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Rachana Field Visit 6 Jan 2011 Organization Rachana AID Volunteer: Lalit Deshmukh ( Chapter requesting: Boise Field visit organized by Rachana Accompanied by: Swati Chavan, Kalpana, Shripad Konde Started from Pune Field visit to Kadave village about 45 km from Pune Region: Foothills of mountains Livelihood: Mostly farming, seasonal

We started about 11 AM from Pune and traveled to Kadave village. Kadave is about 45 kilometers from Pune, situated in the foothills of the mountains of Sahydree range. On one side is Singhgad and to south of the mountain are the mighty tall Torana and Rajgad, fort which remained as a capital to the Swaraj created by Chatrapati Shivaji. As we took a turn towards the inner road from the road to Panshet, the place more known to the dam that provides water to Pune city and surroundings, I started realizing how beautiful this area would look like during the monsoon. The road traveled along the edge of the dam and reached to Kadave. Right near the entrance was the Zila Parishad School. You would probably not notice the city schools, as they are much quieter these days. As I reached there I could feel same familiarity to my town school, where I could hear the familiar noise of children chattering. The closest to that I can think of is the union of many birds on one tree. It was refreshing. Art in the Veranda We entered the premises and to my surprise there was not much of welcome for us, neither too much fanfare. And I really liked that there was not much of distraction because of our arrival. Rachana arranges special classes every morning at 8:30 am to 10 till the school starts, but since the timing wasn’t working out it was arranged to be at the time we reached there. Shri Konde welcomed us. I noticed some children drawing something on the floor in the veranda. Getting closer I realized they had been working on drawing fish, mango, watermelon and filling in with various articles. The articles were also very interesting like little pebbles, petals of marigold, some leaves, and seeds of Tulsi, watermelon etc. It was looking quite colorful. I was curious if it was some welcome rangoli, but quickly realized it wasn’t as the kids while working on it would suddenly fly off outside collect some pebbles or leaves and come back and start filling up the drawings. Have you ever noticed the honeybees coming to the hive, leave, return, or have you seen a nest building activity where the birds while building it suddenly go collect some twigs and come back. That just was a great sight. I hung around, asked some took some pictures. Kalpana madam told me that the pictures are usually drawn with the chalk and children do the rest. They have to use the natural things that are found around. They are told now to damage the plants, break the branches. They all doing together, was a wonderful sight. I could notice few interesting things they were learning here, the subject in a fun way, the team building, the concentration. One of the girl was so engrossed that she would not even look at me when I asked her questions about what she was working.

Inside the Classroom

Children groups with Rachana’s teacher assistant

The school room was fairly dark. There were more than a half a dozen groups of children. Each group was probably 5 to 6 children. Each group was working on different subject. Some were performing experiments about the Solar system, some were working on some mathematics. One group was given few syllables and they were working on preparing words with it. They had been very creative and made many words of them. They were very excited to show me their work. I asked about preparing sentences with the words they made and within no time they were back with a few sentences. They were just so excited and with so much urge to show their work. A few working on geometry. This group of children was surrounding a figure of a person drawn with the chalk on the floor. But interestingly they had only used basic geometrical shapes. Like the head made up of circle, two little circle for eyes, rectangle for limbs…(Disney’s Baby Einstein videos. anyone?)

Overall I could se children were very busy, some kids were very quiet and some very vocal, Konde Sir told me that some such quiet children listen and learn from others as they all work in the group. Most groups were having teacher assistants that are employed by Rachana who helped out children during their activities. They ask simple questions to some not so bright children and encourage taking part. Some children were given multiplication tables. Konde Sir showed me that they are given these tables but not necessarily required to make these by heart but to be able to find out the missing numbers in the table. This thinking was very encouraging.

Studying geometry

Anganwadi Little children’s nursery was adjacent to the school. The children needed to be leave in short time, so we decided to go there before returning to school to have a little meeting with the children. In the Anganwadi (nursery), there were 12 little children. Most were working on drawing something on their slates with the chalk pencils. Jayashreetai and Vaishalitai were the care takers for the children. This room was made available the year before. Earlier Jayashreetai used to hold the nursery at the Dharmshala. After the motivation to the parents and meeting with them and the initiatives from Sabhapati and Sarpanch, Anganwadi room is built and is running. Jayashreetai took pride in saying that they work hard to ensuring the development of the children, as per the government regulations children go through the health checkup every three months. Those children who have are under weight or malnourished is applied with VCDC i.e. Village child Development center, according to that child is given special attention and planned with the specific food nourishment. It includes wheat kheer, lapshi prepared with wheat and moong. Every one is fed lunch. It included food prepared like khichdi, lentils soups, corn, Soy. She was happy that 2 of the malnourished children are out of vcdc already and performing better. One is still under observation. In this room I found a weighing scale to weigh the children, some containers filled with some food articles like chakali (murukku), shev, shankar pale (similar to biscuits) and they had been prepared there and with the healthy materials we just discussed. Food at Anganwadi

Malnourished child is given kheer at 8 a,, food at 10, 12:30, egg at 4 pm, banana, thali peeth made from green vegetable and more. Jayashreetai had fought the odds at home and restarted her education in recent year and completed her BA and now very much interested in going for masters, however the financial conditions are stopping here from moving ahead.

Back to School They had organized a little discussion with the parents of some children. However the children were now getting ready for the afternoon meal and we had a short one on one talk with children. All children were between first and fourth grade, so I decided to not make it any formal. We just started with some songs and they were just so thrilled. As we started having repeats , I aksed then about what they wanted to become and they varied intitially like Rajendra wanted to be drawing artist, One liked to sing and wanted to be professional singer, One said he wanted to be a police officer and many just erupted as police officer. We then had to stop them, as it was time for lunch. I took goodbyes and moved to another room, where we met some women from the village. Some had their children in the same school.

Lunch time at Kadave school

Meeting with Parents Ranjana Shinde – on gramshikshan samiti (samiti = committee) Asha – health worker on shakiy samiti Pushpa charekar – arogya samiti We started casually. Ranjana shinde was very vocal she is a middle aged woman but seemed very active had been with Rachana for some time. She got involved into the arogya samiti. Arogya samiti gets 10000 rs per year. The situation in the village was very delicate. Village carried burden of many malnourished children. Situation was not at all favorable for a girl, and there is some improvement in it. There is no transport to a clinic or to hospital especially when in dire need. The PHC or the primary health clinic is in Khanapur, which is 15 km from here. There is a need of hospital in Panshet which is 5 km away. Rajanatai suggests, a small unit with 24 hour service would be ideal, usually it will be helpful during the dogs and snake bite cases. With constant discussion and involvement the PHC attitude has significantly changed in past few years. The medicines which were always necessary and not available are now stocked. Now there are parents meeting every month and as needed. Activist Ranjanatai Shinde

Arogya samiti also has been requested with some more demands. 1. There is a need of hand-pump or a well so water should be provided on regular basis to the water tank in the school. There should be funds to regularly clean the tank. 2. For last two years Dr Bhogle from Panshet comes and perform health checkup. Earlier there used to be only a nurse coming here for occasional vaccination. 3. Today pregnant women check up is also performed here During our discussion to involve more women in it, I encouraged others with some questions. What kind of work the women do here? Grass cutting, rice cutting, collecting wood and work at home What is needed in the village? • There is a need of two more teachers, • This village has a school till 7th grade. Little children have to travel to Panshet. Another year of school would be good. • There should be a clean water tank for children, health check up every three months, laboratory and cycles for children.

What is the involvement of Rachana? Rachana was more involved earlier and now the people who feel empowered and capable of leading to fight the local issues. Rachana had been involved in people involvement. Today follow-ups of the issues is important. Mostly women are involved in such activities. They have also worked on the ration issues, alcohol prevention. Women have also stopped the local plant to manufacture alcohol. How about self help groups? There are 7 to 8 self help groups in the town. 10-13 women. They are on women;s names, the passbook is not with Rachana and is with the women. SHG gives loan with only 2% per month. Kanchan – gota loan of 12000 for house Jerabai kamble son has a fridge repairing shop in a nearby town 90000 rs Today the town does not have any private money lenders.

What does Kiran, Rachana’s teacher assistant thinks about the village? Kiran is from the same town. She thinks water issue, need one more room for the school. Pradnya is another teacher asssistnat, she thinks more benches are needed. There should be a laboratory as well. How is overall School or education situation? Panseht has the only highschool in the region. There is only one bus that runs only once to Panshet. It is 5 km and costs 15 rs one way and 30 rs two ways is not affordable to many and hence there are dropouts to the school. The college is 15 km away and is in Khanapur. There is no choice but to stay in hostel and again is not feasible to many household to support. Hostel Visit: On our way back we visited the hostel at Panshet that are managed by Rachana with the funds from various sources. Rachana has rented old government quarter. In all there are about 84 children boys and girls hosted here. Children had come from more than 35 km away. They were well behaved and disciplined. Initially they were under some pressure of behaving well. However as we moved to taking pictures, they were very open but still well behaved. I also liked the staff at the hostel; they seemed honest workers and which reflected through very simple things like arranging all the footwear outside in a very neat manner. They brought small flowers to greet us. The children and Kalpanatai who handles the hostel management seemed to know everyone and it was wonderful to see the relationship between them. Children had a holiday, for a day and were requesting to go to their villages. However since this would be unplanned and children could face unsafe situation because of not being able to catch the bus or having to walk alone at night, they had been told to have patience till their exams. After exams their parents come to pick them up and thus ensures their safety. Children seemed disappointed and sad, and so I felt the same about Swatitai, Kalpanatai and Konde Sir with the hard decision they had to convey. This hostel visit was one of the most memorable one and left an extremely positive impression on me.

Students at Panshet hostels

Rachana site visit  

by Lalit Deshmukh