SHIKSHAMITRA is a process for learning to live better. It is a space where one

learns to keep well and to help others keep well too. Shikshamitra has an address.

However, it goes beyond this – permeating into the lives of many, influencing

one’s choices in life and ways of life. To be associated with Shikshamitra is to assume

the responsibility of trying to live better. It is a continuous attempt to search for

activities that inspire life and build trust, or, it is an attempt to keep away from

anything to the contrary. Shikshamitra is a means toward becoming aware of

how much one can be and knowing exactly what one’s limitations are.

July 25, 2008


Boloram, Dr. Basu, Bikey, Daniela

Bikey wrote a short report in English on yesterday's health discussion:

Doctor Aunty’s Visit
24 July, 2008

By Bikey

Doctor Aunty said about our body. She teach us about care of body. She said to ask our parents to help us drink good water. The first step is care of our body. One more step is to eat good food. Wash hands with soap.

Then she talk of body organs. She teach how our body works. How beautiful is our body. How beautiful god gave us body. The heart is our body’s pump. Food is important for us. It is energy. Then she tell us digestive system.

We talk about diseases. We can help when diarrhea. We drink water, sugar, salt. Malaria does not go away. We go to doctor then. We eat medicine.

We asked questions about smoking and drinking. Companies take rupees but our body goes bad.

We first love ourselves, our bodies. Give respect. Then, responsibility to tell our parents.

We go to school. We learn love our bodies, our minds. We get good health.

Next time we get health check-up and see her tools.


July 10 -13, 2008

Praajak is an NGO working with railway platform children who asked us for assistance with teacher training. We organized a session that proved to be rather noteworthy for both sides. Shikshamitra feels that this is strength we can build upon in order to reach more children and address the fact that hands-on, independent-style learning is lacking in many of the curriculums being developed for marginalized children.

This was essentially a new experience for Shikshamitra. Prior visits to platform shelters of Praajak at Kharagpur and Malda gave us some insight into the program being tried there. We felt that the teachers needed: (a) some basic pedagogic concepts; (b) to develop basic reading/writing teaching skills; (c) to learn HOW to develop interesting materials; (d) to learn how to display them well; and (e) to manage multiple ability groups. With all these factors carefully noted, we designed the four-day workshop that was held right at Shikshamitra.

Summary/Highlights of the workshop
• 8 Praajak teachers and 3 Shikshamitra teachers participated in the workshop.
• The profiles, attitudes and habits of the platform children were written down. Based on that the content, methods, and management techniques of a classroom were decided. Emphasis was placed on “what a child could learn in very short teaching-learning slots.”
• Sessions on Reading, Writing and Text Creation were conducted. The children’s own writings are used as texts and activities are developed around them.
• A day of basic Maths with diversified activities created around the basic operations was also conducted.
• On the final day, participants chalked out a monthly programme.

Although most of the teachers had never been exposed to the pedagogic concepts and skill development techniques being introduced, they were able to pick up the ideas quickly and were soon able to develop their own texts with activities for further learning. They took the material being shown seriously and within 10 days of the workshop they developed many of their own new materials. They submitted a two-week work plan. Two of the participants, along with the Coordinator came over to show the materials they developed based on the workshop and to clarify a number of doubts they had. We were impressed with how they utilized the concepts we explained and incorporated them into a plan for their own particular students.

We realize that as far as pedagogy is concerned, Shikshamitra’s involvement needs to be long-term, continuing upon this first four-day workshop. Shikshamitra staff will soon need to visit the platforms and assist in some class transactions in order to build up teacher capacity and confidence. So all in all, we have started a good relationship for more community outreach and we all feel a bit more empowered to do it together.


July 08, 2008


INTEL launched a competition for students and teachers on the theme 21st Century Skills. Students were asked to develop Powerpoint Presentations on some suitable topic. All the students (12 students) who are taking Shikshamitra's Advanced  Computer classes participated in the Intel challenge and we are very proud to announce that two of our students took home prizes in the student segment:

Ms. Khairun Nisha for her project on A Healthy Diet

Sonia Khatoon for her project on our locality, Chetla

They received their prizes on in a state level seminar on 21st Century Skills at Jadavpur Indumati SabhaGriha in the presence of some great educationalists and other people from varied backgrounds.

We are very proud of all of our computer students!! This encourages us to continue to expand the computer program as we also try to develop new, motivational ways for teaching.

- Shankar

July 05, 2008

Reaching Out on Sunday

For a change of pace, we held a very informal Sunday Drawing & Writing Workshop on 22nd June from 10:30am to 12:30 pm for local community members to get to know a little bit more about our school and what we believe. There was one hour for Sudeshna’s writing corner and one hour for Maura’s art corner. There were 33 participants from five different local neighbourhood clubs. Though we invited eight clubs we got response from only five. All participants were school-goers, most in the age group of 10-15. We were surprised that three of our participants were less than nine years old, one who is in Class 1 and two from Class II.

In the Writing Corner, they were asked to write and draw whatever comes to mind after listening to a song. As they were not accustomed to this kind of exercise, it took a few minutes to actually realize what was happening. After a bit of time warming up, some of them did really well.

In the Drawing Corner they did one of our popular art exercises, known as Art Switch, which also appeared to be a new concept to them because there was no given theme or expectation of what they should put on the paper or create. The first group went wild and jumped into the spirit of the exercise, while the next group didn't grasp the flow so easily. We realized that it is important to conduct follow-up workshops if we want to unlock the creativity in the room!

We asked for feedback from the club secretaries as well as from the parents who were present, and this revealed that what took place was totally a new concept to them. They praised the group efforts involved in it. We had suggestions for the future, that this be a 2-3 workshop or that we offer dance workshops. Ms. Soma Dhar, who runs a coaching class, wanted to have a teachers’ workshop to gain the inputs of teaching from the trainers at Shikshamitra. She commented that she, “would like to put these kind of inputs into her own teaching at the coaching centre.”

There were a few parents who were not as happy because they were expecting their children to go home with some prizes, as is the case in most of the conventional “drawing competitions” held at schools. Here, we wanted the focus to be that everyone adds to the fun, and everyone was treated equally – so we had a lot of winners, and no losers! We tried to steer their mindset away from the idea of a competition, explaining that this is a workshop where participation counts. This was totally different from what they were accustomed to.

In the end, we also collected feedback from the participants and they seemed to go home quite happy. Mr. Sukhendu Santra, who used to work at Shikshamitra as a social worker and knows the children in the community very personally, handed out the certificates and a gift – a beautifully hand-decorated packet that included a book of Bengali stories created by the students of Shikshamitra – to the proud, if not somewhat magically perplexed, participants.

- shankar

July 01, 2008


On a very dreary Monday morning, students of Shikshamitra welcomed students from The Dwight School in New York City, USA. These Dwight students were visiting Kolkata in an exchange program organized in collaboration with Calcutta International School. They came with a big black rolling suitcase that, over the course of the fun-filled morning, gradually became a lot lighter.

The morning started out a bit quiet as we went around the room and all introduced ourselves. We sat in a circle looking at each other and feeling a bit shy, perhaps -- but the Dwight coordinators, Ellen and Libby wasted no time in breaking the ice. They soon made three games of that old American favorite "stocking feet game," TWISTER, appear out of their magic black bag! We broke into three groups and got started! Then they started picking the top players from each group for a show-off that really got everyone into the spirit. It was good, healthy competition at its best, and all for fun!

Next, our students put on two exciting dance performances, a mime skit about how money talks, and one drama that the students dreampt up about one poor old Bengali man being tormented by a fly and a mosquito! These drew great applause from our very receptive audience. It was time to break for tea and biscuits.

Following our break time, we tried a project with solarization where you put objects onto photographic paper and expose it to sunlight, of which there was none to speak of. No matter - because we had a great time arranging objects and making friendship bracelets for each other out of colorful pipe cleaners, that also appeared out of the bag at some point in the course of the morning. The "special paper" was left with us and on the next sunny day, you can be sure it will be experimented with again. It is wonderful how bringing out craft materials can really bring people together, kids starting talking to one another, helping each other arrange the objects, cutting out shapes for each other and drawing pictures together.

Lastly, out of the big black bag came beautiful t-shirts that The Dwight School group had made for Shikshamitra students. We cannot begin to thank them for such a practical and useful gift. We have decided to "keep these for good" to be used when we go for outings or as representatives of our school to other NGOs. We will share the Twister game and all the silliness it mysteriously is known to unlock, with other people in the community as well.

At the very end, after adult supervisors had repeatedly yelled out, "really, we have to go, get ready....," just right after our big group photo, we all broke into song...

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take
My sunshine away....

I'm sure a lot of nice exchanges were made and we hope that we can continue this link with our new friends in the future! We wish to say a big thank you to all the Dwight students for coming, and for taking an interest in our school. It is encouraging to all of us. After all the excitement of the day, we had a very special goodbye at Shikshamitra – with every child quietly settling down into meditation and after being tapped on the shoulder, leaving for home, one by one in complete doubt with thoughts of all that happened at school and sunshine in their hearts!