Archive for November, 2016

Angan SOLE

The full import of the relevance of Taratai’s [Taratai Modak] ‘Aanganwadi’ and ‘Kuranshala’ [Meadow School] came to me only when I became professionally involved in the field of Early Childhood Education in the late 1970’s. Till then, especially as a child, it was something that I only heard my mother talk about, sometimes with Taratai herself. And visiting an aanganwadi was a holiday treat at Kosabad…

But the full potential of what could be done if the Aanganwadi concept was combined with SOLEs and the Granny Cloud was an idea that steadily grew as I had my first experiences with the Hole-in-the-Wall Kiosks in Sindhudurg [specially at Shirgaon 1999], and subsequently the first Indian SOLE labs in Hyderabad [2008-2009]. It was then that The Granny Cloud was born from Sugata’s [Sugata Mitra] idea of bringing in native English speakers to engage the children in conversation; simultaneously encouraging  the learning of a language and developing their abilities to question and explore and search. The SOLEs and the Granny Cloud continued to evolve emerging into the concept of the School in the Cloud with Sugata’s being awarded the TED Prize in 2013.

It was the ethos on which the original SOLE labs and the Granny Cloud were built that brought these two ideas together in my mind. It was the desire to reach children in disadvantaged settings/locations, with minimal, sometimes no resources [material as well as in terms of ‘trained’ persons].

The concepts of the SOLEs [www.theschoolinthecloud.org ] and the Granny Cloud [www.thegrannycloud.org ] are delightfully simple and doable and extremely effective even in well-resourced settings with every facility under the sun available to them. Because the context of working in collaboration, drawing upon the vast, unending resource of the internet is not only natural and relevant to the way we live, it is necessary for us to function effectively in the future ahead.

Taratai embodies for me a school of thought that chose deliberately to work in some of the hardest contexts of remoteness and disadvantage; a school of thought that took in the best of many other thinkers and philosophers [Montessori, Froebel, Dewey and Tagore included]. It embodies an independence in thinking that brought together many ideas in a way that was feasible and relevant for the disadvantaged contexts for which they were conceived.

In Taratai’s days, the internet was still way ahead in the future… today it is ever present. But the past and the future are connected; and we build on what came before. Hence the idea of the Aangan SOLE. The Granny Cloud will soon [in December 2016] be launching the first Aangan SOLE ever! SAMIDHA has been running, a small stand-alone SOLE for several years in an urban slum in Pune, and it has been harder and harder to run given financial constraints and community scepticism. Hence, Aangan SOLE! Grannies will skype in with the help of volunteers; and children will gather around a donated laptop around which ever ‘katta’ or open space available; even under a tree…

The trial [end November 2016] went well… 2 great ideas come together. Let’s see what lies ahead…


Note: The word ” Aangan’ literally means courtyard in Marathi. India’s ICDS programme uses Taratai’s aanganwadi concept as a way to reach preschool age children and mothers across the country. Taratai and her team would set up ‘school’ in courtyards in far flung village hamlets and called it an aanganwadi, or when set up in a meadow for older children so as to reach the children of shepherds a ‘kuranshala’. A long overdue tribute to her subtle impact on my life…


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