About the organization
The vision of Apni Shala is to build social and emotional competencies among individuals to constructively engage with society and have a harmonious coexistence. Our mission is to increase access to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) for the larger community. Apni Shala’s work is positioned at the intersection of education and mental health. Mental Health, within the ambit of our work, is understood as a state of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. Our initiatives are aimed at students in educational systems, with a primary focus on public education systems. We make efforts to develop awareness about SEL competencies. To this end, we undertake psychosocial therapy and counseling, as appropriate. This excludes medical intervention. More specifically, we aim to:
- Capacitate educators to be SEL facilitators: This goal aims that adults will be able to lead and facilitate SEL sessions and learning opportunities. “Educators” may include teachers, counselors, principals, education officers, student teachers, caregivers, or anyone who is supporting the learning and growth of students in educational environments. This goal is operationalized by all projects at Apni Shala.
- Develop and implement a wholesome SEL curriculum and evaluation framework: This goal aims at building appropriate resources to facilitate SEL’s execution and outreach. The word “wholesome” implies students’ skill development. It also implies systemic changes in the educational ecosystem, be it class, school, community, and policy, for reducing potential triggers for mental health distress. Such triggers might include bullying and discrimination.
- Advocate with the government for SEL-related policy interventions: This explicitly involves speaking and writing in favor of SEL, and making recommendations for the wider promulgation of SEL.
We work in the L, M-west, and M-east wards of Mumbai in the specific locales of Kurla, Chembur, Tilak Nagar, Govandi, and Mankhurd.
Wipro is currently supporting the Systemic SEL Design Project (SSP) at four of Apni Shala’s partner Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) schools. As part of our systemic approach to SEL, we’re developing and implementing a 3-year capacity-building project in identified partner MCGM schools. The objective is for teachers to independently facilitate sessions on SEL and create SEL-integrated learning opportunities in their regular classes.
Additionally, we aim to build an SEL-aligned school ecosystem. Broadly, this project includes identifying a cohort of teachers, facilitating the building of their own SEL competencies, and ongoing training to deliver SEL sessions through guided observations, co-facilitations, coaching, and personal reflections.
The project is currently operational at Chembur Naka Mumbai Public School, Ganesh Baug English School, Mohili Village Hindi School, and Tilak Nagar Mumbai Public School.
Learnings and challenges over the past year
We have developed the following insights from our review of the strategic plan 2018-23:
- Social-emotional learning can happen only when it’s structured through experiential learning practices. Some modules that are currently being offered need revision from an experiential learning point of view.
- Time and repeated practice with SEL determine actual social-emotional learning and development. Hence the design of weekly/daily sessions as opposed to 1-week intensive workshops is more useful for SEL work.
- When Human Resource policies are value-aligned, it produces a safe culture for staff/ team. In Apni Shala’s case, the values in question involve compassion, equity, and trust. This in turn creates an SEL-aligned knowledge, skills, and mindset for a team geared at facilitating SEL for students and communities.
- Building government partnerships takes consistency and time. Having worked with government schools for the last 10 years, the team recognizes the criticality of consistency and time invested in building ground-up and top-down partnerships for effective systemic change in public schools.
- The starting point for SEL facilitators and academic facilitators is different. Since SEL facilitators very often learn about SEL while they are also facilitating it, their starting point as a worker is different from academic teachers, who to some extent would have studied the subject they are teaching in their schools and colleges. Hence, the time to be allocated for planning, execution, and reflection for SEL facilitators must be thought about differently.
- The class size plays a huge barrier in effective teaching-learning. Many schools in Mumbai have a teacher-student ratio of 1:40 / 1:50. For effective SEL-aligned learning, a useful and effective size could be 1:25.
Plan for the next 1-3 years
The Apni Shala team is currently building a strategic plan for 2024-29. This is being done as a whole organisation process where different team members from all departments are involved in various capacities. The team aims to also include student voices in the strategic planning. For 2023, the team has built a year-long plan based on the current strategic plan (2018-23).