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.

October 15, 2012

Cards & Connections

Matisse inspired cut-out card
Shikshmitra was approached by Indienhilfe, a long-time supporter of our work, to take part in a project that had various aspects to it: an income-generation activity for children over 14 years of age, a fundraising activity for various Kolkata NGOs working in education, and creation of a product that can be sold in Germany during the year-end holiday season.  Each NGO received 200 blank cards prepared with information on back, along with a space for each child to write their name and school.  Since we don’t meet on a regular basis these days, we thank our friends at Indienhilfe for this opportunity to bring us all together in the name of art and creativity.  All the children involved took the work very seriously and worked eagerly to understand the project and create their work.  The results were beautiful.

We called several former students who we felt would both enjoy this project and be able to efficiently complete the task at hand in time for the deadline.  As some of the older students, many who are now working, came in to confirm they would work on the project … yet another story unveiled itself.


Raja Das came to Shikshamitra right in the beginning of 2005. He was 10 years old at the time and he stayed with us until 2011 – trying hard to overcome his learning difficulties while discovering his talents and polishing them. 

While Raja struggled with his Bengali, he could draw beautifully in the same class. He awaited the moments for drawing in every class – and thankfully there were plenty at Shikshamitra.  In his drawing, use of colour, and painting, Raja always shined.  He dazzled in crafts too!  Doing measurements and Maths were also some of his favourite areas.

His mother, with her congenital heart problems, gradually found it difficult to work.  Even the household work was too much for her. Raja’s father, a very irresponsible man, lived in the same house.  Soon Raja replaced his mother; looking after his little sister and mother, buying provisions for the house, cooking, washing – doing all that must be done to keep a house running.

Raja lost his mother in 2009, which meant that he now had to look after the house round the clock. His interests in studies waned. We were in touch with Tomorrow’s Foundation and in 2011, we arranged a year-long apprenticeship for Raja in their Craft and Printing Unit. He took it up, loved it and completed the year. They offered him a job in 2011. Family responsibilities and feuds pushed Raja into oblivion and he was also managing a meat shop for a relative who had loaned them a big amount of money. He stayed away from us and from Tomorrow’s Foundation.

Display of Raja's products at Shikshamitra's Growing with Art Exhibition 2010
The printing unit of Tomorrow’s Foundation became partly independent as they set up their own business as Punjali. They needed another person, so they searched for Raja this year and cajoled him to join them again in this new endeavor.  Raja made up his mind to pursue his calling for the arts. He has become an important member of the Punjali unit of Tomorrow’s Foundation. Along with this very important comeback he is also trying to pursue the Class X Open School exam. 

Recently, Indienhilfe asked us if our older students would like to create 200 greetings cards out of a total of 1000, which they got specially printed for Christmas/New Years. We happily agreed to the project. Along with other students, Raja was contacted to know if he would like to work on a few of these cards. He came by Shikshamitra to explain that he was too busy with orders at the new craft unit but as he talked, he asked if he could take a look at one of the cards.  One look from afar set him enquiring, “Does it have an image of Durga and some writing in blue at the back?" He was right!  He proudly beamed, telling us, “I printed them all – the entire order – at Tomorrow’s Foundation.”

 Thank you Indienhilfe, Tomorrow’s Foundation (Punjali) and all who stood by Raja to grow since 2005‼

Painting done by Raja on the wall of our school 2008

July 16, 2012

GALPO NIYE: Set of Reading Cards Published by Shikshamitra

We are very happy to present our latest publication: a set of beautiful reading cards called Galpo Niye (Stories All Around) with original text and illustrations.

 Children are reading less and less and want activities that can be completed quickly. This set of 25 cards (plus Note to Facilitators on how to use) is full of thought provoking stories, activities and discussion points in Bengali to be used in classrooms, libraries, homes...all around!

 Galpo Niye reading cards have been inspired by similar productions like Kathai Jharna. The cards can be used to boost reading and comprehension skills for Bangla speaking/learning children (8-12 yrs or more) as well as for adults who are able to read and write simple Bangla.

 Galpo Niye provides readers 
with a unique way to enjoy 
learning the Bengali language:
  •  Only one story per page.
  • The illustrations have all been created by the children of Shikshamitra and our friends.
  • Each story, no matter how short, is designed to make readers think deeply and independently.
  • The reverse side of each card presents interesting questions that exercise comprehension, rational thinking and above all, imagination.
  • The stories are mainly original pieces by children/teachers/friends of Shikshamitra with a few more borrowed from great authors like Tolstoy and Hans Christian Anderson or well-known Bengali authors, folk tales and Khushi Khushi (Eklavya).
  • Children can do the cards on their own, leaving the adult-in-charge free.
  • All of the stories and exercises have been tested and received positive response from children over a three-year period.
  •  The cards and the discussions they inspire are fun for both students and teachers/parents alike!

Price: Rs 280/- (in India)
(a donation of an additional Rs. 20 helps us to provide these cards to students at schools working on very low budgets)
Contact us if you would like to make a purchase:
We can also send outside India: US$15 outside India (includes postage)

March 16, 2012


It was to be a class without a teacher. Children had learnt about the different types of mountains, plateaus and planes almost a year back. They needed to do revisions before exploring the Indian relief, so their task was to look into the classification of landforms and make a plasticine model of each. The plasticines in our school had not been used for some time so I had to add a few fresh ones as back up. Once the task was explained, the children consulted their books and figured out how many models they would have to make. They started with the old plasticines but were struggling, so after a while I gave them the new ones.

The models revealed what the children had and hadn't learned. Their lava plateau was great, their eroded mountain and monadnocks were okay, but the block mountain was no more than a thickened version of the 2D picture from the book. So, we began to re-model the models.

The “old and hardened” could not be left out as we didn’t have enough of the plasticine. Just then, an idea struck. How about turning the “old and hardened” pieces into igneous rocks and the soft ones into sedimentary? We split a chunk of “igneous rock” and set the pieces a bit apart to become Angaraland and Gondwanaland, with Tethys in the middle. Then, we laid different color layers of sedimentary rocks in the “ocean.” Finally, Angaraland and Gondwanaland were pushed towards each other to create fold mountains. Similar steps ensured the lowering of Rift Valley. Eroded mountains were then “eroded” and dissected plateau was dissected. Mountains were raised along the border of intermontane plateau and two volcanoes were made – one with its top blown off. Finally “rocky” layers were raised or lowered to form respective types of planes, “silt” was deposited to create alluvial plane and a “river” trisected a piece of land with its distributary to form a delta.

The next morning a teacher went to see the models and came back confused about one spherical piece that was not labeled. When the teacher asked what that piece was, a senior student (now turning into a teacher himself) replied, “Earth” – an apt label for what was actually a ball of leftover plasticine!