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Lessons from my internship

On my first day at Leadership for Equity (LFE), I was thrown head-first into a situation, which I only learnt the nuances of a few weeks later into my internship! I met my superior, Anamta Farooq, at Balbharati, Pune and she had to leave for some urgent work soon after the meeting started. I, therefore, for the rest of the day, attended meetings where Marathi medium digital textbooks were being reviewed by Board of Studies members and provided my feedback based on a rubric that I quickly familiarised myself with. This was the beginning of my journey at Leadership for Equity. I have primarily been a part of two projects as an intern at LFE. The first one being the e-balbharati project. Balbharati is a semi-autonomous organization that creates content and publishes textbooks for state government schools across Maharashtra. LFE is the Project Management Unit (PMU) for the e-balbharati project which is creating digital textbooks to complement their learning materials. This project is in its pilot stage, where it is first focused on releasing the first three chapters for Grade 10 and will then continue with the rest of the chapters and grades. As a part of my role, I have helped with the management of this project that includes communicating with the vendors and the administration at Balbharati to effectively guide the project and check for quality throughout the process. I have been fortunate to have always been treated as an equal and be given responsibilities that have allowed me to have freedom and independence to work with all the different stakeholders in this project in different capacities. Working with the vendors and the administration at Balbharati has been an experience of growth and overcoming many hurdles. I have learnt how to handle the uncertainty of situations, especially when the final outcome is not in your hands and depends on a number of different factors. Some examples of this are when we have needed vendors to use trackers that we have created for them or tried to arrange meetings with BOS members for their training. It has been a gradual ascent to the final release of the first three chapters and though I could not see the completion of this project, I hope that my work has contributed in bringing us closer to our goal. I also had an opportunity to work with the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation vertical at LFE. I have been involved with data transcription and analysis of data collected from the Khed district. Khed is a primarily rural district in Maharashtra located approximately 30 ks from Pune city. Looking through large U-DISE (a governmental database about school enrollment and resources) data sheets has not only helped improve my excel technical skills but also my understanding of the current condition of schools in this particular district. I have enjoyed analysing the data to find the gaps in our current public schools and how that is linked to different factors. Some such factors include where it is located, whether it is funded by the government or privately, and what the gender and social class dynamics are. Sometimes, the analysis has been extremely shocking such as there being no functional toilets in schools with over 300 students. However, this would be the first step in eventually providing aid to the region and looking for the aspects where the schools need the most help. There have also been times when I have been very pleasantly surprised such as when the data for the tribal areas shows that most schools have virtual classrooms, even in the smallest of villages. I also helped with conducting interviews and shadowing an education officer for a needs analysis to understand the ground realities and challenges that different officers face so that the necessary training can be given to them. This project was very interesting as I got to go into the field and visit schools myself while shadowing the Extension Officer of Karad. I learnt a tremendous amount about her challenges, the understaffed educational sector, and the way in which schools are evaluated. This data will be used to design the scope of content for training programs for such officers to help them become more efficient and give them skills that they currently lack. The last two months have gone by much faster than I expected. Looking back, I have been fortunate to work within both these different areas as it has given me a more rounded learning experience of the kind of work that the organization does. Also, both the verticals have taught me different skills, both technical and practical, that I will carry forward with me for the remainder of my college and professional career. The author Caitlyn Louzado is a student of liberal arts at Claremont McKenna College and is presently conducting research with The Berger Institute for Work, Family, and Children.

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