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Colourful classrooms with happy education experience

NAGPUR: What is the most that a group of youngsters can do with a paintbrush, colour palette and an empty unplastered wall? Well, in this case, they can double the strength of a government school, increase the attendance rate and improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Bringing colours not just to the empty walls but also lives of over 25,000 children across the country is city-based Zero Gravity Foundation. A non-profit organization operating under the umbrella of Dr Shrikant Jichkar Foundation, Zero Gravity was founded by Maitreyi Jichkar in 2008.

The young group has been working in the field of education, health care and rural development since a decade. While working in the education sector, its members came to realize that for mending impressionable minds, a lot of mending is needed in the infrastructure.

That is how their star venture the ‘Happy School Project’ started in 2011. Under this, they transform government schools through holistic infrastructural makeovers using UNICEF’s concept of ‘Building As A Learning Aid’ (BALA).

In UNICEF’s words, the concept aims at maximizing the educational utility of school buildings and the overall education experience by innovatively integrating curriculum-linked materials into the existing environment of schools. “We researched on the impact of living conditions on psychology of kids and found that poor infrastructural conditions have a damaging impact on child’s learning and can also contribute to the emergence of problem behaviour,” says Maitreyi.

Till now, the organization has transformed over a 100 schools in the country. The NGO is currently working on another 500 schools including 150 Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) schools, 50 government in Osmanabad district and some coming under Bombay Municipal Corporation.

The concepts are taken from the curriculum and incorporated in the theme of classrooms. “Whenever we approach a school, we largely focus on repair work, fixing toilets, electrical work and then painting and implementing concepts,” says Maitreyi.

What makes the initiative unique is that the concepts are not mindlessly painted on the walls. “People mostly don’t understand the logic behind how spaces and infrastructural changes impact the human psychology and learning capabilities. We take in consideration the colour psychology and then we use the right colours for the right age group. There is a lot of study that goes behind it. People often have this perception that what we are doing is picking up paints and painting,” says head architect Tanishka Acharya.

Adding that every part of the infrastructure should end up teaching something, Acharya says, “Our team of architects and designers are constantly ideating — be it converting window grills into abacus or floors into writing surfaces. If a theme of a classroom is forest, students will not just learn about types of animals but also prepositions like a monkey is ‘on’ the tree. When learning about birds, kids do it through Origami.”

After preparing the designs, the group presents it to the teachers who help them innovate more and develop teaching aids through infrastructure. “We largely focus on makeover of government schools because they are in need of this. The total strength of our government schools is going down, even when the income backgrounds are not increasing,” says co-founder of the organization Yajnavalkya Jichkar.

The young group uses different avenues to gather financial aid for the cause. “Our main funding comes from CSR of corporates. Also, we keep hosting a lot of fund-raising events by bringing people to the place we are working at,” says Maitreyi.

Once the school is revamped, the group remains consistent with the follow-ups. “After every project we have an impact measurement tool to see how things changed for teachers and students; how the concepts are helping their learning process and how are they using the renovated school infrastructure in the teaching process,” says Yajnavalkya .

In May 2019, Zero Gravity renovated a NMC school in Telangkhedi. The strength then was 57. “Today, when we recently did the survey we found that within one session, the strength of the school is 152. When we do an intervention in the school building, we encourage community to be with us in the renovation process,” says Maitreyi.

Apart from schools, Zero Gravity is also focusing on renovating government shelters. In June 2018, the group completely transformed the girls’ shelter home run by the district women and child development department at Katol Square.

The aim with which the young lot got into this project seems to have been fulfilled. “We wanted to provide basic dignity of living and learning for people coming from low income backgrounds,” says Yajnavalkya.

Read 15 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 May 2020 04:48
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