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.

September 07, 2010


During the Growing with Art Exhibition at Shikshamitra, our student was interviewed by a local English newspaper. He enjoyed this experience to talk about his ideas very much.

Here is the link to the piece:

And the text:
Art out of nothing at all

RECYCLE ARTIST: Noor Islam, 16, at the exhibition in Chetla. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
For Noor Islam nothing in the world is worth throwing away, especially when it can be turned into something pretty.

The 16-year-old recycle artist was the showcase of an art exhibition organised by Shikshamitra, an open learning centre in Chetla, over the weekend.

Noor was born in Delhi but moved to the Kalabagan slum of Chetla in Calcutta when he was seven years old. The son of Abdul Khalique, a driver, and the youngest of four siblings, Noor was a good student who dabbled in drawing. But it was only when he joined Shikshamitra after Class IV that he found his path.

“I was afraid to use paint till I came here; now I don’t shy away from colour. I have in fact moved on from painting just on paper,” said the Class X boy.

The love of painting could not keep Noor in school for long as he had to head off to a whistle-making factory to supplement his family income.

He was gone from Shikshamitra for a year after which he came back a changed teenager. “He was disruptive and aggressive and his grades were slipping. He even stopped painting for a while. But I have seen this boy turn his life around with his own hands,” said Sudeshna Sinha, the school principal.

Since then this Michael Jackson fan — yes, he can do the Moonwalk — has devoted himself to learning English and making art, often out of nothing at all.

Noor’s neighbours bring him things they are ready to discard and urge him to “make something”. His dedication to recycling has even seen the broken wall clock in his house being transformed into a wall hanging using a collage from magazines.

The display at the Growing with Art included painting on speaker covers, a paperweight made from wood whittle, a decorative item from the frame of a bouquet, a boot from rolled newspapers....

“It is more satisfying when I am able to innovate. In fact, sometimes I wake up with some idea in my head and I have to work it out immediately or at least make an outline so that I remember,” said Noor, who hopes to join an art school once he finishes school.

August 24, 2010

You are Invited!

We hope you can join us for this event at Shikshamitra.

A few of the children have really taken up art in an organic way and made it part of their lives, we'd love to have you come and encourage them to move forward with their talents. We've invited individuals from other organizations too so that everyone can learn from one another's work. Please stop in any time during the two days of our open house and exhibition! If you know of anyone interested in creativity and alternative education, please pass this message on to them.

All of us at Shikshamitra, and the various other NGOs taking part, look forward to seeing you there!

August 16, 2010

Please Come!

Children at Shikshamitra are currently rehearsing for a drama called Badhanhara which they will perform at Gyan Manch on 22 Aug in Kolkata. We invite everyone to come join in the fun.

The drama is the story of a young boy, who even when pushed and taunted by his mother to do better in his studies, decides to look outward at nature and the wilderness, and take these elements on as his true teachers.

Two of the children took charge of making these posters to advertise the show in front of the Gyan Manch auditorium.

July 31, 2010


After noticing that many of our children were not having adequate food – some were bringing a tiffin (snack) to school each day while others weren't – we decided to start up a programme to provide a substantial tiffin to all the children so that everyone has a proper snack during the school day. The programme started up in July 2010 with an initial donation from friends of Shikshamitra. Since nutrition is very important for growing children, we hope to be able to continue this programme permanently.

The tiffin we provide is not a full meal, as school finishes by 2:00 pm and children go home for lunch. This is for the snack time at approximately 11:30 every day. So far, introduction of a tiffin by the school has been a real success, everyone sits together and it is a very sociable time to relax and enjoy each other. The children share and talk about what foods they like and dislike. The older children are helping the younger children – plenty to learn by all sharing a bite to eat together!

Some of the items served on our menu:
Bun & banana
Egg & Bread
Moori & Vegetables
Samosa & Sweet

Financing the Tiffin Programme:

Thanks to kind donations from Clare Iberson-John, Neil Haran and Susie McNaughton, Nicole Harding Ozturan, Jacinta Byrne and Kiely, we were able to get the tiffin programme underway and running up to October 2010.

Rs. 6-7 per student per day
Current student enrollment 25 students
Budget per day = Approx Rs. 150
Budget for one month of Tiffin Programme = Rs. 3000

July 13, 2010

Resource making

by Bhavaniprasad Majumdar

One day a beggar said, "Give me a bit of bread or give me a bit of money."

The Babu replied, "I have nothing in my home – it's completely empty."

Upon hearing this, the beggar offered, "Why then do you sit idly? Come with me and let's go!

What's wrong with the two of us begging together?"

In our Bengali class, children were given this poem in Bengali.


by Bhabaniprasad Majumdar

Bhikhari bolle, din duti ruti

Nay din duto taka;

Babu bollen, nei kichhu ghare

Ghar bilkul phanka!

Bhikari bolle, bose keno tabe?

Cholun, berie pori,

Doshta ki tate, jodi eksathe

Dujone vikhkhe kori.

The students were asked to read the piece, discuss the concepts, and then to make flashcards using their own words and illustrations for the story. Children came up with very original drawings to match the story. The students have actually designed a nice resource material to be used in future Bengali classes and the illustrations, rather than being drawn by a professional hand, are ones that the children themselves can relate to.


July 03, 2010

Twelve in One Million Giraffes

One of the nicest rules in the One Million Giraffes online project to collect one million hand-made giraffes before the year's end is that you need to share the link with others so they can join in the fun! So, here's the link to our inspiration for making giraffes and sending them across the world:

In art class last Thursday, the students were introduced to this guy Jorgen's project, a bet he made with a friend to try and collect one million giraffes from all over the world. It is certainly not a simple task but he is an optimistic person and, after Shikshamitra took up the challenge, he is now twelve artistic giraffes stronger. We started the class talking about the number, one million, and the unique characteristics of the giraffe: it's long neck, beautiful eyelashes, patches, paintbrushly tail, etc. We looked at some photos and a small model of a giraffe and then...the giraffe magic began. All kinds of materials were placed in the center of the room and the kids worked alone or in groups to create their own giraffeworks to add to Jorgen's beautiful collection. We had a zoo of stitched giraffes, paper giraffes, a tall wooden giraffe, painted giraffes and recycled giraffes by the time our class was finished.

Something I really like about this project is that when you look at all the creations that have come in on the website, it is very clear that everyone has their own perception of what a giraffe is and looks like -- but all of these are giraffes just the same! Who knew there were so many kinds of giraffes out there? We had so much fun doing this so our only question now is -- Why not try your hand at creating a giraffe of some sort and send it in too?

Our giraffe gallery can be viewed at:

January 30, 2010

Communicating through Craft

This week we had two new friends come visit the school from Japan: Sakie-san and Hine-san, two artists from the city of Osaka. They brought all the supplies needed for three days of craft workshops that started on Tuesday and ended on Thursday. On the first day, we made pens from paper mache. Sakie and Hine brought a special material called "kaminendo," which we formed around the core of a pen. We also tried making our own pulp and molding this too. On the second day, we took special plastic sheets and drew designs on them with oil-based markers. These were put in the oven and the children yelled out, "magic" as they watched the sheets melt down to form hard, glass-like lockets that they promptly put strings on to wear around their necks. On the last day, which felt quite magical in its own way now that we had all become such good friends, we made small wind chimes out of recycled bottles. The children were asked to bring in their own bottles and almost everyone remembered to bring one in as they were eager to find out what Sakie and Hine were going to demonstrate next.

I put on some music and at one point, when I looked up from helping a student, I suddenly felt a deep sense of happiness – watching each and every person in the room helping each other or concentrating on their work, trying to speak a bit of Japanese, or smiling and laughing along with a friend. It sure is fun to have friends from other parts of the world!

I would like to extend a big thanks to Sakie and Hine for so carefully organizing these three days of craft and creativity! ARIGATOU GOZAIMASHITA!

January 25, 2010

Enjoy a Year with Shikshamitra: We have just produced our 2010 Calendar

This year, for the first time, Shikshamitra has produced its own calendar featuring original artwork by our students. We hope you will enjoy the beautiful drawings and paintings by four different children. The artwork was generated in a class where students practiced drawing with their eyes closed after hearing a specific theme. The calendar also includes thoughtful quotations by the children, which came out of various class interactions.

The 2010 calendar is now available from Shikshamitra and other locations around Kolkata. We ask for your help in both buying and selling the calendar! Please contact the school (033-2479-9271 or by email at: if you would like a copy or have ideas about where we can sell it.

Price per calendar is Rs. 80
Wholesale (bulk purchase of 10 or more calendars) price is Rs. 65

January 20, 2010


The responses below are from an exercise done with the children on 13th Jan, 2010 for the five-year review of our school progress. Sudeshna has translated their Bengali into English here.

"I have learned some good craft work. I can operate a computer. I have reduced using abusive language, it was almost like a necessary tool in my previous school."
- Dinesh

"I have learned Bengali and English (I did not learn anything in my previous school). Previously, I could hardly talk to people but now I am comfortable. I would avoid going to school on exam days, my mother used to beat me when I failed but I have no fear of exams now."
- Hasna

"My use of foul language has decreased. My English has improved a lot. I do not misbehave and create trouble like before. I have stopped putting others down and being so competitive. I kept quiet in my previous school, always scared of punishment but here I can shout as much as I want."
- Pradip

"I have found my life’s purpose in this school."
- Shajahan

"I have learned a lot of English and Bengali. I do not use foul language any more. I have learned a lot of crafts."
- Babai

"I have learned division well. I have gained a lot of courage. I have learned computer, Bengali and English."
- Ajijul

"School has helped me to know myself. I did not know that I had so many hidden talents."
- Rohit

"The school has helped me to discover my talents. I am confident about talking with English-speaking people. I have learned to peep into people’s hearts."
- Noor

"I have learned English language well. I am not scared to talk with people any more."
- Chaitali

"I have learned to work with friends and also to help them. I can speak with people much more confidently now. I can comprehend after reading something."
- Priyanka

"I would never have known what friendship is if I hadn’t come to this school. I have learned to talk well."
- Kakoli

"I now have confidence in myself and can solve my own problems. I can speak freely with outsiders. I have learned many skills – especially drawing, and the proper way to talk. School has taught me how to get along with various people."

"My wish to learn to read and write Bengali has been fulfilled. I have learned to talk decently with my friends."
- Ador

"I have learned to trust people, whereas before I mistrusted everyone, including my parents. My courage has increased enormously. I used to detest Muslims and avoided any contact. I don’t do that any more. I have stopped misbehaving with people."
- Anita

"I can argue with people. I have learned computers and English."
- Neha

"No comments now."

"No Comments now."

The students also made a list of the things they feel they have gained/learned at Shikshamitra. The list includes crafts, computers, reduction of abusive language, Bengali, English, speaking ability, an end to exam-phobia, a feeling of freedom in school, courage, confidence, self-knowledge, discovery of their own talents, reading comprehension, trusting others, tolerance, better behaviour ...