step that we take during our schooling procedures. In order to support our parents consistently as co-educators, our teachers conduct parent meetings online on a regular basis. Weekly discussions allow for an exchange of information and also serve as a space for parents to give feedback about day to day activities that are given as children’s assignments. Teachers communicate clear cut instructions of the assignments in like marathi, hindi so that parents can understand the tasks properly.To add to this, our teachers are available 24/7 to offer aid to parents, answering their queries and solving all their doubts. This has also given rise to a personal bond between the two parties and teachers are making sure to not only follow up but also check in on the well being of student's families. Moreover, we have a weekly appraisal story which features parents who have performed extraordinarily as co educators, paving their way to become a "Supermom" or "Superdad." This is our little way of appreciating the immense efforts of parents who have enthusiastically taken up ownership for their child's future. Stepping up for many rolesParents as collaborators : The idea here is to empower parents and lead them on a path which grants them to form a close knit community. Along with the guidance from teachers, our parents are teaching aids for children. As collaborators, they have the power to move collectively in a direction which provides them with an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with their child and simultaneously attain the goal of teaching and learning without any interruptions. Our parents and children bond over activities like Rakhi making, making cards together, etc.Parents as teachers : The pandemic has posed challenges for everybody and one such challenge has been for parents who are now playing the role of teachers. It is their job to prepare worksheets for their children as well as systematically submit assignments after completion. Not only are they acting as teachers but are making active efforts to understand multiple technological processes. Many of our parents attend classes with our children and ensure they understand the tasks and take onus of completing them with the children.Parents as investors: As a result of our partnership with parents over the years and our existing family like relations with them, our mission of educating every single child studying at Akanksha has continued even amidst a pandemic. This very act of uninterrupted teaching and learning has been possible mainly because of parents who are highly invested in securing a bright future for their children. As individuals, they have managed to become multitaskers and are currently juggling multiple positions at once, first, their own profession, second being that of handling an entire household and third of transforming into a coeducator to guide children with a purpose. Our efforts are to strengthen the connections we’ve made with our parents and ensure that our children stay on the path of education.Afreen Shaikh, a parent of our senior kg student shares, “I am grateful to Akanksha for recognising the importance of education since no other school has been as observant as Akanksha during these tough times. Akanksha’s support has motivated me to take my child’s education into my own hands and I do not want them to lose touch with the idea of studying especially in these early years of their learning journey.” 
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Bijuli Didis of Odisha : Story of Power and The Power-ful Women of Rural Odisha

Back in 2013, when Odisha Government launched “Bijuli Didi” campaign to sensitize people on judicious use of power, check power theft and reduce commercial loss of electricity in the State, little did they know that it will turn out to be a huge success with active engagement of women members.As part of the campaign, information was circulated in the media to create awareness on various aspects of electricity. The power distribution companies of Odisha — Central Electricity Supply Utility, North Eastern Electricity Supply Company, Southern Electricity Supply Company, Western Electricity Supply Company and all their franchisees had come together to sponsor the campaign with the punch line ‘My Electricity, My Future, My Responsibility’.As per reports, over 120 women are currently playing an instrumental role in ensuring hassle-free electricity services to people across the State. They have not only reduced losses but also helped gaining a revenue of ₹7 crore for the state-owned power distribution companies (DISCOMS). Odisha Government has undertaken many campaigns since then, like Bijuli Didi, which makes them independent through livelihood opportunities. The Government has also made arrangements to train more such women members to prepare them before being inducted into the project.Around 70 more women are undergoing training to extend electricity services across 53 Gram Panchayats in Odisha. The primary work of Bijuli Didi is to collect bill payments and take charge of customer care at public gathering spots such as gram panchayat office, mandis, village chowk and local temples. It is estimated that each Bijuli Didi provides service to around 600 to 800 customers for nearly five hours every day. As a result of their effort, nearly 5,000 more customers are receiving monthly bills regularly and an additional 8,000 customers have started paying their bills before deadline. Amid restrictions on movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bijuli Didis are educating and sensitizing customers about necessary precautions to be taken to prevent coronavirus infection.
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Goan Architect Turns ‘Waste’ Into Beauty Through his Breathtaking Buildings

Goa-based architect Gerard Da Cunha has been celebrated over the years for his unique and unusual architectural style that revolves around nature.“I always come up with my designs on site. If I sit at my office, I won’t know the energy of the space I’m designing, I won’t know how the wind flows nor will I know if there are any trees that I’ll have to design around,” the 65-year-old architect says.Using waste and locally-sourced materials like timber and stone, Gerard has built several architectural structures which include universities, libraries, museum, resorts and even townships all across India.‘The Better Home’ We created ‘The Better Home’ because you shouldn’t have to choose between non-toxic ingredients and effective cleaning. Our cleaners are safe for babies, pets, skin and our oceans. Explore our range of powerful, earth-friendly cleaners here.Gerard is the principal architect of his architectural firm, Architect Autonomous and in his career of four decades in the field of sustainable architecture, his work has gained popularity for his unique designs and his out-of-the-box thinking.Imbibing A Sustainable StyleWhen he was a third-year student of Architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, Gerard took a one year break to travel to Kerala and assist the famous architect, Laurie Baker the renowned ‘Gandhi of Architecture’. “I was really inspired by his simple and efficient techniques and it was through him that I was able to imbibe my own style. As a result, none of the work that I have done so far is standardised. Every structure has been built with respect to the local materials available and the nature of the land,” Gerard explains.One of the most popular works of Gerard is the three-storied House of Goa Museum, known for its unique ship-like structure. Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan, also located in Goa, stand testimony to the architect’s unique style which includes the use of several discarded materials. And one of his more elaborate projects, the JSW Township has also received a lot of recognition for its incorporation of locally-sourced materials and limited budget.All of these have been built with minimal resources and have explored different levels of spatial experience.House Of Goa MuseumGerard’s ‘Houses of Goa’ Museum in Torda, Goa, is an architectural wonder that one cannot miss. The three-storied museum built with laterite stone is shaped like a curious triangle. Also known as Gerard’s ‘traffic island’, the museum has its walls panning out, like a ship. “With just 40 sqm on each floor, one can easily get a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage and history of Goa starting from 1300 BC with photographs, maps, models of ancient houses, collection of designed pillars, windows designs, carved furniture, false ceilings, tiles and literature of houses and the people of Goa even before the Portuguese invasion,” says architect Yash Shah, who had visited the museum in 2018.He goes on to explain how Gerard converted the ground floor café into a semi-museum by displaying photos of kitchens and bathrooms of different Goanese houses, all at a total cost of Rs 20 Lakh. “The design of each structure differs depending on the energy of the space, local resources, the budget, land availability, and traditional aspects that are relevant to that particular area,” Gerard explains.Because of his architectural style that is closely associated with keeping traditions alive, government authorities commissioned Gerard to restore the oldest fort of Goa — Reis Magos Fort which had been lying in ruins for a long time. After restoration, the fort is a popular tourist destination showcasing the history of Goa.Gerard has also designed the Goa State Central Library located at Panaji, which is home to more than 1,80,000 books.Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha NiketanThe unique designs of two schools in Goa, Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan have also received a lot of recognition.Set on a slope, these two schools have been uniquely designed for two sets of different age groups. The playschool, for ages 4-6 and the preschool is for classes 1-4. Breaking away from the usual staircases and classrooms seen in Indian schools, Gerard decided to create a fantasy land for the children incorporating outdoor classrooms, a slide that goes through the entire building and an amphitheatre with walls made of glass bottles.Ruhma Ukaye, Architect and Photographer based in Mumbai tells TBI, “The amount of thought put into the little details of how a child would use the school just blew my mind, it’s a whole different perspective of the world I got to experience. The use of materials such as bricks, mud, mosaic tiles, and even glass bottles for construction does portray a very direct, yet ingenious approach to sustainable and vernacular architecture.”At a cost of Rs 150 crore, Gerard took on the task of building a township for the JSW Steel Plant in Vidyanagar, about 30 km from Hampi, Karnataka. Spread across 300 acres, the project was planned to house 10,000 people. From sewerage lines, transformers, treatment plants to telephone systems, Gerard and his team put together everything.“I didn’t find it very difficult when it came to sourcing materials because I used granite for the most part of the project and utilised prefabricated systems and Cuddappah stone, which was famous in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. I just had to think in clusters and find out what were some of the things that were unique to that particular area,” Gerard explains.For the project, the architect won the prestigious Prime Minister’s National Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design in 1998–99. He has also won the ‘Commendation Award-1990’ for rural architecture for his project ‘Nrityagram’ at Bengaluru, Karnataka.“My architecture is completely based on creating a structure that belongs to that area. Our country has such unique traditions and cultures, yet when it comes to architecture we’re now opting for more standardised structures and use materials that are not unique to the region. This is something that can be changed in the coming years,” Gerard concludes.The story has been extracted from
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