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Adivasi women frogmarch kids to school
The schooling of children, particularly girls, has picked up in many of Orissa’s remote tribal pockets, where schools were once unheard of.Manipadma Jena on the positive role played by the community in bringing this change
Belmati Jhankar’s father died two years ago. Her mother barely manages to put together Rs 20 on those days that she sand-fries puffed rice and travels up to 15 km to distant villages to sell it. When her father died, Belmati (then in Class III) dropped out of school and began tending the neighbours’ goats.
The education of adivasi girls is also hampered by the sheer distance between schools and habitations
The education of adivasi girls is also hampered by the sheer distance between schools and habitations.

Baby talk
Researchers
at Harvard university have tried to understand how infants learn their native language. Early language development follows a predictable series of milestones. Babies initially say one word at a time, and mostly use nouns ("ball") or social words ("hi").

De Niro likes to watch people






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Adivasi women frogmarch kids to school
The schooling of children, particularly girls, has picked up in many of Orissa’s remote tribal pockets, where schools were once unheard of.Manipadma Jena on the positive role played by the community in bringing this change

Belmati Jhankar’s father died two years ago. Her mother barely manages to put together Rs 20 on those days that she sand-fries puffed rice and travels up to 15 km to distant villages to sell it. When her father died, Belmati (then in Class III) dropped out of school and began tending the neighbours’ goats. Last year, the head teacher convinced her mother to send the child back to school. The mother agreed, persuaded in large measure by the fact that with the free midday meal, free school uniform, and the free textbooks, Belmati’s education would cost nothing at all. And she would be ensuring a better future for her child.

"Next year, admissions will see girls outnumber boys in our school," says Lily Behera, vice-president of the Village Education Committee (VEC) of Kutrukhamar UPS (Upper Primary School). In 2006, the school, which caters to six large villages, enrolled 16 girls. The ratio of girls to boys is now 144: 153.

Chance plays no role in this tide of female enrolment in schools in the Kutrukhamar panchayat of Bhawanipatna block in Kalahandi district of Orissa. Kalahandi has a Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste population of 28.65 per cent and 17.67 per cent, respectively. One of the country’s poorest districts, more than half its population comprises agricultural labourers. Nearly a fourth of the state’s population is tribal. But in some adivasi pockets of Orissa, the initiative, and the incentives, to universalise elementary education under the flagship of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme have begun to show radical changes in the prevailing parental attitudes towards educating children, particularly girls.

In Kutrukhamar UPS, Classes II and VI have the highest number of girls — 26 and 30, respectively. All over India, these two classes have the highest dropout rate for boys and girls: they drop out from class II because they either cannot cope with the learning and/or lose interest. The dropout rate in Class VI is high because, first, girls attain puberty between 11-13 years of age and social restrictions on physical mobility and gender interaction kick into place; second, in economically disadvantaged households, after they are 10 years old, girls begin contributing to the family income or take care of siblings so that their mothers can go to work.

This dropout pattern is changing. The education of adivasi girls was also hampered by the sheer distance between schools and habitations, particularly when roads wound through wooded, uninhabited and unsafe patches. That’s changing, too. Aiming to provide a school within one kilometre of every human habitation, Orissa now has 47,000 primary schools.

On the hilly terrain of Kandhamal district of Orissa, a little school nestles amidst natural greenery. Rugudipali village, little more than a hamlet, has just 13 adivasi families: they now have a primary school next door. This school started with 18 students — 14 girls and four boys.

This year, three girls and a boy passed out of Rugudipali PS (Primary School) and moved up to Suhagam UPS in Tutuluba village. Had this PS not been established so close to the village, many of the older girls would still be minding their younger siblings, fetching water, gathering firewood, and learning to light cooking fires.

Lupuri Patra, 14, would be out from sunrise to sunset herding goats. She also gathered dry twigs and branches for a head-load of firewood. "Most of our children had never even seen a book before," says Ramsingh Patra, her father, who now minds the goats.

In Orissa’s tribal districts, accessing interior habitations often means traversing rivers and hills. Tiny hamlets are scattered kilometres apart. For such deprived communities, the 19,000 schools under the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) — which works in a non-formal teaching format — is a boon.

Community involvement has become a leading feature of the EGS. By 2000, disquiet among the 57 families of Bandhapada village — merely four km from Kalahandi district headquarters in Bhawanipatna — had peaked: there was no education facility for the village’s children. The families petitioned for a school in the village. In 2001, a single teacher primary school was sanctioned under the EGS. The villagers themselves selected Tuna Swain, a local graduate, to be Education Volunteer.

In February 2001, the first class of the Bandhapada EGS was held with 25 students under a banyan tree. For 75 days thereafter, that was where the school remained. But enrolments increased. In 2004, when all four classes were running to capacity, the school had 73 students. The approaching monsoons made it imperative to have a school building. Bamboo poles and wooden rafters came up. A 30 ft by 10 ft room took shape. Mothers gathered cowdung and plastered them over the mud walls. The harvesting over, sheaves of fresh straw lined the roof. A structure this size would normally have cost Rs 7,000, but here not a single rupee changed hands: the community contributed both material and labour.

After the building came up, the community’s sense of ownership over education has grown exponentially. Now, if schoolchildren are caught playing truant, mothers — not necessarily their own — frogmarch them to the teacher. It was a proud moment in 2005 for all of Bandhapada village when 20 of its children, promoted to Class V, were seen off to the Purunapada UPS. This pride finds an echo today in many tribal communities in Orissa. — WFS

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Baby talk

Researchers at Harvard university have tried to understand how infants learn their native language. Early language development follows a predictable series of milestones. Babies initially say one word at a time, and mostly use nouns ("ball") or social words ("hi").

As they grow older, their sentences become longer and more complex, as verbs ("take") and grammatical words ("about") begin to appear.

According to Jesse Snedeker at the university, these changes in the infant speech could be due to the child’s increased cognitive abilities or, they might also simply be side effects of the learning process itself and independent of the child’s age or cognitive abilities.

For example, it might be easier for children to learn the meanings of nouns because they often refer to things that we can point to or look at.

Studying internationally adopted children was vital to this research because their language development is often out of sync with their cognitive development and maturation.

Unlike most second language learners, they have no phrase book to consult or bilingual informants to translate what they hear. In many ways their situation is like that of infants learning their first language: they must discover the meanings of words by listening and watching what happens around them. But they differ from infants in one critical respect — they are older and thus more cognitively mature.

Snedeker found that the preschoolers went through the same stages as the infants. Early on they learned many nouns but few verbs or grammatical words. Like the infants, the preschoolers initially produced one-word utterances, followed by short telegraphic sentences ("Mommy eat").

The researchers also found that the adopted children progressed through the stages more rapidly than the infants, which is good news because it suggests that many of these children will eventually catch up with their peers. — ANI

 

 

De Niro likes to watch people

Robert De NiroScar-winning actor Robert De Niro says he gets inspiration for characters when he watches real people.

De Niro revealed that he listens in to private conversations in restaurants to get ideas for characters and scenes. "I observe people, I observe certain things. Maybe they’ll be things that are not literally connected to what I’m working on, but I’ll notice their body language, say, in a restaurant. I’ll know what they’re doing, whatever that may be. That’ll remind me, and I’ll use it in a scene," he was quoted as saying by contactmusic.com. — IANS

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