Wednesday, August 26, 2009

my first graded assignment :|

Name : Prasant Mohanty

Date : 26.08.09

Roll No. : 2009SW089

Agency : CIDCO, Navi Mumbai

Target Group : Adolescent boys & girls

Age Group : 14 -16yrs

Location : Dapoli - Pargaon High School, Taluk Uran, Dist. Raigadh


As disappointing as it may sound, the closest I came to a group work in my earlier profession was making business proposals worth thousands of dollars for clients that I was never going to see or meet. Apart from the monetary aspect, the only intent for opting to work in group was to do a humongous job faster and easier. With the commencement of the field work at TISS, came the realization of breaking the mould that I had in mind about groups and to adopt a strategy that was fresh and rejuvenating. Fate had to be fair to me for I was allotted to a field work agency that had to deal with some of the most underrepresented faces of modern Mumbai – the Project Affected Persons of Navi Mumbai. In the current setting, group work has the potential of becoming a strong tool of information dissemination and sensitization primary because of the following two basic reasons :

(i) In terms of the no. of PAP's that can be impacted by the program in the short period of the program

(ii) Since it is in synchronization with the syllabus set for the MSW course, there is a strong possibility to link theory to practice in real time

The Kurland Model

Having done all the talking, there is one last thing that I would like to point out before outlining my plan for the group work. While going through a reading given to us and then linking the model to the bits and pieces of the odd plan, I realized that my plan might not be as robust as the ambitions it attempts to achieve.

“The model is meant to guide the worker's thinking throughout the planning stage. It presents areas for worker consideration, decision and action; but it is not meant as a checklist. In fact it is unlikely that the worker will ever be able to resolve completely the many issues that each component of the model raises”[1]. With the hopes that I will do justice to the model, I have put the details of the each component of the model in the following eight points and constructed the model in Figure No. 1 given here.


{1} Identifying Social Context

The target community that I am looking at is a subset of the larger population consisting of original inhabitants of Navi Mumbai. It bears representation to a population of the so called 'Project Affected People'(PAP) that came into being when CIDCO started displacing people from the mainland on the eastern seaboard of Thane Creek in the early 1970s to accommodate its plan to absorb the rapid growth of Bombay. (Between 1951-61 Bombay's population rose by 40% due to various favoring reasons). Thus started the planning and execution of one of the biggest planned cities of the world that currently consists of 14 nodes.

But why are PAPs the targets of this group-work exercise?... It might be interesting to know that while PAP's were rewarded huge amounts of money for their contribution, they were not given any support in re-building their communities to decent standards. With so much development happening around them and the lack of attention given to them, the PAPs felt betrayed, trapped and excluded. The pattern of movement of PAPs can now be seen as packets of shanty settlements amongst big housing projects in the whole of Navi Mumbai. This fact finding or realization dawned upon CIDCO years later when it started facing resentment from the PAP communities. Since then CIDCO has undertaken numerous projects for the welfare of those PAPs.

One such project is the school in Pargaon that CIDCO has helped construct and renovate from time to time. This school is for the children of the PAPs. Students in the school are from the lower socio-economic strata and go on to be dependent on local industry to earn livelihoods. The group work is going to include boy and girl students in the age group of 14 to 16yrs of age. Since the school has Marathi & Hindi as medium of instruction, all the students are well versed in both the languages.

{2} Needs Assessment

The full gamut of client, agency and worker needs should be examined as a first step in any analysis. If clients do not perceive the group as meeting their needs, they will not attend. If workers are forced to run groups that they do not find fulfilling their participation may slacken... The needs of the agency must also be met to encourage an atmosphere of acceptance of the group”[2].

The need cris-crosses the interest of the three parties: the agency, the group and the group worker. And the needs fit into the bigger context of holistic development and change of outlook. Please refer to the Figure No. 2 given in the adjacent page.

Development in terms of attitude of the all the three parties towards each other and possibly to factors that are external to the scope the group work (for example a deeper understanding of the agency about needs of the student group w.r.t vocational training options to invest in).

In my field setting the need that I have identified is as follows : to improve the personality of the group in ways that are favorable for the group members to secure livelihood opportunities once they members are of age and to equip them with the knowledge of all the various available livelihood options and vocational training that they can pursue in Navi Mumbai.

{3} Identification of Purpose

The identification of purpose is most potently done by putting oneself in the shoes of the clients, the group members i.e. The students have had a difficult childhood and have had natural problems with education owing to slow learning tendencies & malnutrition. Also because of their rural & semi-agrarian background they have to deal with domestic violence and possibly sibling rivalry. So all these factors act as a catalyst in depressing favorable leadership and personality traits. A noticeable nature of the purpose is in its dynamics. This could be elaborated by quoting lines from one of the works of Sondra Brandler. “Goals will be redefined and evaluation will be constant throughout the course of the group, but the initial explorations of purpose must be clearly stated”[2]. My purpose for the group-work is : to instill a heightened level of awareness about the livelihood options that a young pap student can choose from and to improve one's personality to harness those options.

{4}Considerations regarding Compositions

The group will consist of 15 members. Since the group composed of students from the same setting (class 9th of the Dapoli Pargaon School), it will be a closed group. The activity will proceed with the same group as there is very little chance of a group member to drop out. The group activity will be administered by one male group worker who is a student social worker and this will be his true experience in working solo on groups. As stated in the beginning of the writing, the group members will consist of adolescent boys and girls in the age group of 14 to 16yrs old. Its already been noted that the ratio of boys to girls in the class is almost same. So there will be equal representation of both boys and girls in the group. In his earlier observations, the social worker has seen the perspective students that are being considered for the group-work are extremely agile and interested in activity based learning. This apart they share common habits in languages they speak, educational qualification and socio-economic background. What the differ in is the IQ levels and characteristics related to behavior like the ability to communicate and personal preferences of style; and possibly career interests too.

{5} Establishment of Structure

The group-work has been structured to fit into 15 contact field work days. Each day will ideally have one group session lasting about one hour in duration. The group sessions will be held in a convenient hall that can facilitate group activities with ease. This group-work service is going to be delivered absolutely free of cost and will be done in consent with the school authority and the agency.

{6} Methodology in Pre-Group Contact

Pre-Group Contact in the case of this group-worker largely involves taking the class and the school authority into confidence before engaging the class for the group sessions. The purpose of the exercise is conveyed to them and once this is achieved, the students of the class that fit the profile of the group are formed and a small orientation of the group-members is done. Apart from the interaction, this includes a bit of rappot-building as well (more about it in the Content section). Norms will be formulated in the process and variations to it if any will be normalized and agreed upon.

It is also very important for the class -teacher and the principal to assure the students to devote their attention to the group-worker before the exercise commences. This will instill a sense of faith and responsibility in the group-members.

{7} Identification of key Content

The group-sessions will start with ice-breaking exercises involving limited no or props like a ball of a piece of handkerchief or simple use of voice etc. The games are interlaced with rapport building exercises where the group-members come to know more about the group-worker and as well as the other members of the group. This strategy is to be interlaced with the purpose of the group-work and in sync with the needs of the students. For Exp, a exercise of passing the ball where in the first person at which the ball stops will introduce himself and roll the ball. The next student will introduce himself and also tell 2 things about the previous person.

As the group-workers starts building rapport he will slowly introduce the exercises that will tend to move the group towards the objectives, These will include activities like recreational games, poster making, discussion, a skit representing an issue and involving the group-members, screening movies and documentaries, and a competition.

The whole idea is to bring a concept of rewards, strengthening of motive and role model into the group.

To strengthen the delivery and motives of the whole group-work each exercise will give opportunities for ample interaction amongst all the members of the group including the group-worker. Brainstorming becomes a tools for forming perceptions about issues and taking a stand on them.

The nature of the games only warrants the use of basic materials like stationary materials for art and craft, props for recreational games and audio visual aids.

All the activities and sessions with have strong objectives consistently linking the group with purpose and objective of group-work.

{8} Examination of Agency Context

CIDCO is primarily a state interest institution brought into being to take control of the infrastructure crunch that Mumbai has been facing since a long time. It is primarily involved in providing for housing, industries and infrastructure in Navi Mumbai. It offers housing societies for sale at prices that are subsided. This motivation is to move as many people away from mainland Mumbai as possible to de-congest Mumbai and to create a second hub of industries and corporations outside city to facilitate the ample development potential of Mumbai. For this elaborate state infrastructure (Railways, roads, space for industries etc) is already in place in Navi Mumbai. Since the time CIDCO started operating and interfacing with indigenous Navi Mumbai communities, a lot has been said about them and a lot has been critiqued and praised. As a state agency CIDCO bears the moral responsibility of judiciously including social welfare objectives in its activities. This obligation pushes the social welfare department to design and implement programs for the PAP communities. Apart from the basic mandate of social welfare the other prime objective of its activity is to form, improve and modify the attitudes of the people towards CIDCO, in ways that strengthen relations between communities and the state and to easily facilitate any development activity in Navi Mumbai that may warrant eviction of PAP's in future. The community appeasement motive is a approach of getting the agency's work done without significant resentment and resistance. The prime stakeholder of my agency is the Government of Maharashtra. There are several other forces that act in this like the land mafia, the real estate contractors and political figures (at panchayati and municipality and state level).

The Systems Theory : Linkages to the Kurland model

The basic reason for me to choose System's Theory was because I could find strong connection of the group-work with the concepts underlined by the theory. The Diagram will illustrate the concept of a system in the setting given to the group-worker. The group which is one of the many operating in the bigger supra-system (the School), consists of the 15 students and the group worker; and forms the OPEN SYSTEM. It accepts inputs from the external environment and the other systems operating around. The Group forms the focal point in the larger scheme of things. On day one of the group session the objectives will be discussed and boundaries for the group are set by fixing norms and conditions for the group to operate in. This also includes setting standards of ethics and code of conduct when in the group and when out of the group. All the norms and conditions are to be mutually agreed upon by all the group members. This forms a important parameter for pattern maintenance in the group. Each student of the group; and the group-worker forms a subsystem. Changes in group behavior, group attitude and attitude in the individual sub-systems may contribute to a +ve or -ve feedback and affect the equilibrium and quality of the group. Please allow me to illustrate the importance of equilibrium through practical examples.

The use of visual media is high on my agenda. I want to use a short film or documentary to assert the importance of being future ready. These mediums have impact on the psychological being of the group-member and can potentially disturb the condition of equilibrium. He/she may develop anxiety after such a session and might or might not share it with fellow group members. This may upset him/her and the anxiety may spill out to other members. This behavior can be understood by the concepts of linear and circular causality. In such a case the actions of the group worker and the other group members may subsequently increase/decrease the amount of anxiety (for exp : it may increase when a group member/the group-worker reassures the group-mate and it may decrease when a very confident group member flaunts his/her qualities that have made him future ready).

Also in my case, this group which is an open system has a possibility of the seeing some members exiting the system under extreme conditions. For this a pre-exit conditioning program is to be followed to reduce anxiety of the member who is supposed to go out and the group-members as well. This is one way group-members can handle the art of adaption. To summarize, these kinds of group exercises are necessary since the conditions that will be induced are favorable to promote group cohesion and integration. They become a medium for the group to know the group members, learn from them and contribute to the process of maintaining equilibrium. In an open system since there are external inputs (audio visual media in this case), the equilibrium is termed to be quasi-stationary i.e. even though there is an instability induced inside the group, the group as a whole tries to be in a condition of dynamic stability through its collective actions. All these actions have one motive – to reach the final objectives of the group-work.


REFERENCES

[1] : Teaching a Methods Course in Social Work With Groups (Strengthening Group Work Education by Roselle Kurland, & Robert Salmon, Council on Social Work Educ (June 1998)

[2] : 'Group Work: Skills and Strategies for Effective Interventions by Sondra Brandler and Camille P. Roman', The Haworth Press Inc.

[3] : Social Work Treatment by Francis Turner, Free Press(September 1996)

Monday, July 27, 2009

EXPERIENCES ABOUT GROUP LABS

EXPERIENCES ABOUT GROUP LABS

Group Labs was frankly the most enjoyed class in the first three weeks of the academic session. The Group Labs for me were conducted by Dr. Katy Gandevia and Mrs Sarita from the school of social work. It was a welcome change in the string of classroom sessions that had suddenly become a stark reality of my day-to-day life. The exercise were based on developing insight on human values which are otherwise hidden and untapped inside us unless and until we are instigated or pushed to practice. The first exercise of the group labs was the conscious effort of its kind to know about 20 individuals of the class in a way that was more personal than formal. The exercises that touched me the most were

  • The once in which the socio-economic discrimination was demonstrated by the no. of steps we took forward or backward
  • The exercise of blindfolding and be led by another person around the block
  • The exercise of using private and shared resources to make something unique
  • The exercise involving puzzles

These four exercises I think were the most impactful since the values they demonstrated are integral requirements in the practice of social work as a profession. And they are

  • to understand that socio-economic stratification exists in the society and that every individual demands respect and space.
  • to be able to trust somebody with what one can achieve and give him/her a chance to perform or lead.
  • to be able to share and to bare it all to the community that you would work with. To accept and give resources for group usage. This would affirm the commitment you are making to work with them and to enforce the feeling of trust between you and the community.
  • to have an eye and to be open to individuals who may need help and try best to accommodate them and their concerns in the activity you are doing.
  • to foster a sense of goodwill by adopting policies of social inclusion of all groups in the society and to maintain relationships that will last a lifetime.
  • to be a good listener and advocate the practice of the same in the community and group settings
  • to respect the views of every individual and practice sensitivity in whatever you say so as not to hurt sentiments
  • and most importantly be a practitioner of strong character and honesty
Thanks You
Prasant Mohanty

CONSOLIDATED REPORT FOR INSTITUTIONAL VISITS

To collate learnings of my friends and my self in words is a difficult task, but this is an effort to bridge the gap between the three broad areas of Education, Livelihood and Health; and simultaneously cut across issues and issue-based groups. This is essential because analysis of agencies like these has to have a micro and macro angle to it.

Following illustration demonstrates all the agencies that were visited by the Social Work class of 2011 in the First Semester. As evident in the illustration, the field work secretariat, has done a commendable job in bringing together just an impressive list of agencies that can give a holistic view of the current developmental issues and how social workers are placed in such settings. For a beggar who has been caught by the criminal justice system, a common man's perspective to it will be limited to poverty, at the first instance. However if we apply a bit of reflexivity to the whole matter we shall be able to come up with many new sides to it for example
a health condition that makes the beggar unacceptable to the societal system or
a kid who has brainwashed into following professional beggary or
a caste system phenomena that denied him/her any livelihood or
a simple case where a destitute woman manifests herself into a beggar to protect herself from insecurities around her.

So a simple case of destitution and beggary has a broad-spectrum linkage to diverse themes of education, health and livelihood. I would like to quote another example to show how the institutional visits helped us develop perspectives about social realities.
Though its a shame to realize everyday that child-labour is still legal in the biggest democracy of the world, it is important to delve into the pixels of the large picture to gauge the depth of the issue and to come to a holistic/solution/program/policy/intervention strategy/suggestion that might be able to address most, if not all the reasons of this menace. In Myron Weiner's book 'The Child and The State in India' the author tries to make the shady picture of child labor in India good, by giving sides of argument that are nothing less than fascinating. Its valid to argue why state legislature is not effective to protect our children and why the state is not pushing this issue in totality. I contribute it to many factors like market dynamics, labour economics, class caste structure, maternal and child nutrition, non-mandated system of primary education, employment opportunities for parents, migration, unequal distribution of wealth, minimal representation of the issue by civic bodies and even public sanitation.

I admit that before the informal institutional visits most of us (including me) had a singular and uni-dynamic point of view to this issue which is now magnified because of the diverse nature of the agencies that we profiled and the intense exercise that happens to share perspectives after the visit. The biggest gift this gave me is a peek into the process of critical social observation and participatory communication. As a preview to what we as student social workers should do on the field, the visit sensitized us about techniques and professional angle that we need to carry as our weapons.

For example a general idea about the specially-abled might be that though they are a prey of the shortcomings of the health system they aren't' seen as a inclusive part of the society because of their minimalistic nature of involvement in societal process and because they are seen as an unnecessary menace to the public systems around. So the generalist interpretation is to look at the specially-abled as people who need help. I interpret this as a general incapability to empathize, and press on the point of us normal beings not being able to help ourselves create space for everyone.

In a youth camp of Moral Re-Armament that I had the privilege to attend before coming to TISS, I overheard a statement which will portray something that is very intellectually powerful. “Before you go to help a blind ask if he/she needs help.” The normal citizen by the virtue of ignorance has taken it for granted that every specially-abled needs to be spoon-fed. Many are yet to see what happens when these same individuals are given a chance to co-adapt. It is this sense of responsibility that we have to seek as social workers to be able to reach an about-egalitarian society.

Thank You
Prasant Mohanty

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

3rd TISS INSTITUTIONAL Visit

INSTITUTION : Koshish, Beggar's Home, Chembur, Mumbai
AGENDA : Institutional Visit
TARGET GROUP : Homeless, Beggars & Destitute
ISSUE : Livelihood, Rehabilitation
NAME : Prasant Mohanty
ROLL NO. : 2009SW89
DATE/DAY : 06.07.09/ Monday
THE ORGANISATION

Koshish started as a field action project of TISS in 2006 when a student happened to bring out issues associated with homeless, beggars and the criminal justice system. Each year thousands of men and women become homeless and are mistaken to be beggars by the criminal justice system. Their livelihoods are shattered when they get trapped in the system. Koshish operates out of Barrack No. 6 of the women’s beggar’s home in Mumbai.

SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS

Koshish runs some very innovative community outreach programs.
  • Employer’s Collective is an effort to connect employers and inmates (who were employees earlier or who are perspective employees themselves).
  • Night Outs are a platform to reach out to the homeless and discuss their day to day problems. As the name suggests this is done at night when the homeless are done with their job for the day and are settled down. The problems that the homeless gives are taken into consideration during policy building and program formulation.
Koshish runs vocational training courses like sewing, candle making etc for the inmates to pursue alivelihood once they finish their tenure at the beggars home. Later these skilled inmates make products for the market whose returns come to the criminal justice system. When they go out the employers collective helps place them in formal and informal industries. Pallavi, the paraprofessional works on a lifeskills training program for women inmates who are mentally disturbed. This program teaches the women to go back to the society and behave like normal individuals able to work and earn a livelihood for themselves. Also there is a provision for Mukadams. Mukadams are those ex-inmates that have gained livelihood in the beggars home owing to the goodwill they have generated during their tenure as inmates. They stay with inmates and manage them.

The social worker helps in critical tasks of Koshish like program implementation, forming a bridge between the beggar home and TISS. She admitted that its a difficult job to be in this system but its highly satisfying an experience.Koshish is managed by a panel of TISS faculty members, professional social workers and paraprofessionals. It receives a major part of its funding from corporate houses and funding agencies like HDFC and Action Aid.

LEARNING & REFLECTION

As I attempt to establish a reconnection between homelessness and beggary I wish to reconstruct the words that Mr Ruchi Sinha gave out in the fieldwork workshop few weeks back.
“Homelessness is the direct impact of lack of livelihood and for the homeless, getting into the criminal justice framework makes it even difficult to get back to mainstream society”
If one analyses the above statement he/she will realize that Koshish is trying to address a second dimension to the trauma that the homeless face. Firstly owing to the stigma they face in the society, the homeless live a minimal existence and secondly they lose whatever little livelihood option they have when they are trapped by the criminal justice system. The basic problem arises because of the nature of Bombay Beggars Act 1959 which is still followed. Because the clauses are broad and hazy, the homeless, beggars and the destitute are exploited by the law. The fact that Koshish is trying to push the amendment of the act and that a new draft has already been submitted for scrutiny, speaks volumes about the dedication of the team. They hope that through this, they can make rules liberal and at the same time inclusive and non-exploitative.

After observing for sometime I realized that if a person is not in a position to successfully secure his basic right to food and shelter because of lack of livelihood opportunities, how many days will be able to afford basic sanitation and clean pair of clothes; and how many days will be able to resist the temptation of begging. This is something that our constitutional concept of freedom in civic society, should be questioned for.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2nd TISS INSTITUTIONAL Visit

INSTITUTION : Kripa Foundation
Mt. Carmel Church
81/A, Chapel Road, Bandra, Mumbai
AGENDA : Institutional Visit
TARGET GROUP : Alcoholics and Substance Abused
ISSUE : Health, Rehabilitation
NAME : Prasant Mohanty
ROLL NO. : 2009SW89
DATE/DAY : 29.06.09/ Monday

THE ORGANISATION

Since its inception in 1981, Kripa Foundation has gradually grown into the biggest NGO in India working in the area of chemical dependency. It was the brainchild of Padmashree Fr. Joe Periera who is also the Manage Trustee. They currently have centers in 11 states in the country (namely, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, West Bengal, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Assam, UP, Jharkhand & NCR. Since Kripa is affiliated to the Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India provides grants for its projects. This apart many National and International funding agencies also contribute to Kripa. The Mumbai centre based out of Bandra caters to alcoholics and drug addicts.

SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS

Kripa believes in a concept of ‘holistic rehabilitation’ where in the addict has to surrender himself/herself to the residential process that lasts for over three months. One aspect of the organization that I found really interesting was the ‘Disease Model’ of de-addiction where focus is on changes in lifestyle and abstinence. The model has seen lesser and lesser relapse rates over the years. Another reason for this improvement is the involvement of experiential counselors who were themselves addicts once upon a time. The methodology followed is a blend of Eastern (which include modules of Yoga, Meditation and Taichi) and Western techniques (like the 12 step program suggested by the Alcoholic Anonymous Body of the US).

The family intervention technique used by Kripa is a special mention. During the program they follow a family system therapy where its made sure that the family is brought at par to the developments of the inmate every week and is also interfaced with the patient twice a month to sort out differences and improve relationship. When the program for an inmate is over Kripa does a systematic post discharge follow up to enquire how the inmate has been coping up. All this is really important because outside the boundaries of Kripa, the inmates family is his/her true support and plays an important role in sustenance of sobriety of the inmate. There is however a downside to this model. Kripa is not able to solicit cases with poor/no family backing. The organization also claims that the Mumbai centre only get about 2 charity cases in a month. They added that the charity cases are either referred by a church or a politician and are approved by Fr Periera, the founder himself.

Offlately Kripa has diversified into HIV/AIDS awareness after realizing that a lot of cases of drug abuse are actively contributing to propagation of HIV infection as well. Programs like VRACS(VASAI Region AIDS Control Society) and ADAP(Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention Program) are mediums where paraprofessionals and per educators go out to communities and schools to campaign on issues of drug adiction and HIV infection.

LEARNING & REFLECTION

I am reflecting on the importance of institutions like Kripa Foundation in Mumbai based on the experiences that I have had in the last few days. After going through these moments I could really get a balanced perspective on the issue of chemical dependency and its impact of the youth and the affluent class of Mumbai.

‘On the evening of 19th July when I boarded the 505 shuttle from Bandra to TISS, I was unknowingly seated next to a gentleman who kept on insisting that he wanted to smoke. Minutes later he himself confessed that he was addicted to cocaine and took two liberal doses of the grey substance in the midst of the crowd.’

‘The very next day in when I was in queue for a railway ticket, I realized that people around me were intently watching a string of commercial coming on the flat screen TV’s all around me and it was about substance abuse and abstinence.’

It became very evident that the chemical dependency problem is gradually blowing out of proportion in Mumbai and organizations like Kripa will play a key role in sanitizing the addicts. I also came to understand that over the years, Kripa has been able to narrow down its target audience to only a certain class of patients which are mostly from well-to do-families and only marginalized in aspects of the trauma they face and their medical condition. On a more difficult and critical note I would like to outline some aspects of Kripa’s model which if taken care of, can be much more inclusive in terms of reach in numbers.

The dependency of the addict on a family or guardian by their side
The cost factor of the course and affordability (the course costs a minimum of Rs. 14000)
The channels adopted to refer a charity case
The focus on cure and not prevention
The mandate for inmates to discontinue practice of livelihood for the period of treatment

One reason for being disappointed was that most of the organizations that are working against chemical dependency follow a curative philosophy and not preventive(which is very prevalent in the West). Kripa’s harm minimization measures introduced in community settings are quite controversial. On a positive note, providing fresh needles and contraceptive protection for drug users is a novel way to check the spread of HIV infection but this can also provide a scope for the drug addicts to be more generous and reckless in their actions. Furthermore they can use the same freebies to lure people into drug usage.

Also it felt good to hear that Kripa is a very flat organization in terms of institutional hierarchy. But this statement was later followed by a very contradictory statement which gave hints of a possible one-man-show and underlying redtapism in the system. Having said all that and considering the amount of influence drugs and alcohol have on today’s youth, Kripa’s existing intervention model has got tremendous scope in all the geographic areas where their centers have sprung up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1st TISS INSTITUTIONAL Visit

INSTITUTION : Bombay Institute for the Deaf and the Mute
3, Nesbit Road, Opposite Mazagaon Court
Mazagaon, Mumbai 400010
AGENDA : Institutional Visit
TARGET GROUP : Children
ISSUE : Disability (Deaf and Mute), Education
NAME : Prasant Mohanty
ROLL No. : 2009SW88
DATE/DAY : 22.06.09/ Monday


THE ORGANISATION

Set against the serious foreground of the Mazagaon Court, the Bombay Institute for the Deaf and the Mute stands guard to a history of 175 years of devoted service to the hearing impaired, the deaf and the mute. When the institute started back in 1885 it was the first of its kind in Asia and today it caters to 175 students, 95% of whom come from the lower socio-economic strata of Urban and Suburban Mumbai. The institute that is funded by the Social Welfare department of the Govt. Of Maharashtra and by a handful of willing and generous organizations, conducts 3 fulltime programs in English, Hindi and Marathi that run till SSC level. The teachers of the institute have all received special training from the Ali Awar Jung Institute to impart education and life skills to the hearing impaired.

SIGNIFICANT ASPECTS

The Infrastructural aspects of the institute are what set them apart from the normal schools.
  • The classrooms are equipped with hearing aid equipment that is used to communicate with students.
  • Each student has his/her own personal hearing kit that put on to enhances their hearing capacity.
  • Another feature is the loop induction system which was donated to the institute by an organization few years back. It is an integrated operational arrangement of speakers, lights and bells spread across the whole Institute and can be found on the corridors, in the classes and the surroundings; and is controlled from the Principal's Office. It provides additional sensory experience for students to interpret basic information (for example, to know when a class ends or begins). This system is also used by the Principal to communicate any messages to all the class and to call upon a student or a facilitator.

LEARNING & REFLECTION

The Institute has over the period of 175 years tailored its organizational structure and has evolved into what has been demonstrated in the illustration given below which basically shows how control information flows. The institute caters to only to the hearing impaired and of both types, congenital & acquired. It has been noticed that a lot of students of the institute are from the Muslim community and their impairment is contributed primarily to the fact that they encourage marriages within kith and kin. The school is trying to sensitize parents about do and don’t’s to avoid and lessen such occurrences in the future. Also as majority of the students are from informal settlements in urban and suburban Mumbai and they commute varying distances to study in the institute. The Government does its bit by providing free public transportation to the students.

Learning for the specially-abled is a highly structured approach. The education system in this special institute is four fold. It caters to the following basic needs of the students.
(i) to provide life skills for self-identification and for identifying agents in the society that they need to interact with, for normal day-to-day living.
(ii) to help master at least one language that they can use for communication with the world around them
(iii) to provide opportunity to learn vocational skills for pursuing livelihood after the students are done with their education. and
(iv) to facilitate for psychological counseling and rehabilitation to the students
As evident from the above points, the techniques used to teach the students have been deeply thought after and are complex to interpret. They have been drawn from years of experience and learning.

The fact that the students have to go ahead and compete with the normal students and then with normal citizens under the same system, creates a pressure-cooker situation. This apart the discrimination that they face in the society and in their family, calls for timely psycho-social intervention. The students are taught to tame that feeling of agitation and the task for them is clearly cut out from day 1 of their induction. Infact work for them begins even before day one. The day they come to get admitted to the institute, they are routed to the Ali Awar Jung Institute to get an array of tests done to determine the degree of handicap (which includes the Audiogram and the IQ Report). This follows queuing up at the JJ Govt. Hospital to get the handicapped certificate. And these documents and reports form the basic criterion for entry into the institute.

For the student who is just a kid at that moment, this arduous process introduces him/her into the mainstream realities associated with being a handicap. In the institute however, the students are exposed to a rather caring system of learning. The education system is less taxing here and more task oriented that other conventional schools. Emphasis in the initial classes is laid on improving and mastering communication techniques that becomes a foundation for the education they would like to have. This apart, proficiency in vocational trades is absolutely mandatory for which a wide range of options are available to the students (like computers, type writing, screen printing, jewelry making, candle making, cookery, book binding & ornamental flower making etc). Having said that, since each student coping with this elaborate system also suffers from a different degree of disability and has IQ levels that differs from other, there is no system of dropouts. Only when a student masters the techniques required for one grade, is he/she allowed to go into the next grade. Also because the community outreach program is not so strong the school doesn’t get many new entries every year.

Pedagogy of Teaching : The whole idea of training the hearing impaired is to start helping them make use of their other working sense to the maximum. So students are initially taught to connect common words by the use of actions, images and objects. This is later combined with an advanced concept of ‘Total Communication’ in which two aspects are stressed upon. One, the Auditory Training and Two, the Lip Reading. The auditory training focuses on using whatever minimal voice or auditory abilities they have, to spell out alphabets etc using pitch modulation and vocal vibrations. Lip reading is perhaps the most important quality the students learn to master where they can connect to what others are saying. For imparting instructions a semicircular arrangement of seating is practiced in all classes which facilitates both the aspects of the total communication. There is use of microteaching methodology in which a teacher does not get more than 10 students to take care of, in a year. This ratio is lower in elementary classes. A lot of individual and group interactions happen amongst all the participants of the class (it teachers and students alike) which magnifies the learning experience. Another unique technique that they use to acquaint students with the practicality of day-to-day living is the ‘Interact Club’, where the students are given practical assignments to procure materials and essentials from the market for their vocational classes. Before they engage in assignments of this nature, they are taught how to transact using money. This exercise is however based on a structured approach that takes many years to connect to and master. For instance the students are first taught to recognize the material and means to identify and spell it to others, then to recognize the shop, and to communicate with the shopkeeper and then to use money to carry out the transaction.
Though the specially-abled students are trained through meticulously designed methods to compete with general student in the state board exams, there always remains that big gap in ideology between the kids of this school and the normal schools.

Role of the Social Worker :- I realized that the social worker is an integral and critical cog in the machinery of the institute. Sangeeta is the one and only social worker employed by the school. Like the teachers of the institute, she also draws her salary from the Social Welfare Dept.. The social worker takes care of the following aspects of the institute.
(i) Identifies prospective funding opportunities and pursues them as and when required.
(ii) Arranges for external medical, physiotherapic and counseling help for the students and the teachers
(iii) Helps in procurement of equipment for the school and hearing aid for the students and finds willing donors for the hearing aid (as they are a costly affair for the students to handle)
(iv) Supervises the process of admission and facilitates candidate scanning and background study
(v) Provides guidance to student by being a counselor
(vi) Finds out outreach opportunities for the students
(vii) Finds out avenues for family and community sensitization
(viii) Collaborates with external agencies like the Judiciary and Police
(ix) Analyzes timely reports of students and design remedial approaches for correction

As disturbing as it may sound, the position of Social Worker that had been introduced in mid 80’s back by the Government because of Mrs. Leena Kashyap’s intervention has now been dropped. So technically speaking there will be no successor to her when she quits the institute. Also it is worth noting that there is a vacant position of physiotherapist lying for many years together because of the poor salary structure. Also the institute currently requires mirrors for all the class rooms to help students practice lip-reading and other aspects of communication.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lord Protect My Child ...

The setting is truly one of a kind on this Mothers' Day. Its raining cats and dogs outside, as I review the introductory lines to my own ORKUT profile. In the background is that sweet voice of Susan Tedeschi', singing out loud the song 'Lord Protect My Child'. The song's positivity starts raising voices about the following lines (taken from my ORKUT profile).

"It was well past 10.30pm by then and I was taking the dark alleys on my way back home, when I spotted him playing next to a small pile of dirt. A strange sense of pity dawned upon me. I smiled at him, pulled the last piece of toffee out of my pocket, went and sat next to him. He snatched it from my hands in no time and resumed playing. “Appa came home drunk this evening and beat me with his chappal. I was so afraid, I came to my amaa...” was his reluctant reply to my first question.

I kept looking around trying to find her. “Where is she ?!?” I asked. He raised his finger and pointed at the gates of the cemetery. He silenced me, but he was happy. Like the tears from his eyes, the sorrows of the evening had subsided and the road to the cemetery had offered to nurse him for the night. I still can’t forget his face so visibly invisible behind the veil of the dust and dirt shining in the faint glow of a distant lone streetlight. He smiled at me. This is how I came to know Pinu…'My Reflections' "

Domestic violence drives thousands of adolescents and kids away from their own house every year. They end up in railway compartments cleaning around in exchange of dimes; in our streets with ragpicking sacks trying to find some saleable stuff in the trash that we throw; in railway underpasses begging for change and in even more unimainable conditions that cant be described. Sathi, an NGO that operates in 6 states across India rehabilitating kids from railway platforms, estimates that on an average the railway stations in Bangalore alone receive atleast 50 kids every week. And about half of these cases are direct or indirect consequences of domestic violence. In Bangalore there are ongoing efforts of NGO's like Bosco Mane and Sathi to rehabilitate these kids and to give them another life. In many cases a rehabilitation doesn't work as the kid remains unaccepted by the family even after many rounds of negotiations. And in others, there isn't anyone alive to claim the kid by the time his/her family is traced. In such cases these kids are groomed in vocational skills and made ready for a suitable souce of livelihood.

Very recently our CSR was approached by Sathi for a very critical volunteering assignment and inspite of knowing the healthy work standards and reputation of such skilled NGO's, the HR community dismissed this proposal to be too risky for employees to participate in. Its such a pity that in the midst of all this worldly chaos and commotion we seem to be doing well and we take pride in enjoying the weird insensitivity that we show towards social issues. I urge volunteers to rise to the occasion of supporting grassroot activities like these, because we have been given the resposibility of treading a path that is rarely taken by individuals like us.

If you wish to volunteer with Sathi then please do write to me.
http://www.sathi-india.org/index.html
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/sathi-helps-runaway-children-reunite-with-th/439632/

Thursday, April 30, 2009

About Her

In the March of 2007, on the Woman's Day I set out to write something that was based on my observations and ensuing inferences. I fished it out of my mailbox yesterday and I just hope that it does justice to the protagonist. This I had sent out to all my friends as well. Here it is...

'The day is coming to an end and I am attempting to phrase the words that have been revolving in my mind since a long time now. I still do not know how all this is going to impact you but I shall put them down.

For most of us these will be common everyday sightings - an infant clinging to her mother; a woman clenching the hands of a man who is sprawled on a stretcher waiting to be taken into the hospital; a kid holding his mothers finger and walking the distinguished walk of a believer; and yet another woman returning from work, waiting for the traffic signal to turn green with her scooter laden with groceries and vegetables. You might have had many more sightings of similar nature. For me each of these everyday’s sightings have brought me closer to a belief that there are angels all around us, each one so beautiful inside and so influential in her own simple ways.

By now majority of you would have approached the conclusion that this is definitely about Woman’s Day which falls on the 8th of March i.e. today. Trust me, there’s more to it. What I attempt to question today is, why everyone has to wait for this single day every year to feel and show how important the contribution of “The Angels” has been in shaping the world and more importantly the society. Should it not be a reason to celebrate every time a woman retaliates against an eve teaser? Should it not be a reason to celebrate every time a woman serves a meal for her family and should it not be a reason to celebrate every time a woman fights back at violence?

I firmly believe that a celebration must be in order every time a girl child is born to this world for she is bestowed with the amazing responsibility of becoming another "Angel". Let us celebrate Womanhood everyday for she really deserves it. May the Godness of the Angels descend upon each one us from this day on. God Bless All.'

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2AM, A Bisleri bottle & Birdcrap :)


"I seem to be enjoying the hymning of the mosquitoes tonight. The setting is desolate with a young couple thrown into it. They keep reappearing with an errie periodicity. They are afterall, circling the mighty Shivaji Park. I am thankful to myself for buying that one bottle of Bisleri and with every passing hour it is getting lighter. Parthajeet, a college time buddy is with me and we are having one of those long conversations about life and all the related stuff. I would fall asleep occasionally and then wake up to his blabbering again. On one such occasions I woke up smelling bridcrap on me. (There is an abundance of trees around Shivaji Park and certainly one chick up there liked me a lot). Yet again the Bisleri served its purpose. :) "

By now you would be questioning me as to why I was being such a jerk, out in a public park, in the middle of the night. To clarify, this for me was an opportunity to meet the bicycling folks of Mumbai, who do the monthly Critical Mass Ride. Renny and his folks were doing one of their mid-night rides in the city and were to drop in to Shivaji Park to meet me (I happen to be from the bangalore cycling community & me and nupur, another fellow cyclist started a popular movement called Critical Mass in Bangalore). So they arrived at 2am and then started all the chit chat and stunts on bicycles ;) and all that untill it was time for them to go ahead with their plans for the night. :)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

And meals to go before they sleep ...

'One lazy sunday afternoon while cleaning my closet, I chanced across a bunch of notebooks from my schooldays. I had to gather some courage to open them, for they had things far more important than knowledge...They had the smell of the days gone by and the emotions of an era that had passed me by.' The dust repels you but the urge is sustained. You flip through the pages and your are suddenly overwhelmed. It goes without saying that one of the best ways to remember your past is to go back to your old notebooks. The feeling that you get is unparalleled and at times ... emotional.

Not every one is lucky to have a moment like this. With no or limited access to notebooks, most kids in rural India and informal settlements of urban India, race across their childhood with just a bunch of broken pencils, halftorn books and cracked school slates. A lot has changed since the mid 90's. In September 2004, after the revision of NP-NSPE (National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education) into the currently run Mid Day Meal scheme, government and municipality schools across India did see significant rise in no. of kids. With nutrition as a good motivation for kids to come to school, has the purpose of the education system been defeated ??
With every academic year, teachers in these government institutions face the daunting dask of accommodating more kids. And they do so by compromising on the standards of academic excellence achieved. As a result, a typical 8th standard student of a government school is academically proficient only to compete with a 4th grader from a Public school. The marginally well-to-do and even poorer families are now choosing public schools over government ones. Do we have a take on it or are we just watching ?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

over puffs of solitude

I remembered those old days when I used to sneak out of the crowded by-lanes of my locality into a secluded spot by the railway tracks. It was an isolated spot with ample quantities of solitude, freedom and peace. I would relax there and let my thoughts wander around into the unknown depths of my mind.

The spot was just next one of those signal rooms. From where I used to sit, I would occasionally hear the ringing of the telephone in the signal room and the ensuing conversation, and then the mechanical shifting of the gears which changed the colours of the light glowing on the distant railway signal pole. A short while later a train would come rolling down with all its monotony and the guy in the signal room would appear at the windows waving the flag at the train. It wasn't the same guy all the time, but no matter who was in charge, I would see that guy responding to the flagbearer of every passing train with a distinctive big smile exposing his full array of gutka stained teeth. :) By observing these men, I was quite unknowingly being an eyewitness to some great human characteristics. Later on I imagined, "What if the guy misses his shift ?"; "What if there is no one to answer that phone ?"; "What if there is no one to change the tracks or change the lights ?". Everyday thousands of people put their lives in the hands of these responsible men who do their duty in the sheer boredom of a distant cabin.

So you see... my mind would endlessly flutter between thoughts, mostly vague and some useful. In the later years when my kid nephew was able to walk around a bit, I used to take him to the signal room so he could watch trains whizz past at high speeds. He would enjoy the occasional breeze that the trains brought and when he would get bored we would drive back home.

One fine late evening I was sitting there and was hearing this song : "Name" by GooGooDolls
"And even though the moment passed me by,
I still can't turn away
Cause all the dreams you never thought you'd lose,
Got tossed along the way
And letters that you never meant to send,
Get lost or thrown away..."

I just drifted back to my past. I could feel the change; I don't know if I could ever measure it or know if all of it was good or bad, but I had changed...I laughed at the thought of those times when I used to score perfect 100's in school science exams. Now I know how overjudgemental I was about my abilities in science :)

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