THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2013   PAGE  6


IT'S PAYBACK TIME:As Secretary of A.P. Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society,

Dr. R.S. Praveen Kumar has ushered in sweeping changes to transform the lives of these underprivileged children:— Photo: G. Ramakrishna


Mind it, he didn’t cop out... he just dug deep

Wonder what a cop is doing in Social Welfare Residential Schools? . And Dr. R.S. Praveen Kumar is certainly not one of the typical khaki men you come across. This IPS officer is in the Social Welfare Department by choice and not by chance. Yes, he wants to ‘pay back’ to the department whose beneficiary he is.

Dr. Kumar, who recently did a Masters degree from Harvard University, requested Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy to give him an opportunity to serve the department. And in less than a year, he has brought in sweeping changes, unforeseen before. As Secretary, APSWREIS, Dr. Kumar has ushered in the transformation by visiting every school and interacting with teachers on a continuous basis.

Panacea for all problems

“I strongly believe that good education is the panacea for all problems and teachers are the key,” says Dr. Kumar who has handled many sensitive assignments in the police, including the elite Greyhounds. Though his parents were teachers, they had a humble beginning. His mother Premamma used to do ‘coolie’ work. But luckily, she was rescued as child labour by Christian missionaries and admitted to Roman Catholic Mission School in Kurnool. Later, she became a teacher. His father Savaranna also had a tough life. Having gone through all the pain and anxiety, Dr. Kumar doesn’t want other kids to suffer.

But his high spirits were dampened when he saw the quality of pedagogy and aspiration levels of the students. Despite excellent results year after year, students remained unemployed or settled for low paid jobs. “This made me burrow deeper for the reasons,” says Dr. Kumar, a recipient of President of India medal for internal security.

Stifling learning system

The problem, he found out, was to do with the ‘stifling’ teaching learning environment. Though teachers were brilliant, they lacked motivation and had difficulty teaching in English. “The P5 strategy brought in change with comprehension, confidence and leadership levels going up. I believe teachers are the key. Without trusting and empowering them we cannot usher in any new change in education,” says Dr. Kumar.

I strongly believe good education is the panacea for all the problems and teachers are the key. Without trusting and empowering them we cannot usher in any change in education.



Tough get going

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Helping them in this arduous task is Dr. R.S. Praveen Kumar, secretary, A.P Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (APSWREIS). Within 10 months of assuming charge, Dr. Kumar has, sort of, breathed new life into this gargantuan organisation with 1.6 lakh students studying in 294 schools spread all over the State. Credit also goes to Raymond Peter, Principal Secretary, Social Welfare, for extending support to the new initiatives. If numbers are anything to go by, one can see them in the SSC and Intermediate results. The boys and girls have notched up an impressive 94.25 percent in the just announced SSC results and in senior Intermediate it is a comfortable 84.78 percent.

But numbers don’t tell the complete story – certainly not the students’ resolve, the burning of midnight oil and their unputdownable spirit to come up in life. What matters to Dr. Kumar are not results but the quality of results. “I am worried about equipping children with life skills and employable skills,” he says, referring to the scores of youth who have failed to land jobs despite acquiring degrees. Education is helping the child realise his potentialities. A slew of measures are being employed to make this happen. The P5 strategy introduced by Dr. Kumar has paid off. It is essentially about addressing five areas: teacher empowerment, creation of good learning environment, promoting competition, utilising technology and involving the community. Teachers are the most important stakeholders in the system but sadly there is no recognition and no effort made to improve their skills. Addressing this problem was half the battle. An MoU with Eflu resulted in training of 120 teachers and brushing up their English communication skills.

Competitive spirit

The ‘boot camp’ approach also proved to be a big success. No, it is not the strenuous way the military conducts its boot camps but one where everyone is required to perform to a highly competent and dependable level. The camps helped teachers explain their problems and children too shared their experiences. This is not all. The zonal academic review meet also did its bit in making teachers more accountable. While student academic monitoring system led to improved performance, the zonal science fairs roused their scientific temper.

A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit. That’s what Dr. Kumar has done. He has ignited their little minds with big ideas. Switching the medium of instruction from Telugu to English was the best thing that could have happened to them. Children were encouraged to speak in English and give up dependence on rote learning. The Mana TV reach was extended from 11 schools to all the 294 schools. Best of teachers and inspiring personalities were roped in to address the children – a case of leveraging technology. The alumni of the social welfare residential schools were also brought in to tell their own success stories. So meticulous has been Dr. Kumar in enthusing the students that he has not even wasted the front and back space of the 25 lakh notebooks freely distributed to them. The covers carry pictures of successful alumni, a 10-point code of conduct and useful information on career. All this have had a positive impact on the children and they also put in their sincere efforts ably aided by the teachers. Result – today there is mad clamour for admissions in these schools. There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. Dr. Kumar and his team tried to be both.



YES TEACHER, IT'S ALL HAPPENING:Some students engage themselves in group discussions, some analyse a problem, while some find out issues in newspapers, cut and paste the clippings on a chart.-Photo: G. Ramakrishna



It’s a summer camp with a difference. Th ere are a dozen-odd activities going on here and everyone is into everything. What each boy is trying to acquire is life skills and leadership qualities. The Social Welfare Residential School at Cherial in Warangal district is busier than a beehive. As many as 454 students from 75 schools across the State are acquiring skills which prepare them for the challenges ahead.

Udai Kiran of Visakhapatnam is now confident of solving day-to-day problems. He knows all about negative peer pressure and how to tackle it. Kranti Kumar of Velugunta in Prakasam district talks about the ill-effects of drug abuse while his friend Sai Teja lists out the consequences of early marriage. There is an overwhelming response for the 10-day ‘Mega Summer Leadership Camp-2013,’ which is going to conclude on Friday. It has succeeded in teaching students what they generally don’t learn in the classroom.

Ambassadors of change

“The idea is to make them ambassadors of change in their respective schools and communities in the years to come,” says Praveen Kumar.

It is energy unplugged at the summer camp. The boys are spread all over the place. Some are engaged in group discussions, some trying to analyse a problem while a few are busy trying to identify problems facing adolescents. “The boys discuss the problem among themselves and come out with a solution,” says Indrajeet Sinha, who has come all the way from Assam to impart life skills. A total of 15 trainers from Manipur, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been requisitioned to empower the students. For girls, separate summer camps are planned from May 27 to June 11 at Goulidoddi in Gachibowli, Kurnool and Rudravaram. Voice 4 Girls, an American NGO, will impart leadership skills among girls and prepare them for independent thinking.













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