Students for community service

posterA couple of college boys  (KSR College, Tiruchengode)  hit upon a community initiative to address food wastage by customers in restaurants.  They got a poster printed ,  showing  photo of a needy child  with empty plate.  The message :  ‘Please don’t waste food….wrap it’.

Palaniappan, and  Mohammed Ali, both engineering students, with Merwin Wesley,  found waste of  food by people visiting restaurants unacceptable and decided to do something about it.  The boys designed and printed about 4,000  ‘don’t-waste-food’ posters and distributed in restaurants and eating house in several Tamil Nadu towns, through a network of volunteer students.  They have mobilised over 100 volunteers in 17 towns.

Muhammad Ali – 0-8122139893- and Palaniappan – 0-9500488803 –   registered a society SEEDS.   They conduct awareness programme  to curb wastage of food, household  energy consumption  and conserve  other resources.  Their student volunteers  visit old age homes. With guidance from college alumni, SEEDS conduct counseling sessions in schools for Plus 1 and Plus 2 students  on choice of courses and subjects for higher education.

Interestingly,  the focus of SEEDS  initiative is on smaller towns – Dharmapuri, Erode, Darapuram, Bhavani, Attur, Mettur, Udmelpet, Hosur and Sathy. They  have volunteer representation in some  bigger cities as well – Trichy,  Selam,  Coimbatore, Tirupur,  and Chennai  (volunteers – Sibi Rajan and Rahul).

SEEDS approached 20 schools in Mettupalayam,  Erode and Tirupur,  asked students to come up with 15 suggestions to conserve electricity… School students are involved in household energy auditing in their neighbourhood, and community tree-planting in their localities.  During Deepavali,  SEEDS ogranised  door-to-door and distributed 5,000 pamphlets on how firecrackers pollute environment.

Says SEEDS president Muhammad Ali:  “We don’t approach the Government; instead we go to people. They have supported us. Some people have thrown the pamphlets back on our faces, we take it in our stride.”

Secretary Palaniappan: “I used to spend my pocket money on mobile recharge and snacks. Now, I save it to buy gifts for school children as we conduct a number of competitions for school students.”

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A childhood with grandpa

When you grew up, or raised your own kids, did you have an experience which felt 100% real to you? So said the IndiBlogger e-mail announcing the Kissanpur contest.

I couldn’t recall right away any anecdote or childhood incident that fit the bill. It is easier to think of episodes in life that made you ‘feel good’, but are they necessarily the ones that give you the feel that they are real,100 percent ? The real-feel episode I share in this post wasn’t a feel-good one while I went through the phase. But as I look back on it, I feel it was as real as they come.

If it wasn’t for IndiBlogger e-mail, I wouldn’t have strayed so far down the memory lane, some 65 years back, to dredge up a childhood that I spent with  thatha (grandpa). This was in mid-1940s when I was less than 10 years old, living away from parents, with my grand-parents. When my parents moved to New Delhi – father being in a govt. job – they left me behind under the charge of grand parents in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu.
The primary school I went to,  in Telugu Brahmin St., was across the road from my grandparents’ place. Periappa – father’s elder brother – was the school head-master. Which wasn’t such a good arrangement. My uncle, a stern disciplinarian, was  a terror in the school. What was worse, besides being the school head, he took Class IV.  And, as his nephew, I wasn’t shown any favour, though they counted me among his favorites, off school. He made me stand up on the bench (a standard punishment) even for minor lapses such as talking to someone across bench,  trading match-box labels or cigarette-pack fronts  with classmates during school-hours.

At home grandpa, a retired cop,  ran our household of three – that is, grandma and me – a bit like a police training establishment. I had a time-table for meals, play, study, and sleep. The only grace-time (when I could do whatever I felt like) was when grandpa had his afternoon snooze. But then I was away in school, on week days, returning home at 4.30 p m. By which time grandpa would be up and about.
Grandmother, subject to her time-table, occasionally flouted it.  She would simply disappear next door – like they do for water-cooler breaks in offices –  for a mid-day gossip with neighbour; or she would linger longer than  warranted, at our door front chatting thayirkari (lady selling buttermilk door to door).

Grandma got away with it,  but I wouldn’t dare flout the routine, set for study and play. Regulation play-time started at 5 p m, when I escorted thatha to the neighbourhood Gandhi park. He took a designated park bench for listening the evening radio programme relayed all over the park through a public address system. I wasn’t obliged to listen to radio, though. Grandpa would let me try the swings, slides and things in the play area. An hour and quarter later, 6.30 pm,  we headed home.

Study time, under thatha’s watchful guidance, started at 7 p m. An hour later,  he retired for 15 mins.  to the kitchen for evening meals. On his return, 8.15 p m, ,thatha made his own bed  on a cement slab embedded in a corner of his room. What followed was 15 minutes of question time, when thatha would ask me something, anything,  from class lessons, lying in bed.  At 8.30 p m, as if on cue, patti (grandma) showed up at thatha’s door to summon me for meals. That was the signal to which I looked forward the whole evening; the signal that my day was done.

Such small delights made my day. Grandma, as most of the clan are,  was considerate. She would even let me sit in at after-dinner gossip session grandma held with neighbours at the door-front thinnai ( a cement platform to seat a gossip group).

I hate to admit this, my feelings were mixed – sad, if somewhat relieved –  when thatha passed away . At the age of 11  I rejoined  my parents in New Delhi

State of a students hostel in Karnataka

B R  Ambedkar Post-metric Students Hostel,  Chintamani,  Chickeballapur

(Mis) managed by : Dept. of  Social Welfare

Students:  100  ( against  grants received  for  200  stidents)

Location:  dilapidated building abandoned by its owner 40 years back.

Not whitewashed for decades

No proper drinking water facility

Solar water heaters, not functioning.

Kitchen – unhygenic

Menu  – ragi mudde with sambar

Vegetables – tomatoes and carrot,  discards  by wholesalers.

Details disclosed by minister-in-charge of the district Mumtaz Ali Khan, at a press conference. His thought – ‘the situation is so horrifying that I have no words to describe it’.

Classroom blogs

Many of us  get excited  reading  about  innovative  ideas/practices  adopted by others, elsewhere.  Some  rush to blog about it. I usually sign off such posts with a stock query,‘why can’t we?’. We have a blog –  Giving It A Shot –  dedicated to why-can’t-we  posts.

We blogged about  California Youth Energy Services  that engages students  to visit homes in their communities  to conduct energy audits and offer simple energy-saving repairs.  Ashwin picked on the idea for trying it out in Mysore.  With help from some teachers,  he has initiated a training programme for students of  Vidyavardhaka school,Kuvempunagar, in conducting household energy audit .

While he is at it,  we would like to see  Ashwin  volunteer  his expertise in IT applications  for initiating his school contacts into  what they call  Edublogging

Schoolblog 002Teachers,  notably in some Kendriya Vidyalayas,  are familiar with web usage. Principal of a Trivandrum school is quoted in their website  as saying, “Blogomania has hit the portals of KV Pattom too!…I wish all the students and staff members to be part of this ‘techno’  milestone in the history of our Vidyalaya”.

But then school websites , as a teaching tool,  have limitations.  Website maintenance and updating  call for additional work by teachers. In blogs such labour is in-built. Working a blog is simpler and more straight-forward.  A blog,once set up, is sustained by input from  participant teachers and students.

As a teaching tool, a  blog can be used for keeping class-room discussions going  online,  beyond school hours. Teachers can build a blog or start a new topic for discussion by simply typing the text into a box and clicking  ‘publish’  button.

Other benefits of a class-room blog:

1)   It facilitates feedback – a teacher can react to what his sutdents write on a given  topic;  and students can respond to each other leaving  comments online.

2)  Enables teachers to initiate  discussion among students on  issues and concerns of public interest; and to assign students projects that entail Internet search.

3)  Teachers and students are likely to put a lot more thought to what they blog,  when they realise that their writings are open to scrutiny by other students,  and parents as well.

4)  A blog facilitates networking with peers in other schools,  in other parts of the country and the world.