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Strategic Help Alliance for Relief to Distressed Areas (SHARDA) Trust
Background   |   The Project   |   Living   |   Special Restrictions
 
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Number of Fellows: 2
Language: Gujarati
 
Background

In 2006, Dishita Parmar was studying in a municipal school in Ahmedabad. As a student in fifth standard, she never considered what she wanted to do in life. Now, in 2012, Dishita excels as a tenth standard student and is determined to be a Lawyer for improving her family’s living condition. She is a participant of the “Gyanda – Fountain of Knowledge” program.

Arvind Limited, one of India’s leading textile mills, founded the Strategic Help Alliance for Relief to Distressed Areas (SHARDA) Trust in 1995 to address major societal challenges in urban India. In 2006, SHARDA Trust launched the Gyanda Program, an initiative designed to improve the quality of education in Ahmedabad’s municipal schools. SHARDA Trust establishes education centers within schools and teaches English, computers, and mathematics to students from standard five to ten.

From a humble beginning in 1995 with initiatives in infrastructure, health, and vocational training, SHARDA Trust in 2006 shifted focus to education programs for municipal school-going children. The Trust now reaches out to approximately 1000 students. The organization has three Gyanda primary school centers, one of which is in a boys’ school. The other two primary centers and two secondary education centers are co-educational. At these centers, female to male ratio is approximately 1:1.

The Gyanda program is a unique model that has four basic components: (a) partnership with the local government, (b) innovative teaching methods and curricula, (c) continuous monitoring and evaluation of each child in the program, and (d) providing supportive infrastructure to municipal schools. High-achieving students are sponsored for secondary education. The program aims to financially support and academically mentor selected high achieving students for six to eight years to ensure that they successfully complete their education to become successful self-reliant individuals.

The Trust strongly believes that the educational process must be one wherein children relate to what is being taught. Hence, teaching of a subject must emphasize its practical applicability and avoid abstract generalizations. SHARDA Trust’s approach is to start with a concrete problem that the students have familiarity with, and through these problems teach students the logical foundation of a subject.

In addition to academics, the SHARDA Trust focuses on maintaining strong communication with parents to ensure active involvement in their children’s education and the children’s exposure to a wide variety of extracurricular programs.

The SHARDA Trust team is led by Niraj Kumar Lal, who has over 18 years of experience with Arvind Limited’s social initiatives. The team consists of 20 Instructors, all of whom are graduates or post-graduates, and a small administration team. SHARDA Trust follows a democratic and collaborative working style with a platform for everyone to share their ideas.

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The Project
 

2 Fellows with a 1 year commitment each

One Fellow for Standards 5 - 7
One Fellow for Standards 8 - 10

Need for project

The SHARDA Trust teaching approach is based on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, “Teach for life, through life, and throughout life.” Effective teaching must tap into the student’s intuitive feel for the subject through its practical applications in the student’s life. The Trust has gained considerable experience with this teaching method over the past five years and the program is now poised for expansion.

SHARDA Trust seeks to create a repository of effective high-quality teaching resources based on the Trust’s approach of relating taught subjects to real-life situations of students. The basis behind the Gyanda mathematics program is to teach concepts by presenting them to students in the form of a case based on their parents’ livelihoods. In addition to increasing the repository of these cases, SHARDA Trust would like to explore developing teaching materials based on other aspects of the students’ lives.

Target community information

The target community consists of primary and secondary level students from fifth to tenth standard and their parents. The students, aged 10 to 16 years, are from very low socio-economic strata and study in the urban municipal schools of Ahmedabad. They live in slum communities and chawls (community-centric dwellings), in small densely populated houses. The parents are predominantly employed in the unorganized sector: trading products, providing low end services, or working as manual labour. In some cases, students also lend a hand in providing for the family, although this is not widespread. A majority of parents have either little or no formal education; hence, most students are first generation learners.

Responsibilities of Indicorps Fellow(s)

• Create a repository of teaching resources in mathematics for students of standards 5-7 and students of standard 8-10, based on SHARDA Trust’s teaching approach where concepts are elucidated through cases based on the real-life examples from the students’ lives, particularly the occupations of the parents.
• Train Instructors to effectively use proposed curriculum and resources created.
• Assess the effectiveness of the program’s materials and methodologies on student learning.
• Produce a teaching manual with illustrations to enable present and future Instructors to follow suggested curriculum.

Challenges

• Finding convenient times and places to interact with parents to gain information about their occupation.
• Developing interesting teaching material based on parents’ occupation which will clarify mathematical concepts, maintain academic rigor, and ensure students’ participation by making it enjoyable.
• Enabling Instructors to utilize teaching materials to the fullest while providing them the flexibility to incorporate their own ideas.
• Balancing multiple demands of the project and creating a timeline for the activities outlined above in order to ensure effectiveness of the initiatives can be tested before full implementation.

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Living
 

SHARDA Trust will look for accommodation for the Fellow in a host family within the target community. If a host family is not immediately available, the Fellow will live in a paying guest accommodation or basic room within or near the community.

Meals will be organized by SHARDA Trust and will depend on the place of stay. If within a host family, the Fellow will eat with the host family. The Fellow will be expected to wash her/his own clothes and contribute to daily chores at her/his place of stay. There is internet available at the office for official use only and there are ample phone and internet facilities available in Ahmedabad. The Fellow will be able to travel using local modes of transport, including shared rickshaws and buses. The Fellow may need to travel up to 10 km for project related tasks. Ahmedabad is well connected to other parts of India by rail and road.

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Project Questions
 
1. Why did you choose this precise project amongst all those offered during this application cycle?
2. What skills do you have to aid in your effectiveness of this Math-based project? Please list some examples of times when you have made Math fun for yourself or others.
3. Responsibilities such as developing a resource base in Mathematics and gaining information about parents’ occupation at their convenient time and place are very different from one another. What areas of this project do you think will exercise your strengths? Your weaknesses? Why?