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T h e IS F Q ua r t e r ly

Th e In d i a S ch oo l Fu n d

SUMMER 09
ISF op en s the 2 sch oo l !
nd

After Rajugela, Samarua: the first steps of


an ambitious expansion plan
ISF opens its 2nd School
in Uttar Pradesh! p. 1

Special Interview with


Basha, ISF Chief
Academic Officer
p. 2

Offering Students Food


for Thought p. 3

Building Bridges! p. 3

Spreading our Wings p. 4

Note from the Editor p. 4

Since July 2009, ISF is very proud to welcome students in the


Linklaters school, in the village of Samarua, Uttar Pradesh!
Samarua is located 10 kilometers away from Rajugela, where ISF‟s
hub school is, and many of the resources used in the hub will be
channeled to the satellite school in Samarua. Vandita Tewari, ISF
CEO explains: “the building has been donated to us by the local
community leader. He found the progress of the Rajugela school
so compelling that he himself initiated the talks with ISF! He has
been very supportive and he donated a huge area to us, along with
the kitchen space!”

A local village education committee has been formed in


Samarua, similar to the one in Rajugela. Its role is to decide who,
among the students coming from the lowest-income families, is
exempted from paying the school fee (INR 75).

According to Vandita, on the opening day, a huge crowd turned


up in Samarua to get their kids admitted to the school! The school
now welcomes 76 students, but ISF expects to reach 200 students
by the end of the year.

ISF is extremely grateful to Linklaters, the prestigious law firm,


for supporting the school set-up costs and 5 years of operations!

1
Special ISF: Mr. Basha, tell us about yourself and your role at ISF
Interview with Basha: I have been with ISF since 2007 working as the Resource Head. My
Basha, ISF role involves creating the curriculum and the training material for grades up to 4.
Prior to ISF, I worked at the Rishi Valley School in South India for 18 years as a
Chief teacher and artist. When Eshwar was recruited as the Principal of ISF he
referred me for my current role. I have a Master‟s from Madurai Kamraj
Academic University.
Officer
ISF: What makes the ISF method different?
by Tushneem D, ISF Basha: As you know, the ISF curriculum is based on the Multi Grade Multi
Manager of US Level methodology, which combines material from NCERT (National Standard)
Operations and SCERT (State Standard) with local specific content so that children can
relate to the environment they are growing up in. This means that when we teach language, children are
first taught words using pictures, and words are then broken down into letters; whereas in the traditional
method, letters are taught before words. For math, new concepts are introduced using real life examples,
like grains, before introducing more abstract. Finally for social sciences, once children become familiar with
a new concept introduced individually by the teacher, learning becomes peer - to - peer, with more advanced
children helping out the others. This is very efficient because it not only
provides additional support for the teachers but it reinforces the learning! And
then we track the progress of each child through a weekly grading process.
Throughout this entire process, my role is to manage and monitor the activity in
the classrooms, and provide teachers with additional resources or help, when
needed.

ISF: Tell us about the new Linklaters School.


Basha: The Linklaters School just opened on July 13th in Samarua! It all
started when our donor asked us to find a village for a satellite school. Our
Principal visited three nearby communities. The community leader in Samarua
had heard of our school system in Rajugela and immediately stepped forward
and offered the building. We know that one of the most important factors of
success in rural education is to ensure that the community is on board and has a sense of ownership.
Children in the village of Samarua have to go to neighboring villages to attend classes. Building awareness
about our methodology among parents is the second step to manage expectations and optimize
communication. We invited community members to participate in a demonstration of the multi-grade, multi-
level classroom setting. We also answered their questions and addressed their concerns. Although certain
issues such as inclusive classrooms across socio-economic lines will always be challenging to solve, ISF is
committed and bound by strong principals of equity and social responsibilities. Once we prove that our
methodology leads to greater academic results, parents may compromise some of their rigid old practices
and allow their children to attend school alongside the poorest of the poor.

ISF: What are the biggest challenges you face?


Basha: The ISF methodology and curriculum have proven to be effective in helping children learn
quickly. But preparing the curriculum is challenging given the limited resources we have. We need more
subject experts to help prepare the curriculum. I can then focus on presenting the content in an intuitive
pictorial fashion. On the other hand, the learning cards are hand-made. We draw the pictures, write the
content by hand, and then photocopy additional copies that are needed. What would be very helpful would
be to computerize the creation process that would allow the use of computer graphics. Lastly we need more
teachers but we also need the support of the community in order to be able to expand our infrastructure.

ISF: What motivates you every day at work?


Basha: I have a lot of affection for children
and I like working with them. I have a feeling of
accomplishment when I can help impart
knowledge to them. Although I am not a subject
matter expert, I am an artist and a magician. This
skill enables me to take any subject matter and
put it into a form that makes it interesting to
children. Children tend to learn quickly in this
fun environment which makes it easy for them to
remember topics. Since I like doing this, it does
not really feel like I am working every day!

2
Offering Apart from the new school in Samarua, the ISF team is extremely excited that the construction of our
Students kitchen is done! In our last issue, we talked about our plan to build a much-needed kitchen so let me explain
Food for why we gave it a priority. Students come from families who earn less than $1 per day for a family with
typically 7 members at least. They mostly survive on pickle and roti (Indian bread). Seldom do they get to
Thought taste vegetables and fruits! The most common vegetable they consume is potato, only if grown in their own
little backyard. The ISF kitchen will allow students to get a nutritious meal which they rarely get at home,
by Vandita Tewari, ISF that is both healthy and balanced. They will also be given fruits and nuts as rich supplements.
CEO
Anand Charity has been kind enough to consider our kitchen project for funding. They believed in our idea
that students should be given proper diet to become mentally fit. The construction of the ISF kitchen took
longer than initially anticipated due to the severe heat in the region. But I think these are the real challenges
in a rural area and if we stand strong against them, we come out as winners!

Materials will be procured locally from farmers or from nearby villages. The
idea is to also involve the villagers and help them foster their business locally.
Both schools (the hub in Rajugela and the satellite in Samarua) have their
own kitchen and food will be prepared separately. We have appointed a local
village committee to monitor the quality of the food being served. The
teachers will also be served meals with the students and we believe that will
also contribute to maintaining a high quality level.

In our previous issue, we reported that a team of students at the Harvard


School of Public Health was working on a nutrition project for ISF. The
students analyzed the situation and produced a very good report with
recommendations for a meal plan that is both nutritious and cost-effective.
Clare Barnett HSPH „09 notes that if given a meal with palak pilaf or
potato, moorg daal and chapati, children would get 300kCal and 13g of protein, meeting the government
criteria for midday meals.

Purchasing of food and ingredients will be done by Rahul, the school manager, who will prepare a monthly
budget. A part of the daily cost will be supported by Anand Charity and another part by ISF. ISF has
decided not to charge the students for the food, realizing that it is the school‟s responsibility to educate its
students in the healthiest manner!

In a collaborative spirit across continents, ISF explored the idea of having a US-based team help out the
Building academic team in India with the design of the new 5th grade curriculum. The principal and the chief
academic officer typically spend a couple of months designing a new subject, first developing the content,
Bridges! and then developing the ISF cards for the students. Since the 5th Grade Environmental Science Curriculum
had to be prepared for the new academic year, a few of us at the ISF MIT chapter decided that we could play
By Elisabeth Megally, a role! We gathered a group of highly motivated MIT engineers and ISF volunteers and divided up the topics
former VP, US given to us by the principal in India: (1) Myself and others in my world (feelings, living in a community, rules
Operations, ISF and roles,…), (2) My body, nutrition and health (food and nutrition, body health, hygiene, ...), (3) The world
around me (sun, moon, earth and other planets), (4) Time and space (time, map reading, geographical
coordinates, …), (5) Important resources (air, water, land,..). We took a few weeks each to research concepts
in encyclopedias, and look for the best way to introduce new topics using concepts of everyday life in rural
India. According to Leonid Chindelevitch, graduate student at MIT and member of the ISF MIT chapter,
the experience was “a lot of fun; the innovative teaching format, the teamwork involved and the fairly tight
timeline were some of the challenges involved, but it was definitely a great learning experience.” We made
sure to cover all the topics included in the NCERT curriculum. A team of highly-motivated MIT students
and ISF volunteers then did a wonderful work translating each card from English into Hindi. The Principal
recently told us “had we left it to the team of the ISF School, it would have taken months!”

I would like to specially thank Leonid, Manu, Esmeralda, Ranjani, and Wendy for joining me in
developing the content; and Angan, Anna, Anu, Divya, Gopal, Karthik, Manusheel, Namrata, Priya for
great work translating the content, and particularly Anu who enthusiastically reviewed each and every line!!

I have been honored to lead the US operations out of Boston for many years. I am now extremely pleased
to hand over my responsibilities to Tushneem, and I am convinced he is the right person for the job and will
do it extremely well!

3
Spreading It was almost two years ago in 2007 when I was the President of NetSAP Boston
Our Wings that I first met Annie Bertrand the President of ISF who was trying to expand her
organization and needed help. Since that first meeting and after consequently
by Tushneem spending time with Elisabeth and Esmeralda, who were leading ISF in Boston,
Dharmagadda, advising and helping them, I learned a lot about ISF and the amazing goals they set
Manager of US out for the organization. So when they asked me to coordinate ISF in Boston in their
Operations, ISF absence it was something I could not refuse.

ISF has achieved a lot over the last few years in India and is now at an important stage where it needs to
build a strong volunteer base in the US to not only help create awareness and raise more funds for growth
but to also help with running the schools (by creating curriculum, enhancing methodology, introducing new
technologies and so on). Over the next few months I am hoping to get started on some of these tasks. One
of the first challenges in front of us is to revamp the chapters at MIT and Harvard. We also plan to create a
local Chapter which will form an umbrella organization for the school chapters. Second, we need to recruit
motivated and socially conscious volunteers and groom them into ambassadors of ISF. Through them ISF
will get much needed help in creating more awareness about its initiatives thus resulting in more donations.

The tasks are cut out and we have set slightly aggressive goals for the US organization this year but with
support from the team and advisors, we are confident of reaching our milestones. At NetSAP Boston which
was a professional networking organization, I was able to transform and grow the organization at over 500%
in 4 years. With such a passionate cause that ISF strives for and with your support, I don‟t see why we
cannot write a similar success story at ISF!

This is a very exciting time for ISF as you might have read in this issue! We just opened our second school
Note from the in rural India, the Linklaters School, and started to experiment with a hub-and-spoke expansion model. It‟s
a real pleasure to work with professionals at Linklaters who care about making a difference, and we are
Editor looking forward to the visit of their 2,400 employees one day! We have hired very good teachers for the
Samarua School and taught them the ISF rigorous methodology. Our popularity is growing fast, and we are
By Esmeralda Megally, accepting new students every day because parents hear that our method is effective. We have just built
ISFQuarterly Editor kitchens so that our students can eat a well-balanced meal they don‟t get at home. We do this without
charging students because we know that being healthy is as important as high quality education if we want
our students to reach their full potential. And now we are introducing English in the school, and teaching
students about planets, but also good nutrition and personal hygiene. We are more than ever confident that
editor@indiaschoolfund.org
if we all work hard together, we will offer a very bright future to our students! Join our efforts and help us
make a huge difference!

Visit our new website www.indiaschoolfund.org , sign up to receive the ISFQuarterly


and join us on and !

Your contribution will help us bring quality education to more children!


Cost of educating 1 student for 1 full year  $100
Cost of educating 1 student for 1 month (10-school month)  $10
Cost of 1 classroom for 1 month (40 students)  $400
Cost of 1 classroom for 1 full year (40 students)  $4,000
Annual cost of meal for 1 student  $20

Online payment: Please go to our website www.indiaschoolfund.org, and choose between Paypal
and a credit card. Check to the US account: HBS India Trek Schoolhouse Fund co Irina Zeltser,
Treasurer - 2 Wildcat Road, Chappaqua, NY 10514 - Check to the Indian account: Rajugela
Village Development Charitable Society 629701090375 Rajugela Village Development Charitable
Society ICICI Bank a/c Mayur Vihar Phase-I Delhi, India.

Send questions and comments to contact@indiaschoolhousefund.com