Pratham in Mukundpur Village
By Pia Brar
“Water is a changing form. It can transform from solid, to liquid, to gas,” chanted the room of twenty class-seven students at J. C. Gaur Public School in Mukundpur, Delhi.
All forty eyes stared up at the flat screen TV positioned on the stained, dull-grey wall as it played an interactive science video from the WebBox. This is part of the “digital classroom” initiative implemented by Pratham and funded by Vodafone Foundation. These videos are used for both teacher training and content development within the classroom. They are currently available in English, but are soon to be accessible also in Hindi.
With the start of the video, the room transformed from a dull, dusty, concrete space to a cartoon world filled with ice-cubes, flowing rivers and misty landscapes. The children no longer repeated sentences in a monotone manner but instead eagerly asked questions about what was being shown on the screen. The video encouraged them to ask the important when’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s to get a thorough understanding of each topic.
A similar reaction was seen a few kilometres away when we entered the village’s Urban Learning Center run by Pratham. Colourful paper cutouts made by the teachers and students themselves covered every inch of the building’s walls to present a stimulating environment. Little girls in flowery skirts, lush green trees, shining stars, birds, fish, and even tigers were everywhere. A happy contrast to the grey scaled school.
When we sat down in a room full of children to watch another video, this time during a math class, we saw the return of the eager eyes. The children giggled as the video explained ratios by comparing the size of a cartoon giraffe to that of a cartoon rabbit. They thought intensely, sitting in silence as they worked out how much cheaper the mango ice cream was compared to the milk one.
Ten year old, Boby, explained that by coming to the learning centre and through the use of the WebBox videos, he is not only being taught science and math but he is also learning English.
“I like that,” he said with a smile, “and I also want to learn how to read better.” By saying this, Boby shared the view of multiple other students who come to the centre after school for free supplemental learning.
Nasreen, a staff member at the Urban Learning Center explained, “In schools there are just not enough teachers, and therefore they cannot give adequate attention to the students, and so the students come here”.
These extra classes at the centre help to ensure that the children are learning, as the teachers are able to understand the needs of each child and help him or her work on specific skills in a more relaxed atmosphere.