EK PEHAL: Quality time to earn Quality smiles on children’s faces at IISER Kolkata

EK PEHAL is a journey which began on 7th January 2015 in a aanganbadi school outside Gate No. 7 of IISER Kolkata with dedicated founding volunteers - Preethi Thomas, Abhinash Kumar, Sai Madhav, Shubham Chaudhary, Rohit Bhagwat, Prithvi Raj and Jayshree Deheria. I was alloted the job of registration of children from nearby villages to our campus (mostly belonging to underprivileged families) and then teaching them mathematics on the very same day. Within one month, EK PEHAL shifted to air-conditioned classrooms in Lecture Hall Complex of the institute, thanks to the immense support of IISER Kolkata administration especially former director Prof. R. N. Mukherjee.  In the beginning EK PEHAL started with children of class IX -XII only, later with increasing no of IISER Kolkata student volunteers, class V-VIII students were also accommodated in this initiative. At present, children visit our campus daily during evening hours as per their schedule which vary on the basis of standard and medium(Hindi/Bengali).
Our main focus is to improve the fundamental basic of Mathematics and Science of children through interactive and demonstrative sessions along with communicative English classes, extra- curricular activities to boost children's confidence.

By understanding about various shortcomings in an individual child as well teaching volunteers, EK PEHAL team decided to go for aptitude test for children in mathematics at admission time to find suitable topics to be taught to them as per their actual potential and assign them appropriate teaching volunteers. I proactively chose the responsibility for this aptitude test (designing, conducting and evaluation). This test had five sections A, B, C, D and E with questions of the level of 1st to 5th Standard, 6th-7th standard, 7th-8th standard, 8th-9th standard and 10th standard of Indian schooling system, respectively. All children were given questions beginning from section A up to their assigned standard in school. After evaluation, almost all students were found to be lacking and were not up to the mark for their then assigned standard in school. We were not surprised at the results as we understood that almost all of the students studied in nearby government schools which failed to provide quality education in terms of clarifying basic concepts. Consequently, our team of volunteers were at first, assigned to teach Basic, Intermediate and Advanced level mathematics depending on at what level a particular student was unable to attempt the questions. As mentioned earlier we had already identified each student’s potential from the aptitude test to children. Currently this has become the standard practice for all children who get enrolled in EK PEHAL for mathematics class and a similar format is being followed for teaching English as well.

Since then my evening hours are mostly spent with EK PEHAL children and it gives tremendous pleasure to me being with them-teaching them, answering their questions and ultimately seeing quality smiles on their faces!

So far I have tried to teach basic and intermediate mathematics class and regular Physics and Mathematics classes to IX-XI standards. It gives me immense joy to see the "Quality smiles" on their faces when they understand any topic which they initially considered difficult due to low confidence. Over the last few months I got very close to a group of students (I had taught them Physics & Mathematics in their IX-X) and so I took them for a dinner treat in a restaurant in Kalyani when my first research paper got published.

I request all the readers of this blog to help EK PEHAL team with their time (volunteer for EK PEHAL if you are a student at IISER Kolkata) or donate books and resources and even feel free to give suggestions. You may know more about EK PEHAL at  https://sites.google.com/site/ekpehal2015/ or facebook page.