Published: 18th February 2020
From tech to theatre, how these women helped Hyderabad's Govt School kids lit is awesome
After ten years of making an impact on government school kids in Hyderabad using extracurricular activites, the trio behind the Move The Wheel Foundation recollect their journey so far
Growing up, Sunita Reddy Thadasina was the timid one. She hardly spoke to the people around her and when it came to academics, she was an average student. Then, classical dance happened and this duckling turned into a confident swan who could strike conversations as easily as she could score marks in exams. On the other hand, Anjana Kumar Mangalapalli was an extrovert from the very beginning. She would participate in every extracurricular activity her school conducted and was good at academics as well. If you ask Brunda Aluri (50), her story will follow the same trajectory.
Students indulging in exercises | (Pic: MTWF)
Who are they and what is the common thread that runs between them? At some point or the other, all their lives have been touched by extracurricular activities or the arts and eventually, transformed by it. This was the uniting factor for the trio, other than the fact that they used to live in and around the area of Gachibowli and every weekend, used to volunteer to teach at Government Upper Primary School, Gowlidoddi, Hyderabad.
Funding has always been a problem, but Concern India has partially funded them for three to four years
To backtrack a little, it was Sunita who started teaching Spoken English at the school after she moved back to India from the US in 2006. Eventually, she joined hands with friends and neighbours and started teaching more subjects because in that particular school, there were two teachers for 250 children. When the headmaster appreciated their work and encouraged them to take more concrete steps in this direction, they launched and registered Move The Wheel Foundation (MTWF) in 2010. Recently, they completed a decade of doing stellar work and as Sunita (53) and Anjana (39) put it, currently, "we are basking in the glory of ten years," they share and laugh.
Students during a session | (Pic: MTWF)
Art is at the heart of it
What the trio has been up to the past ten years is introducing activities — theatre, dance, art, sports and many more — in six government schools in and around the area of Gachibowli so that students can benefit from them, just the way the trio did. "What started out as a simple way to keep students from dropping out evolved into them learning from the activities we conducted," says Anjana, who was born in Bengaluru, but has been a Hyderabadi for a long time now. And because these activities are conducted during school hours, usually in the mornings or after lunch, they have seen a marked improvement in retention. Thus, the evolution of MTWF involved not just conducting these extracurricular activities, but conducting activities that build life skills.
They also conduct annual days for each school which is treated as a culmination and display of all that students have learnt
With the help of six qualified professionals, which includes two researchers for teaching computers, a theatre artist with a solid theatre background and a budding artist, they also conduct sessions that could be termed as nothing less than game-changing. Take for example their We Matter project. "Through this initiative, which is actually our pet project, we present a societal problem to children and they come up with a solution. What this achieves is that children realise that they don't have to be at the receiving end, they can actually contribute to the solution," explains Sunita, who pursued her Master's degree in the US. As students are divided into groups so that they can come up with a solution, the group that wins gets cash prizes. And recently, when a team of students won a cash prize for solving an environmental issue, they actually set up a composting pit with the money. In another instance, they used the money to conduct a blanket donation drive. And that's how MTWF builds confidence in these students and makes them more conscious citizens.
Students during a two-day theatre workshop | (Pic: MTWF)
They are there for everyone
But really, can any one can help students without helping teachers? That's when their Pro-Literacy programme comes into place. "As an aid to teachers, we ask them to let us in on what they will be teaching and we draw up worksheets for them regarding the same topic which contains interesting and application-based activities that help children grasp the lessons better," says Anjana. For example, if the lesson is about addition, the activity children get to do are colouring certain parts of a figure after deriving the solution through addition.
When students start to learn extracurricular activities, the effect shows in different aspects like their classroom participation increases
One can really never come this far without conquering challenges and their persistent challenge has been the constant change in headmasters which means they need to start working with the new heads from scratch. "But all six schools we handle are convinced of the fact that we bring about a change through the activities we conduct," says the duo. And they can say this with more confidence than ever because of something that happened during the celebration of their tenth anniversary, for which, many students were invited. They had ordered 200 pastries but had the attendance of children that was much more than that — one can only imagine the chaos that might have ensued. But what the trio observed was children sharing, passing the pastry along and looking out for each other. "In fact, when one child who had already eaten his share was offered another one, he promptly said, 'I ate mine, you can hand it over to someone who hasn't'," shares the duo. Certainly, activities can spark magic.
Brunda, Anjana and Sunita | (Pic: MTWF)
Some of the activities they conduct:
- A talk on birds and their role in Earth's ecology
- Students performed at Special Care School in BHEL
- Participated in the Telangana Children's Theatre Festival
- Were invited to present at Ambedkar Jayanthi Theatre Recital
- Children were treated to a Bonalu special lunch
- Theatre recital about pollution and its effects at Concern India Inter NGO Meet
They want to help students explore their talent and build confidence in themselves through it so that they can be better citizens
The way ahead:
After completing a decade, this is what they have planned for the next decade:
- They want students to participate in mandal-level and district-level sporting tournaments
- They hope that children's artwork will be displayed at different art galleries
- Students put up plays or participate in plays outside
Their team includes:
- Pramod Kumar (theatre)
- Dasaratha (folk dance)
- Paramesshwar Salendra (art)
- Surya Muchinthala (sports)
- Nataraj C (Science and technology)
- Balamma B (computers)
- Pavan Kumar (computers)
- Sneha H (field coordinator)
- Sheik Mastan (field coordinator)
Glimpses from schools
For more on them, check out movethewheel.org