It may be a tiny research lab, but Kalkaj in Delhi certainly packs a lot in. There are almost daily Granny Cloud sessions and a seemingly endless stream of visitors since it opened two years ago.
Located in a government girls’ school just a stone’s throw from the original Hole in the Wall, this lab is helping to give young people the opportunity to aim high.
Sometimes I find it’s better to leave others to say the words for you and when that individual is Jaya, who has firm views about how she wants to change the world, it’s a no-brainer.
This short interview above, taken from footage by filmmakers Dan Oxenhandler, Will Sloan and Alfred Birkegaard, perfectly illustrates how much a SOLE lab means to children like Jaya, who are inspired to aim high thanks to this interaction.
And it’s not just the children who have benefited from this experience over the past two years, many members of the Granny Cloud also Skype in regularly and love taking sessions here. “From the very beginning they were a bubbly, enthusiastic group displaying a lot of confidence,” says ‘granny’ Edna Sackson, who is based in Melbourne, Australia. “They were able to understand my English and my accent and many responded well in full sentences. It’s great to see how they work collaboratively and offer each other support.”
Sunita Lama, who is based in Dubai, echoes these sentiments. “The Granny Cloud session is always such a boost for a teacher like me and the reason is the innocent effort of each child to participate,” she says. “Though they are young minds, I like to challenge them because critical thinking and analysis are important skills and with so much knowledge available, I personally feel there should be no limitations drawn, especially if it is probing into topics that will benefit them. It is lovely seeing a young bunch of enthusiasts and interacting – these young girls have a lot of eagerness and zeal.”
The children using this lab are in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Although the school is Hindi medium, one section is English medium across all classes and it’s this group that uses the SOLE lab.
Children coming to the school are from the lower socio economic classes, whose mothers are either domestic helpers or housewives. The parents’ educational level is also very low.
Kajal Gupta has been the local co-ordinator at this lab since last July. She says she has seen a big change in herself as well as the girls, despite it taking some time for them to feel comfortable and realize that she wasn’t going to tell them what to do like a teacher would! “I am very happy to be a part of this project because it is amazing to bring improvement in the students like this,” she says.
Kajal has seen the girls’ confidence and self-assurance grow tremendously, so much so that they are unfazed by the many media crews and VIP guests who regularly turn up to find out more about the SOLE lab. Every day there are usually granny sessions in the lab and Kajal finds that the students would much rather study there than anywhere else in the school, despite its size!
In the ASER tests of English reading comprehension, early research shows an improvement of nearly 10% on the baseline a year ago.
Kalkaji SOLE is located in a government school for girls. The school runs in the morning, as the premises are shared with the boys who attend school in the afternoons. It is among the smallest of the School in the Cloud labs, with a handful of computers, one of which is connected to Skype during Granny Cloud sessions. The girls who use the SOLE are typically 11-15 years-old from the lower socio-economic classes who attend the English section of an otherwise Hindi medium school.