The Power of Stories

Stories create experiences they open the door to the possibility of understanding a new way

When I was very small I used to listen to my grandmother’s stories with wonder. When she spoke, I saw what she meant – so now when I remember her stories, I have to check my memory to see if there was really a picture book, or just her words.  I used to imagine in black and white because all the old movies were mostly black and white.

In India, we’ve always listened to stories, it’s how we pass down what we know, how we share how we see the world, and now with the organization I work with, how we learn.

From the mythological narration of facts of life in Bhagwad Gita by Lord Krishna to Arjun, or my grandmother telling me stories, to the stories our children listen to and watch on TV, on iPads and in cinemas.

But it’s still the story that is ‘told’ that is ‘just words’ floating, with a voice, that allows us to imagine. Sometimes I think we learn much more when we are not given the images, but rather from words, we create our own.

So let’s say you are trying to teach children a new idea or concept, what works best the storytelling format or the story-reading approach?

I did some research. Global research says that storytelling is an abstract form of presenting information which induces creativity of thought while a story with painted, drawn pictures and characters painted provides a concrete understanding of how the characters and their cultures interact.

Story telling is like a magician holding the pulse of the audience with his magic tricks. The storyteller holds the stage and audience by the manipulated twists, turns, expressions and pauses in his stories. All of this combined with hand and body movements capture the attention of the listeners. The audience’s gaze is glued to storyteller yet they are transported to the other world that of story.

Therefore, we realize that telling a story in a specific way is crucial to the understanding of the story. While delivering beautifully designed story books to children to learn entrepreneurial skills, we now want to focus on strengthening of storytelling by teachers. In the workshop for orienting teachers to the program we shall innovate activities through which we facilitate our teachers to become storytellers and our children to learn skills through stories.

So what’s the power of a story?

It’s when everyone comes to school, even those who technically are not enrolled. Surendra Prasad is the headmaster of Nand High School in Sagouli (A semi urban town on the borders of East and West Champaran districts in Bihar). Every Saturday he reads one of our stories. And everyone comes. Every child who is supposed to be in school is there. Even kids who have dropped out come to listen. Women pause to listen while grazing their cattle in the fields and men who are doing new construction in the school come to sit in the classroom.

Surendra Prasad

 

“I’m sure it has an impact on all of them. They never get any books to read. Many of them cannot actually read. This is a way of getting to know about things which they never knew even existed. The stories are powerful and teach crucial skills for life,” he explained, pausing for a moment.

“On one Saturday, a man who has the contract for construction in our school, sat down to listen to the story I was telling. He listened to the entire story and later came to me. He said to me that the story was amazing and inspiring. We were reading the Bijli brings Carnival to her village that day. As we talked, I suggested to him that if he expands his social network and set up his offices in three different places, then he will be more accessible to people, also he can appoint local people to expand the size of their team. That day a 35 year old became my student”, says Surendra Prasad, and the builder did just that, and came back to thank Surendra for the insight into a skill through story.

 

JOB APPLICATION: PROJECT ASSOCIATE, RANCHI

Be! Schools

Our schools program – Be! Schools trains government school teachers to use 10-20 entrepreneurial design-driven skills stories to teach children studying in secondary grades (Grade 8th and Grade 9th), one skill is taught each week for a year in 1000+ Government Schools in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

52.8% of children in India drop out by Grade 10, we are working in secondary grades to stem the dropout rate and make education relevant to employment by delivering skills through the school system at scale, skills that can help children get a job or create a job once they complete their education.

Project Associate, Ranchi

 As Project Associate, Ranchi, you would have to spend 60% of your time in Ranchi and 40% in Delhi. The position would require you to create and lead a monitoring and evaluation team and a research team to implement the Be! Schools programme with 200 government and congregation schools across Jhanrkhand and Chattisgarh, meet with government officials, create new stories, communicate with teachers and students, identify and understand their problems, and amend and develop the programme to solve their problems and incorporate their ideas and suggestions.

Key Responsibilities: 

  • Teacher training: You will be responsible for the overall implementation of the teacher training in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. You will be responsible to lead the team of teacher trainers – from where you are positioned, in Delhi/ Ranchi and travel to the training locations to ensure that the trainers understand how to deliver each story and teachers understand the skills activities.
  • You will be working closely with the state teams and they will be reporting to you formally every week about the program related activities- district wise school performance, DEO/DPO meetings, individual schools cases and in turn, we’d like your program status reports, every week about the progress, issues, changes that need to be made to the process.
  • Report Writing: Watch progress through the internal monitoring system and weekly, write/create INSIGHT reports that could be the base of a blog, report to funders and research work. What we know now? Insight, trends, key quotes from kids, teachers, case studies?
  • Testing new books, skills activities with children. Coordinate, meet and follow up with (email, phone calls, visits) with schools, NGOs for testing of Be! books with children in their schools in Delhi and work with the team to do this in states where the program is being implemented. Build relationships with schools for regular testing of the books with children. Submit reports on each testing session, showing what has to be changed in terms of content, text, words, design, length and the activity to make it useable for children.
  • Once the activities come from states, start grading the activities and based on the outcomes, start revising the content of the books and teacher manual, as well as the teacher training sessions. Based on the grading results write interesting stories for the qualitative research reports. This will take minimum 30% of your time.
  • Team management: You will be responsible to work with the team members in Bihar to implement the schools program in 1,000 schools and you will provide direct support to the state team members- Head of programs, project officers and regional program coordinators in Bihar.
  • Project support:  Participate with study team members in development of ongoing project reports and documentation of progress, including analysis of qualitative data, summarization of findings, and development of visuals to communicate findings to stakeholders.
  • Analyze the existing quantitative data to understand the correlation between the survey data and the skill projects submitted by children.

Desired Skills and Experience

  • Knowledge and experience of participating in a large scale project
  • Ability to manage people, communicate with different stakeholders and multi-task at a distance.
  • Ability to coordinate and manage all aspects of the project
  • Highly motivated and a self-starter with a solid level of commitment
  • Excellent organizational and management skills/ability to prioritize
  • Ability to contribute in a team environment and manage a team
  • Computer proficiency and proficiency in M.S. Office (Excel, Power Point and Word)
  • Knowledge of working on statistical software like SPSS and Stata
  • Must be passionate about the development sector and creating social change through entrepreneurship
  • Qualitative and quantitative research skills.
  • At least 2 years of work experience. However, we accept application from college freshers if they can prove to possess the above-mentioned qualities.

If you believe you have the qualifications and experience for and interest in this profile, please send a one page CV along with a one page cover note to Rithika Nair at rithika@goingtoschool.com by 28 February 2014.

Thank you

#goingtoschool; #Be! Schools; #jobs; #project associate; #NGO; #job application

 

Where Girls Are Not Wanted

This is Komal Kumari

Komal is 12 years old. She is in grade 8 at Government Girls High School, Machuatoli, Patna. Her mother is a housewife and her father is an autorikshaw driver. Komal has been reading Be! Stories avidly because all the stories she has read so far have been about girls. Her project for ‘Getting to the Bottom of It’, which teaches children to notice and understand problems around them, identified what she thought was the most compelling problem in her community – gender discrimination, sexual harassment and female foeticide. This from a 12 year old bespectacled girl.

Komal has never been in the way of harm, but every day she walks to school afraid of her dupatta being pulled from behind or a man stopping her on her way. But she has seen didis (older girls) who have been grabbed, teased, slapped and groped. Once, her older sister asked a boy who had been teasing her if he had no mother or sister at home, and pat came the reply, “Of course I do, but I can’t do this to them, and they are nothing to you so stop worrying about them!”

Komal’s aunt had been told to abort her baby when they found out that she was a girl, however her aunt was strong and went ahead and had her baby girl. However, her aunt’s friend was not that lucky. She had a girl and was forced to give her away her daughter because her family did not want the girl.

Her project showed a pregnant woman on a hospital bed with a nurse and a sonography machine beside her. Another part showed a hospital and child care centre with many people protesting outside holding boards and placards saying GIRLS ARE IMPORTANT and SAVE OUR DAUGHTERS! To change the way people see people girls is her dream.

Komal wants to become a teacher so that she can teach the new generation to be proud of girls, to tell them that boys and girls are equal, to tell them that there is nothing wrong about being born a girl, and that girls can do and become whatever they want.  She feels that society does not want girls, but how will society grow without girls. Women themselves don’t want girls. She does not understand the logic behind their thoughts.

“I want to do something to reform their thoughts, make them understand and love girls. Girls are so much prettier and nicer than boys, right? Girls always take more care of their parents than boys, right? Without girls, there will be no future, right? Then why do people not want girls?” 

She identified a problem, girls were not wanted

 

Going to School at the Bihar Book Fair 2014


Books! Books! Books! In frosty January, Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) Bihar is running book fairs in 38 districts across Bihar in school grounds. Every school has a small fund to spend on books and the book fairs help teachers and children to choose the books they want to read.

Young entrepreneurs at work

The Going to School team in Bihar thought it would be right to show all of our books from the past 10 years, so Going to School in India, Girl Stars and Be! Books were shown to children in nine districts. We decided to not just show the books but to make it interactive, so children were given chart papers to complete their entrepreneurial skills projects. Some children sat on the mats reading books in the cold for three hours because they liked the stories so much. Every child that completed a project won a hero badge. Exceptional kids and projects took home skills backpacks.Bundled up to keep warm from the cold, Sachin, Asif, Paras, Abhishek, Manoj Kumar,Pandey,Jeetendar,Ranjeet and all our districts coordinators have been having fun ensuring children read stories in Bihar.

A new chapter: Going to School in Jharkhand & Chhattisgarh

An inspiring teacher training exchange with the sisters of the Daughters of St. Anne & the Ursulines

This November, we extended our first steps to the building of a new relationship and programme in a new territory. In partnership with the Daughters of St. Anne (DSA) and the Ursulines we began our Be! Schools programme in the state of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

We arrived wondering if what we had built for Bihar, would be adaptable, workable in a new state and place. We were surprised, it seems the news had arrived before us. It was fantastic to see the teachers coming in almost double the numbers that we expected. Right from Day one, the teachers were one hour early and we were off to a fantastic start. Their enthusiasm did not change or wane over four days. By Day Four they were creating the stories they’d like to teach to their children.

Our team of eleven worked in tandem with the teachers on and off the stage – playing the games, working out difficult skills concepts, making changes to the content for next year. One big change was that the teachers of these two new states would be grading children’s skills projects, so they had a lot of questions about what worked, what didn’t and we learned children would need art supplies to be able to complete the projects.

“When I first heard of the seminar, I thought that it would be like someone teaching us and there would be other teachers who will all be women. I did not expect something so enriching. For everyone to be here. Now I don’t want the workshop to end”, Pawan Kumar, a teacher participant said.

Pawan Kumar, a teacher participant

Teachers loved to play the games of deducing the skills and coming up with a story to describe the skills. We realised that when they each told their their personal story of using a skill, they became heroes, they realised they were, they had those skills. And we smiled.

The Business Plan Game

The new Business in a Box game was a hit. Teachers built business plans to solve problems of rural transportation and health (they chose the hospital card) and we realised there was super data to be collected from playing the game, because in Bihar teacher’s flagged other issues as being more important, such as self-defense for girls.

“We loved your support, the trainers are active, they keep an eye on every participant and run the program very smoothly, I congratulate them for this. The teachers can get to understand the children in their classrooms so much better if we start this program in our schools. The projects and activities in which the children would participate will also bring a lot of personal information from children to the teacher. The teacher-child relationship will strengthen.” Sister Susan, DSA

Sister Susan

Sister Usha ended the workshop by telling us a story of a hero she knew:

“One day, suddenly too many guests turned up for dinner and this young woman did not have enough plates and bowls. She asked her neighbours and they did not have any to lend to her. That made her sad, that she could not serve her guests, but it also got her thinking. In some way, she managed that particular day but started to think for a long term. She realized that she could very easily make lovely bowls from dried leaves which can be used when there are people coming in to visit her home. It was not only her demand. Other people in the village also needed to have extra bowls in the times of festivals and parties. She started making dried leaf bowls for everyone and sold them to the village people. She not only created something innovative but also solved a problem for everyone.”

All teachers loved wearing Badges!

We’ll be back in the new year with more stories now from new states, because everywhere we go, the stories are different, but the joined mission of teaching children skills at school, the same.

Thanking You All

Thank you for your support to participate and play at scale in the Google Global Impact Awards! We had a great time. Celebrating the top four organizations selected by the judges and public vote, we remain honored to be one of 10 finalists and are excited, with the super grant from Google, to begin building digital games to teach children entrepreneurial skills.    

 

Click here to watch the movie on our  Heroes .   

Gaming for change : 21 skills for 21st century India

Going to School is creating 21 skills games on Android & PC to build entrepreneurial skills for over 320,000 children in 1,000 secondary government schools. In a first of its kind project,  we’ll create an open source portal to equip millions of children with skills they can use to transform their lives and create their own opportunities.

Going to School is thrilled to be selected by Google as a finalist in the Google Impact
Challenge in India. The Google Global Impact Awards support organizations using technology  and innovative approaches to tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges. The Google Impact Challenge invited Indian non-profits to propose how they would use technology to transform lives, and Going to School’s Gaming for change program promises an innovative way to solve one of the most pressing problems in India’s education system & the larger economy. We’re going to teach the next generation of children skills.

What is it. Going to School in partnership with GIDA is building 21 PC/Android games, in four Indian languages, to teach critical entrepreneurial skills such as supply & demand, problem solving and networking to children in government schools, filling the severe gap of real-world skills in India’s young emerging workforce.

Why. Its a problem of quality & relevance. Our education system is failing to build the skills our young people need to participate in our modern service led economy. As a result, we have more than 42% of children dropping out before Grade 10. On the other hand industries find as many as 90% young people unemployable due to lack of non-technical skills. We want to teach skills to children in secondary skills. If we teach children skills at school we cannot only equip millions of kids with skills they can use for a lifetime, but also encourage them to stay in school and complete their education.

Why Games. Because first, games are fun. Second, interactive games and stories to teach kids employability skills do not currently exist in Indian languages, with Indian stories. Third, we know that games are the only way to create the deep engagement required for a complex process like skill building. We know that if we make learning skills fun, use Indian art & design, use local heroes and work effectively with our school system, we can teach kids the entrepreneurial skills they need to transform their lives. It’s an offbeat idea, but maybe just the right one for this problem.

Be a part of the skills revolution, vote today
https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/india2013#/gts%7Cvote

Why this is so exciting. Our first prototype game – Mango – a game of supply & demand,
received a tremendous response from our pilot with ~300 children. Teachers loved it too.

Why you should check out the Google Impact Award today
The top four submissions will receive a 3 Rs crore Global Impact Award and Google
mentoring to help make their project a reality. If Going to School gets your vote, we’ll be able to reach millions of kids with the skills games they need to transform their lives.

What you can do. The public voting window is open from 21st October to 30th October, 2013. Cast your vote for our project at https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/india2013#/gts%7Cvote and spread the word!

Girls in Bihar love the Mango game

When we’ll know. On 31st October, the top three projects will be selected by a panel of
judges featuring Ram Shriram, Nikesh Arora, Anu Aga, Jayant Sinha & Jacquelline Fuller. The fan favourite from public voting will also be unveiled.

Going to School is a creative non-profit education trust based in New Delhi that believes in the power of stories to transform the way children learn skills. http://www.goingtoschool.com/

GIDA strives to create simple and sustainable solutions to social and business problems
through technology http://www.gida.in/

Contact Lisa Heydlauff lisa@goingtoschool.com & Kiran PB kiran@gidaindia.com

Why Building Skills Matter

2 Schools in Bihar

We were back in Bihar last week because we wanted to understand why some schools were doing so well, why other children were having difficulty completing the assignments – what were the causes of completing excellent projects, why did some schools read one book one week and not continue the next week?

We visited schools to try to understand.

We knew from the projects that we’d seen, that infrastructure popped up on kids projects as ‘the biggest problem we’d like to solve.’

I come to study here

In the middle of a field in Siwan district, Vindhyachal High School is a three-room school for girls in Grade 9-10. This is not a government school. It is a government-aided school. This means the government pays the school a sum each year based on the number of children who have graduated with first division. This ensures teachers attend school regularly. The money given is used for infrastructure facilities, teachers’ salaries, books, pencils, and buying tea for visitors (we were sweetly given tea and samosas) Teachers are local community members – all of whom are elderly men. Girls travel from over 5 kilometers to attend school. The biggest problem the girls face is that do not have a toilet in school and so go home during the lunch hour to use the toilet. Many times girls do not come back to school if they leave. Water for all purposes comes from a hand pump from the middle of the field. Girls work very hard because they know that they won’t have a school to attend if they do not produce good marks. They told us that while they’d like to install a toilet for girls, they were also using their ‘new’ skills to identify another school close by so they could enrol in Grade 11 and finish Grade 12.

We then drove to another school an hour away.

Girls of Hasua High School, also in Siwan district have a very difficult time coming to school. They don’t have a proper road. There are broken stones, mud, garbage and open drains everywhere. We learnt about this when they submitted their projects after reading Getting to the Bottom of It and learning how to identify problems. And then they read Bijali Brings a Carnival to her Village and learnt how to create and expand their social network. As part of their skills activity, all of them named one person they would like to meet – their Village Leader. They requested their school authorities to arrange this meeting – and they did. The Leader was requested to come to the school as a guest speaker, and he came. Then girls told him that the reason they had asked him to come was to request him to build a road for them and cover their drains and sewers. The Leader laughed at this display of confidence and courage, and then nodded his head. He agreed to do everything that had been requested of him. Road construction has begun in Hasua and canals and sewers shall be repaired and covered by the end of November.

Two schools in Bihar. Two schools for girls. Two schools where girls pay Rs. 120 for one year of education. Two schools where paying Rs. 120 for one year’s worth of education for a girl is difficult and not encouraged by their families. And yet, two schools where girls building toilets and roads to ensure more girls can go to school.

 

Because I want to learn more


Celebrating Teacher’s Day in India

The power of stories, Going to School & 12 Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries ready to go to school

Once upon a time there were 100,000 children in Grade 9.

100,000 children who were going to school in 1,000 schools in India’s poorest state, Bihar.

Then one day, on teacher’s day, September 5, 2013, 12 Little Free Libraries went to school too.

For one year, 12 exceptional teachers in the Going to School program have read beautifully designed skills stories to their class of 100 children. Every week children have played a game to learn a skill. From building relationships to making a cash flow statement and a plan. It’s the first time in India that entrepreneurial skills are being taught through stories at scale in the Government system.

After the first successful year, we wanted to say ‘well done’ to the teacher stars and ensure this year, the Be! an Entrepreneur skills stories are always present in classrooms. To make sure that 210 storybooks are accessible any time children want to read them we built Little Free Libraries.

The Little Free Libraries were constructed with love by entrepreneurs in little villages in Uttar Pradesh. They are made from Mango, Neem, Peeple, Jackfruit, Jamun, Banyan and Almond wood. The Libraries are slightly yellow, some have a hue of pink and rose, a stain of green. It’s old wood from doors, carts, chairs, boxes, and now they are houses for stories.

The Libraries then travelled east, all the way to Patna, Bihar by truck. That’s 1,045 Km and it took 3 days.

Our Bihar team then carried the Little Free Libraries to the 12 best preforming teachers and schools across 9 districts anywhere from 8 to 150 km more.

We tied the Little Free Libraries with red bows and delivered them with boxes of paint so children could colour their Little Free Libraries in the happiest way possible.

This Saturday, and every Saturday for as far as we can see, 1,200 government school children, and 12 teachers across 9 districts in Bihar will be learning skills from stories that are kept safely, but without locks, in their Little Free Libraries.

The Little Free Libraries found their homes and their families!

 

# Little Free Libraries #Going to School #Be! Schools #India #Skills

Each library can house 210 storybooks, each 40-100 pages long, stories that are teaching skills at school.

A colourful week in Bihar!

The entire cast and crew of the Going to School team – the Delhi gang and the Patna team -  saw the creation of a beautiful movie about children and entrepreneurs, mind-blowing projects (from girls and boys!), reactions to new stories and games, and the first HERO badge distribution – all in one awesome week in August.

22nd August

Colours jumped out from dark alleys while Mithun and Lisa filmed girls in their homes, with their families and their dreams. 14 year old  Puja Kumari’s two younger sisters decided to contribute to the progamme  by narrating their favourite story about the poor lost camel. Stories have no place and time. They are everywhere – the Universe is made up of stories. And here was a beautiful story in the suburbs of old Patna city.

                          A blue backdrop for a little story Continue reading