The center is named after two children who were killed in the world’s worst air terrorism – the bombing of Kanishka, Air India’s plane
The fundamental concern of the center is to understand the problems and challenges faced by the under-privileged children who are deprived of almost everything from nutrition to education and social status. The center builds models that could address the problems of the under-privileged children.
Some of the models that the center is working on are
It is a recognized fact that, in order to reduce the emotional stress and insecurity, ECCE center (Balwadi) should be as close to the child’s residence and environment as possible. Since these children live in slums characterized by filth and squalor, there is a contradiction. The teachers, mostly from the middle class are either uncomfortable or feel under-employed or both. Similarly, the children do not feel comfortable. There arises an empathy gap.
In any teaching learning endeavor there would be slow learners and those with behavioral problems. These problems get even more accentuated when a child faces both deprivation and lack of guidance and support from the parents. Most schools have a counsellor and little or no effort is made to make an in depth examination and grapple with the multi-variant problems that range from adulatory and visual perceptional deficit; low average and borderline IQ; MBD, with superior and medium IQ and etc.
Aided schools were neighbourhood schools that did not have the rigidities of a Govt. schools not the high fees of the private schools. Today the demography of the neighbourhood, people have become upward mobile and only the children from low income families living in the nearby localities attend aided schools. The Government/ Municipality provides 95 % of the salary and allowances of the teachers appointed by them and some contingency grant. The society that manages the school, SSMI, provides the land, building, management and sometimes even teachers when there is a gap between vacancies and appointment of teachers.
The age between 3 to 6 years are the most critical years in development of cognitive abilities of a child. There is a need for a great deal of empathy between the teachers and the taught. An empathy gap exists when there is a big difference between the educational, social, economic and cultural standing of the teacher (generally from the middle class) and the parents and children living in the slums.
The solution to this empathy gap is to that both the teacher and the taught belong to the same community and the same slum. This would not only ensure a closer bondage between the teacher and the taught, but also better peer level communications between the parents and the teacher. Unfortunately, most of those who qualify to be teachers in pre-primary school (B.Litt) are not resident of slums or belong to the community to which the child belongs. A survey conducted by SSMI showed that in most slums there are a large number of girls who after graduating from school (10th and 12th class) are either unemployed or self-employed by giving tuitions to children going to school. The solution could be implemented if these resident school graduates are trained to become teachers and balwadis (nurseries/ pre-schools) are set up where the girls are resident.
SSMI developed a six-month teacher training manual and a toolkit for the teacher training. The tool kit could also be used to train teachers for teaching first time learners. Since these learners are generally grown up they are very defiant and reticent to undertake an educational training that starts with what is taught to a three year old.
Teacher training course consists of 704 hours of study classes and two-month practice teaching. Pedagogy - teaching methods; languages (Hindi, English and Mathematics); use of computers; management skills particularly team building and accounting. The teacher trainees are also future mothers and need to understand the vital need for good nutrition and its relationship with cognitive abilities.
The tool kit contains - class room teaching; theater; poetry writing; building story boards; translating drawing into lessons and vice versa. Special attention is given to increase the teacher’s knowledge of health and nutrition and communication with children through demonstrations and games. During the theory classes trainees would be counselled for either gainful employment or setting up Balwadis (or providing improved tuition).
SSMI runs on its campus a Balwadi cum Teacher Training Center with more than 110 children from families with a monthly income of Rs. 5000 or less. Children are provided free tution, study material and school lunch. Funds raised by the SSMI management are barely sufficient to run the campus balwadi and therefore SSMI is unable to set up balwadis in slums. One such attempt in Golden Park, though successful had to be wound up due to lack of funds.
Lack of resources have prevented SSMI from setting up Balwadis. Besides serving the children living under the most distressing and miserable conditions, setting up Balwadis would enable continuous research into the content and methodology.
To understand the problems of under-performance, behavioural problems and special needs SSMI has set up an interdisciplinary team:
This team works with children with dyslexia, minimal brain damage (MBD) etc. and helps them to perform better in the classroom. The process is slow and painstaking.. Counseling of such parents is an important aspect of the project, since many parents do not accept that their child has a problem.
Early Intervention: The purpose of this intervention is to identify children with “Soft Signs” so that preventive and promotive measures can be taken to avoid future emotional and educational problems. 20% children have been found having problem with perceptual processing functions
Investigations and corrective actions consists mainly of three types of activities:
Studies indicated that around 28 percent of children required help. Problems were diagnosed at the right time and supported with proper counseling and remedial action. This is a rather high percentage and it clearly validates SSMI’s model as well as the urgent need to universalize it.
SSMI manages two aided schools.