Quality Education

A Home-maker to a Successful Entrepreneur

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Swati Balkawade, Warje
Owner at Swati’s parlour

Swati, a young woman filled with joy, always aspired to be self-reliant. She could not continue her education after the 10th grade but that never stopped her from believing in her dreams. She is married in a well to do household. Her husband has a successful tourism company but Swati wanted to be financially independent.

She came to know about the Lighthouse from her neighbour and decided to join the Foundation course. Swati was enthusiastic about the course. She showcased diligence, sincerely took notes, and participated in all the activities.

After the completion of the Foundation Course, Swati enrolled herself in the beauty parlour course. After the basic course, Swati wanted to increase her domain knowledge and decided to enroll in the advanced beauty parlour course. Nutan- the Lighthouse Center head helped and guided her throughout her course and beyond.

On the completion of the course, Swati started working in a parlour. The appreciation she received at her work boosted her confidence to start her own parlour. She has worked hard to arrange for the finances she needed and started her own salon- Swati’s Makeover.

“The Lighthouse never stopped believing in me and my dreams. The team guided me throughout my journey and beyond.” – Swati

In the next few months, the pandemic hit the world and her business came to halt. This did not stop Swati, she started her online business of stitching clothes and that worked too. In August 2020, Swati re-opened her parlour and that parlour now also has a counter for ladies’ and children’s garments and cosmetics. Swati earns from her own enterprise and is self-dependent for all her financial needs.

The Lighthouses are designed with a holistic approach to empower the underprivileged by giving them an opportunity to turn their life around. The motive here is not only to help them gain financial stability but also to provide them with emotional support while they’re on the way to self-realization.

An Inspiring Transformation into a Quality Manager

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Pradnya Nagtilak, Warje
Quality Manager at Parle-G

Pradnya, an Arts graduate, currently lives with her family in Pune. Her father was the only earning member of the family who lost his job due to an accident and is now bed-ridden. Since the only source of income had stopped. The family faced immense difficulties. Due to the financial crisis, Pradnya was married early.

A few days after her marriage Pradnya realized her husband was an alcoholic. She faced domestic violence and was often beaten with an iron rod. After a few months, Pradnya finally gathered courage and left her husband’s home and started living with her parents again.

After realizing about Pradnya’s pregnancy, her parents and husband pressurized her to return to her husband’s home. She agreed to give her marriage a second chance for the sake of her child. Unfortunately, things got worse.

Pradnya confronted her family and with her father’s support, Pradnya could file a police complaint against her husband. Since she started living with her parents, she wanted to support them financially. Pradnya did many odd jobs but she had to quit working in 2018 due to her son’s serious medical condition.

In 2019, Pradnya was at her lowest when she joined the Lighthouse. After a few days, her facilitators observed that Pradnya was mentally disturbed. On learning about her past and current circumstances, Pradnya received special support and attention from the Lighthouse team. She was encouraged to take part in activities she liked. The Lighthouse witnessed her transform herself into a confident young woman by the end of the Foundation course.

Today, Pradnya has secured herself a job as a Quality Manager at Parle-G and with a salary that will help her support herself and her family with a comfortable life. She will begin working on 7th October 2020.

The Lighthouses are designed with a holistic approach to empower the underprivileged by giving them an opportunity to turn their life around. The motive here is not only to help them gain financial stability but also to provide them with emotional support while they’re on the way to self-realization.

From a Difficult Marriage to a Budding Beautician.

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Rekha Waghmare, Bibawewadi

Rakhee, the budding beautician never had it easy. She has experienced many set-backs in life one of which has been a marriage under false pretense. After facing domestic violence by her in-laws for a long time, she decided to get separated. Unfortunately, both her young children live with their father.

All this pushed Rakhee towards depression where she started having suicidal tendencies. Looking at her condition, her loved ones were looking for a spark of motivation for her to be happy again. On suggesting the Lighthouse program by one of her community members, she enrolled for the Foundation Course.

The Lighthouse program gave Rakhee a reason to look forward to something every day. Rakhee took a little time to adjust but with the support of the staff, she began to participate actively in all the activities conducted.
By the end of the Foundation course, she decided to sharpen her communication skills and language in English.

Rakhee enrolled herself in the Bindaas Bol English speaking course offered by the Lighthouse. During the counseling session, she showed an interest in the field of beauty and teaching. Taking this into consideration, the Lighthouse team encouraged her to enroll in the beauty parlor and a teaching course.

“I was on the verge of a breakdown and thought ending my life was the only solution. The Lighthouse gave me a reason to live, made me realize that it is always good in the world, we just have to see in the right direction.”- Rakhee

Rakhee aspires to start her own independent parlor one day. Her aim is to become financially independent and get custody of her children. She wishes to give her children a good education and make them better human beings. Currently, Rakhee is dedicated to her goals and is on her journey to make her dreams come true.

The Lighthouses are designed with a holistic approach to empower the underprivileged by giving them an opportunity to turn their life around. The motive here is not only to help them gain financial stability but also to provide them with emotional support while they’re on the way to self-realization.

Leading children into the future

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Mrs. Nakusa Pawar,
Buntar Barnard PMC School 58G

Born in a family where girls were not wanted or appreciated, Mrs. Nakusa Pawar is like a ray of sunshine. The name Nakusa means ‘unwanted’ in Marathi. Mrs. Pawar has made it her life’s mission to change that perception and spread warmth and happiness wherever she goes.

Under her leadership, the Hadapsar- Bunter Bernard school has really flourished. Mrs. Pawar leads from the front and is a hands-on headmistress. She knows every single child in the school and is aware of their progress and challenges. She observes classes and even teaches herself from time to time. She is always willing to step in and fill any gaps in the school when teachers are on leave. She conducts the morning school assembly and ensures that a diverse variety of ideas are implemented – from songs, to poetry and discussions on history and great leaders.

Mrs. Pawar proactively supports any initiative for the betterment of the school and her children. The Jeevan Shikshan – Social and Emotional Learning program has flourished in her school due to her leadership.

Teaching children, changing lives.

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Mrs. Surekha Bhalerao
Sitaram Abaji Bibwe
PMC School No 64B

Mrs. Surekha Bhalerao is a teacher to her core. She not only aims to see her students excel academically but also to be better human beings. Her continuous efforts to teach students in innovative ways has earned her the love and respect of all her students. Even after the students leave the schools she has taught in, they have stayed in touch with her.

Mrs. Bhalerao welcomed the Jeevan Shikshan Social and Emotional learning program as she intuitively understood the benefits it would have on her children. The sessions are conducted patiently, giving each child space to speak and participate.

Due to COVID-19, the schools have been closed since March 2020. But Mrs. Bhalerao’s 7th-grade class has not been defeated by the pandemic. Education for her children has continued through Whatsapp in an iterative process. She first posts lesson explanations through voice notes and videos where she teaches using a whiteboard. Then she responds to queries received from children. Some homework is also posted. Children do their work, take pictures, and post it back on the group. Mrs. Bhalerao has innovatively used markup tools to correct the work and send it back to her students. She ensures she responds to each and every message she gets. The class is active from 8 pm to 11.30 pm and that doesn’t restrict her in any way.

She firmly believes that a teacher can bring about monumental changes in the lives of students and shows the way herself.

Mentoring teachers, learning together

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Mrs. Vijaya Mahadik

The textbooks for grade 2 were revised at the end of the previous academic year to focus on activity-based learning. One of the Sahyogis, Vijaya Mahadik, realized that the teachers needed guidance to use the updated versions of the textbooks.

Vijaya took the initiative to study the revised curriculum and guidelines for Math & Marathi during the summer break. She designed a progression of modules of learning activities for teachers to use along with the textbooks. With the inputs from three other Sahyogis (Savita Mahajan, Sunita Pingat, and Nivedita Barnabas) and approval from Mrs. Shubhangi Chavan, DEO, a complete set of training modules were created.

These modules were to support the teachers of Grades 1 & 2 through training and classroom support. This was an important milestone for the project because of the ownership shown by the Sahyogis in creating a teacher’s support module.

Teacher-Trainers : The Champions of Children

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The Kothrud-Karvenagar cluster trainings are a great culmination of pre-planning, teamwork and flawless execution. This is what the Sahyogis explain about the training process: “We all meet together before conducting any training so that we can pre-plan. We divide the sessions amongst ourselves and discuss. One day prior to the training, we check the training hall and arrange for the logistics. We even check the toilets and make sure that they are clean. We ensure a conducive environment for our participants (teachers) so that they feel comfortable and can concentrate on the training. Having a circular seating arrangement helps us to improve participation and audience connect. Our trainings are very participatory and the teachers really have a good time while learning. The most striking feature of our trainings is that even if we have divided the topics and conducted sessions accordingly, we all back each other during the question-answer sessions. When one of us is conducting a session, the other is a support for the presenter to help with logistics and the rest (two) of us who are free at that point note down our observations for that day’s training regarding what went well and what can be improved. Post the training, we discuss our observations and reflections. This helps us improve and deliver better every time.”

The Shikshak Sahyogi Dal comprises 50 “Teacher-Coaches” who are being trained intensively by PMC and Pune City Connect. In turn, they provide training and classroom support to over 1500 teachers across PMC schools.

Story of Vijaya Mahadik, a Sahyogi

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Vijaya Mahadik’s perfection, enthusiasm and investment stands out in the program. Here she shares her experience of teaching Saksham-


“As a part of planning my Saksham lessons, I thoroughly read the content and took my own notes.  Thinking about the topic I wanted to take up in the class, I broke it down into subtopics. I thought about the objectives of my lesson, what I see my students doing in the lesson to achieve those objectives and the requisite material for the lesson. By preparing the material beforehand in sufficient quantity, I ensured that every student and group gets it. During the lesson, I observed that students really like the individual attention they are getting and I continued the practice even though it is a small act like glancing through each student’s notebook. Post the lesson, I reflected about what went well today and what I can do better tomorrow. During that time, Sahyogis had the additional responsibilities hence we could not do a whole group reflection, which I feel could have helped us more to understand about everyone’s experience. Teaching Saksham has helped me in understanding how this program would actually look like in the classroom, preparation a teacher should do for the lessons and post teaching reflections. This would support me in supporting the teachers in implementing Saksham.“

The Shikshak Sahyogi Dal comprises 50 “Teacher-Coaches” who are being trained intensively by PMC and Pune City Connect. In turn, they provide training and classroom support to over 1500 teachers across PMC schools.

Story of Mrs. Afreen Sheikh

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Meet Mrs. Afreen Sheikh, a young and energetic Head Master of PMC School No. 22 who joined the school around the same time as the start of the SIP (School Improvement Project).
Her initial days as a school leader were difficult and she used to struggle to manage the school and the staff. In a candid conversation with the Academic Coordinator, she expressed a desire to improve her leadership skills and overcome her inhibitions. On a personal front, she wanted to become a great public speaker. Through her grit, dedication and passion for children’s education, there was a quick turnaround.
She applied what she learned at ISLI* workshops continuously. From being shortlisted in  the top 100 Design For Change projects across the country in 2017 to engaging parents by using WhatsApp to resolving conflicts between staff members, her school has been a benchmark amongst the 15 SIP schools since a year now. She continues to push herself to be better and in turn improves the quality of education for her students.

Through the School Improvement Project, PMC and Pune City Connect are working with the Headmasters, Balwadi teachers (LKG & UKG), Teachers (classes I to VIII) and Social workers, in 15 PMC schools, in order to enable holistic school development.

* ISLI – India School Leadership Institute offers a 2 year city Fellowship programme for school leaders of government schools. Mrs. Sheikh has been a part of this programme.