Published: 17th July 2019
How Pehchaan has helped these government school kids master the art of Angrezi
Pehchaan, an initiative of KurNiv Success Solutions helps municipal school students build self-confidence
Today, there are several NGOs that work exclusively to train and educate municipal school students. But what about an initiative that can help these kids build their self-confidence, especially in terms of their identity? Well, that is the primary aim of Pehchaan, an initiative of KurNiv Foundation. They train municipal school students to speak in English and simultaneously, help them develop lateral thinking skills. The significant point here is that they are trained by students from affluent colleges who are addressed as 'the changemakers'. Freyaz Shroff, Head of Operations, KurNiv Success Solutions, tells us about Pehchaan and the interview is excerpted here:
What was the initial trigger to start Pehchaan?
I worked with an NGO that was educating students of municipal schools. I noticed that these kids faced major difficulties after joining college. They found it difficult to read the notice board, to approach teachers and to make friends. Pehchaan is an initiative of the KurNiv Foundation in partnership with the Rotaract Club of HR College.
What are students trained in that can help them with their higher education?
Primarily we give them confidence, so that they don’t feel less than anybody else. The second thing we do is develop their lateral thinking. We give them the confidence not only to speak and present, but to present in English. Our entire classroom setup is a 'no judgment' area. No one is allowed to laugh or make fun of somebody if they make a mistake. It is a very supportive environment. Even students are supportive of each other. We build their confidence and we build their English language speaking ability. We also help them build their logical thinking ability. Above all, we are building a support structure especially for when they enter college. For example, if one of our students enrols in a college, there will be at least one ex-student from Pehchaan in the same college.
What are the other benefits of this training for both the students and the changemakers?
Apart from one ex-Pehchaan student, there will also be one didi or bhaiya (changemaker) in the same college, so students will have someone to approach. Thus, there is a social structure now, which was lacking initially. The college students are trained for three months before they are allowed to become a didi or bhaiya. This training includes a slum visit as well, where they are adopted by a slum family and they do the dishes, wash clothes, etc. It sensitises them which has influenced their behaviour at home. Their 'pehchaan' also starts changing.
How are these students selected for the programme?
We have a partnership with an NGO called Salaam Bombay Foundation. They run several programs in about 300 municipal schools across Mumbai. We tie-up with them. They select the students for us whom they feel are eligible for our programme. We also have a tie-up with YMCA Night Study Centre.
What were the major difficulties in bringing the kids under one roof?
Getting the municipal school kids’ parents to understand why this is important was difficult. But I don’t blame them. They are in financial need. So they would rather send their children to work and bring `3000-4000 home than send them to college. Because in college, they have to spend money on books, fees, etc. The other challenge is if it is a female student, then parents would want her to get married instead of getting educated. So our challenge is to make the parents understand the importance. So this year we tried something different. We sent a letter both in Hindi and in Marathi explaining what we are doing and why we are doing it and invited all the parents to come on the final day and see what their children have accomplished.
What kind of training do the changemakers undergo during the training period of three months?
The changemakers undergo intense training. Everything from their punctuality to their ability to develop their emotional quotient is assessed. We make them do activities where they are made to move out of their comfort zone and get them to know people who are very different from them. Most of them go to elite schools. Rashna Cooper is the educator for the changemakers. She teaches them how a government school functions. She also teaches them about the Right to Education Act.
Does the changemaker's role help in inculcating ideas in these kids?
Yes, it does. It is the youth leading the youth. I am 44 years old. I give them the idea, however, it may or may not resonate with them. But when another 17-year-old can talk to you in your way, in your language, then you will understand it better.
What was the feedback from the slum visit and what is the duration of the visit?
The slum visits start at 9 in the morning and end at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We haven’t found a way yet to make it 24 hours although that is our goal. The most important feedback which they give us is that they never knew that people lived like this. It genuinely humbles them.