Children to demonstrate projects at Civic Fest finals

The finals of the Bala Janaagraha civic festival is going to be conducted at Devraj Urs Auditorium, Millers Tank Bund Road, Vasanth Nagar, Bengaluru, on Saturday, January 18, 2014. A press note from Bala Janaagraha team gives more details:

Bala Janaagraha is a uniquely designed, carefully thought out civic education program conducted for Grade VIII students of government, aided and private schools in Bangalore. Our vision is to transform today’s children into active citizens of tomorrow.

The curriculum is different from the standard civic lessons taught in schools. In the curriculum designed by Bala Janaagraha the student becomes the primary actor and catalyst for change. This is reflected in the teaching methodology, which promotes creative thinking, problem-solving and open-ended activities with its primary focus on the local community.

The idea of sustainability, equitable provision of solutions forms the basis of the new resource book ‘I Change My City’. The aim of the programme is to promote and sustain active citizenship and change. Any change in the behaviour of students because of the Bala Janaagraha program must be sustained over time, through the future actions of the individuals and the presence of a platform such as www.ichangemycity.com

At the end of the implementation of the Bala Janaagraha programme, a student acquires the skills of explaining quality of life in the context of local governance of their cities, active citizenship, identify those who implement policies, and apply this knowledge in a practical manner.

The final objective would see that students taking part in the program would be more informed and involved in active citizenship and participatory democracy than those who did not. As an ancillary outcome, it is hoped that through this knowledge building initiative, the youth will be emboldened to take first steps towards active citizenry. In the long run, a possible multiplier effect will lead to the creation of youth leaders, who will be agents of change in their homes and in their neighborhood, by being catalysts for civic participation.

Since inception, the program has reached out to more than 30,000 students. After 10 years, we have scaled to 11 cities (Bangalore, Hyderabad, Patna, Pune, Ludhiana, Mumbai, Chennai, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Nagpur) and eventually aspire to be part of a national syllabus. All this has been made possible through the successful partnerships with major donors.

The program is administered from June/July to January/February each year and is monitored by a team, headed by two Managers and supported by a group of Facilitators across Partner schools, ably assisted by Bala Janaagraha Mitras (BJMs). These BJMs are Volunteers, who are active members engaged in local governance issues from the communities where Partner schools are located or Volunteers from establishments such as Corporates, Educational Institutions (including Teachers/retired teachers from Partner Schools).

First, a baseline survey is conducted to assess civic awareness. This is followed by classes to cover the course book curriculum. The e-module sessions enable learning through online and offline games. The highlight of the programme is the Civic Project –an out-of-school activity and this is followed by the Civic Fest, where students apply their learning in a practical, tangible manner.

The students participate in researching on a civic issue that impacts their community and come up with solutions for their problems. The civic project thus aims to inform, involve and engage the students in the exploration of civic issues directly related to their community and neighborhoods and wherever possible, proposes innovative, simple and practical solutions while working with the elders, teachers, classmates and officials of various departments as well as the elected representatives.

Civic project for the year 2013-14:

This year’s civic project will encourage the students to understand the value of urban planning and the various factors which form the basic focus of city plans. The children will choose one road near their schools or home (residential or school neighbourhoods), carry out a survey, analyse the road andunderstand its positives and negatives and find solutions to its problems.

The road will also be given a road quality score by the children. They will measure the road, its width and length, and interview the residents, businesses, experts, officials –all those who use the road, live on that road, and conduct business on that road or those who are in-charge of the maintenance of the road.

All the survey work will be conducted either after school hours or on the weekend. At the end of the project work, they will submit a written report as well as prepare a power point presentation summarizing the work done, including their findings and solutions proposed. It’s been a tremendous year with nearly 11000 students coming out with around 900 projects.

Civic Fests – a platform at which, students present their work and views from throughout the year and are recognized for their efforts accordingly. There are 3 levels:

i. The Mini Civic Fests (for Bangalore) for a cluster of 10 schools each are held in December.

ii. The City level finals will be held on 18 January 2014.

iii. The National fest, a first this year, will be in Bangalore on 7 February 2014. From 2013-14, the National level Civic Fest will be followed by a Principals’ meet / seminar. This is being held on 8th February 2014 at Bangalore.

Some Important links:
1. Janaagraha website: www.janaagraha.org
2. Bala Janaagraha on I Change My City: http://www.ichangemycity.com/groups/bala-janaagraha
3. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BalaJ.Page
4. Link to the e-version of the book: http://janaagraha.org/files/I-Change-my-City.html

This is published under Message Forward service by Citizen Matters, a space meant for non-profit public service messages from individuals and organisations.

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