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News Letter of Akshara Vahini Foundation
 Editorial
The Real Cost of Education

Not many of us realize the enormous investments that we, as a nation, have made in the education sector. Looking at numbers from the recent past, if we are to total up the amount spent on education both by the Central Government and the various State governments , we find that as a nation we spend close to Rs 60,000 crores on elementary education. There are about 160 million children that should be the beneficiaries of this investment which means that India spends about Rs.3, 750 per child per year. Then we get to the horrifying statistic that our drop-out rate is nearly 53% - what this rate implies is that the real cost of educating our children is Rs. 3,750 times 2 which is Rs. 7,500.

Why are these numbers important? The simple fact is that there are good private schools in our metros that charge students Rs 7,500 per year and these private schools provide facilities and learning that is way above anything that the government school system can deliver. It is not surprising, therefore, to see such a high drop-out rate from this system. To achieve the magic mantra of “enrollment, attendance and performance” we must ensure that the infrastructure of the school system exists and works; we must ensure that teachers teach; and, we must ensure that the large machinery we have created for pedagogy, evaluation, and training performs its role in creating relevant curricula. In the absence of this, the education sector will fail in providing returns in the form of vital social outcomes and we will be left with the world’s largest collection of illiterate people. If the current system does not work, then it is the duty of the government machinery as the supplier of education services to the poor and rural citizens to ensure that their minds are open to newer methods and techniques that will bring language and numeracy skills to all children.

On our part, we are ready with field-proven techniques to impart language and numeracy skills in 45 working day modules. We would urge the government to evaluate this and use this – we should declare an audacious goal of bringing reading skills to all children in the state within three years. It is perhaps then that the drop-out rate will reduce and that costs of the government system will be more reasonable.

Ashok Kamath
Managing Trustee

The Summer Camp Programme
For the first time, Akshara Foundation organized a summer programme for its children in 9 locations across the city. 322 children participated in the programme and the majority of them were from government schools. What follows are glimpses from the fun filled 5-day period.

Glimpses................

Day 1 - 16th May 2005

Children arrive much ahead of time to enroll for the five-day summer programme being held at Old Gurrapanpalya, Yarabnagar, Srinagar, Kamalanagar, Heggenahalli, Bapujinagar and D.J.Halli ERCs located in the North and South of Bangalore.
The inaugural session at Old Gurrapanapalya (S3 block) commences with Mr. Sirajuddin Makki (SDMC President), and other SDMC members enquiring from the children their expectations from the 5-day programme.
“ We want to learn to make toys, clay modeling and how to perform magic,” remark some of the children.
Mr. Chandrashekar, Ms. Anita (SDMC members) and Mr. Hemant (a social worker from the area) express their happiness over the summer programme being organized at the Kamalanagar Government School (N1 block) for the first time.
On the first day, the children are engaged in making wall hangings and greeting cards from bamboo.


Day 2 - 17th May 2005


35 children are engrossed in an innovative reading-based craft making activity at the Yarabnagar center. They are painting the designs and names of their favourite book titles on ceramic beads. “Suryana Kopa” and “Echa Poocha” are amongst some of the most popular. Hundreds of beads made by these children formed a part of a collaborative piece of art called “Reading Beads “. This piece of art, once completed was displayed as a public installation at one of the art galleries in Bangalore.
At Bapujinagar (S2A block) the programme begins with a “Treasure Hunt”. Children compete with each other to find the hidden treasure.
The second day also introduced a story reading session in all seven centers. “Kindari Jogi”, “Dhoomdhar chooha”, "Mayada Pathre" and "Quirquincho and the Fox" were popular stories that caught the attention of children.

Word wings (A written word building in English and a number game developed by the Hippocampus Reading Foundation, Bangalore) and a Kannada package on similar lines developed by the Ashore Team, had each child completing the activity worksheets on the second and third day.
Day 3 - 18th May 2005

Children in all seven centers used a scale to measure out, draw and cut out seven pieces of the “tangram”, an interesting Chinese puzzle, which could be assembled in at least 1600 shapes.
The craft making “origami” had children making different objects from paper. They included a peacock, an inkpot and a paper cup subsequently used in a simple scientific experiment.

Day 4 - 19th May 2005

Ms. Ranjani of SAP LABS donated CDs on the Panchatantra and other moral stories. These were screened in all the ERCs on the fourth day.
Children also spent time assembling various jig saw puzzles and playing indoor games such as passing the parcel, snakes and ladders etc.


Day 5 - 20th May 2005

The final day programme had SDMC members, teachers and parents attending an exhibition, which displayed the art, craft and written work done by children over the four-day period. Children also put up a small stage performance.

Display of craft at Old Gurrapanapalya

Feedback on the five-day programme from some of the centers


“My children Suma and Lata enjoyed participating in the summer programme. It has helped promote their creative and social skills”.

Bhagya (Parent- Kamlanagar)

“Akshara Foundation has taught me different activities and all these were not known to me before. I will teach my neighbours and friends who have not been able to come for the camp. We had no idea that summer camp would be so much fun. I wish to thank the volunteers who taught us all these fun activities, especially Ms. Farhana".

Shobha K (Participant-Kamalanagar)

“ I was very happy attending the summer camp. The volunteers and teachers encouraged me to come to the center. I learnt a lot this year and would like to come back for a similar programme next year. “
Aruna (Participant -Kamalanagar)

“ Painting on the clay beads was an new and interesting experience. We shall tell our friends about it when we get back to school “.

Ananda, (Karisandra school) & Puneeth Kumar and Anjali (Channasandra school)

We would like to thank the following people for helping us conduct the Summer Camp successfully - Ms. Nishwath (Hippocampus Reading Foundation), Ms. Ranjini (SAP LABS) , Mr. Rohan (Kotak Mahindra Bank) and Ms. Beena Oolapally.

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