“I now have confidence in myself and can solve my own problems. I can speak freely with outsiders. I have learned many skills – especially drawing, and the proper way to talk. School has taught me how to get along with various people,” says Santanu a student of Shikshamitra, an experimental school and resource centre situated in the Chetla area of Kolkata, near the Kalighat metro station.
The school started in 2005 under the auspices of Swanirvar, an NGO working in rural West Bengal. Shikshamitra currently has around 33 students in the morning session from 8 am till 2 pm. Around 26 students are enrolled in the evening computer course.
Here drawing, painting, sewing, stitching, clay work, other handicrafts, singing, dancing and theatre are all part of daily classes. All the classes including the English, Bengali and Mathematics ones are woven beautifully and innovatively together so that children are able to grasp things much faster and clearly. Also, they impart moral and social communication etiquette to the students making them confident young individuals.
Creating a wall newspaper where children write reports on various “happenings” going on in their daily lives is read and commented by everyone in the group. It is one of the interesting methods being used. Writing about their lives not only improves their writing skills but promotes a sense of camaraderie and also provides them a mirror to look at themselves.
Shikshamitra has a gift shop with items they make in the “Learn and Earn” project. Here children design various eco friendly items like calendars and cloth tote bags.
English and Bengali are taught through pictorial flash cards and storytelling. They have regular art exhibitions of their school work. From drama to recitation, Shikshamitra has the right mix of creative arts and science making learning fun, interesting and easy to assimilate.
Shikshamitra is also working in collaboration with various local NGOs to boost teacher training capacity and help them develop innovative learning material.
From June 2010 they have also started providing nutritious tiffin to children with the help of some private donations. The budget for one month of tiffin programme comes out to be around Rs. 3000.
Volunteers from various countries come and hold art workshops with students in the process enriching the students as well as themselves with an unforgettable experience.
Shikshamitra has a wonderful blog chronicling all the events and workshops that they conduct. Check out more about them at: http://shikshamitralearning.blogspot.com/