Date: 28th – 30th Jan 2019
Place: Shirali and Mallapur villages, Uttar Kannada, Karnataka state, India
1. Srivalli High School, Shirali (Std 8th and 9th) – 270 students
2. Siddhartha English Medium High School, Shirali (Std 8th and 9th) – 210 students
3. Siddhartha Degree College (BSc) – 90 students
4. Guruprasad High School, Mallapur (8th, 9th, 10th class) – 195 students
Number of participants: 765 students and several teachers
I hail from rural Karnataka, and hence, decided to take the Foldscope to schools in and around my native village. The villages are so disconnected from the arterial roads in the area that DHL charged ‘extra-remote delivery’ fees to delivery Foldscopes to Shirali. I also put together a kit consisting of Foldscope accessories that the students could use: a glass slide, forceps, scissors, cellotape and a dropper. My friends, Siddharth Baindur from Mumbai (Scientist, Biocon, Bangalore), and Hrishikesh Tavanandi (PhD scholar, CFTRI, Mysore) and his wife Anagha from Mysore, and my 74-year old mother joined me in this venture. They were all adept at conversing in Kannada, a must-have skill as the students we were going to interact with spoke and understood very little English. Hats off to their enthusiasm! Hrishikesh even suggested that we make large-size colour photocopies of the Foldscope assembly sheet so that we would be able to demonstrate the folding to a huge audience, and what a brilliant idea that was! I also carried my own laptop and a portable microphone-speaker system to facilitate easy instructing.
We had a whirlwind 4-day tour, and were completely blown away by the enthusiastic and proactive participation of the students, teachers, school principals (and even our rented vehicle driver) in the sessions. One of the schools had just 1 functional(?) compound light microscope that was brought out only during the 10th class final examination. The students were not allowed to touch it, they were simply to identify its parts and their function from afar. The junior classes were not even allowed to see it. The Principal of that school had tears in his eyes when we gifted the school Foldscopes. He conveyed his heartfelt gratitude that his children (as he addressed his students) now would be able to study microbiology and not have to simply hear about it. (This very same Principal and his staff start their day at 5am daily, visiting the labourer and migrant worker parents in the village and nearby areas to ensure that they send their children to school, and not to work in the brick quarries nearby. What commitment towards education!)
I can write a tome about my experiences on this outreach trip, but I will let the images and the video put together by Siddharth do the talking. Suffice to say that we all feel extremely grateful and happy at having enabled over 650 school students and their teachers in the tiny hamlets of Shirali and Mallapur in extra-remote Karnataka to view the microscopic world. It has been a very humbling experience and all of us came back with a feeling of immense gratefulness for the privileged education we have received in urban India. I must take this opportunity to thank Head Mistress Smt Mamata Bhatkal, Srivalli High School, headmaster Shri M T Gowda, Guruprasad High School, Mallapur, Shri Sujnan Baindur, Siddhartha Education Trust, Shri Mangesh Chickermane, Shri Narayan Mallapur and his team at Shri Chitrapur Math, Srivalli, for their unconditional cooperation and for facilitating our stay and food at the villages. Our humble salutations to Swami Sadyojat Shankarashram, the 11th Pointiff of Shri Chitrapur Math, under whose spiritual guidance and relentless efforts towards community service, the villages in Uttar Kannada are starting to flourish and rise above poverty (http://www.parijnanfoundation.in/).
We know for sure that the gift of 160 Foldscopes to the three schools and a college in these two villages is going to benefit them greatly. Thank you DBT- Prakash Lab Foldscope India Phase I for giving me this opportunity to reach out and make a difference where it counts.