Bhumi Fellowship Tue, 16 Mar 2021 06:06:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Both sides of the coin: Being a Student and a Teacher – My Experience. Tue, 16 Mar 2021 06:06:34 +0000 I hail from the port city of Chennai, it was not until July 2017 that I had to bid goodbye to my home to pursue my undergraduate degree at FLAME University in Pune. I studied Digital Marketing and Design at FLAME, and also did a couple of Public Policy courses. I did a course called Social Policy and Inequality in my third year, which piqued my curiosity on social issues in India. This interest led me to pursuing an internship at a think tank in Chennai during the summer of 2020. I explored areas like education, sanitation and its impact on education during the course of my internship. Through the course of my internship, I learnt about the GER of girls studying in schools in Tamil Nadu. I learnt that access to sanitation and menstruation facilities had a direct impact on a girl’s attendance to school. This really made me want to understand the education sector and the impact of sanitation on education in Tamil Nadu better, which made me look for opportunities in this space. That is when I came across the Bhumi fellowship. 

Having been a Bhumi fellow for the last two months, my experience so far has been extremely enriching, insightful and something I’m extremely grateful for. There have been a lot of ‘firsts’ in the journey. Interacting with multiple stakeholders – parents, teachers and school leaders/conducting ice breaker sessions for different stakeholders. Every new experience brings a plethora of learning opportunities, excitement and nervousness. One such new experience for me in these last two months has been that of ‘teaching’. 

Teaching for the first time ever in my life has been slightly nerve wracking, although in a good way. There is so much that one needs to plan for and anticipate before teaching. Being a first time teacher, the process is a lot harder because there are so many doubts and questions that go on in one’s mind – “Am I doing this right?”, “Is there a better way to teach this?”, etc. The answer will always be yes. There is always going to be a better way to teach a certain concept and most importantly at that moment in time, we’re doing the best we can with what we know about our children, given the circumstance. How I deal with all these questions in my head is by giving it a go. No matter what it is, I always make sure I try doing it first and then see how I fared, where I went wrong and what I can do better. The thing about being a first time teacher is that mistakes are your best friend. It all depends on how you choose to look at these mistakes. They become your best friend when you look at them as an opportunity to learn. How you incorporate these mistakes, I mean learning, in your future plans makes all the difference. As students, we’re often told that mistakes are the best teachers, and the more mistakes we make, the more we learn. It’s the same on the other side of the coin as well. The best way to become a better teacher is by making mistakes and learning from them. 

The beauty about being a first time teacher is that there will be more questions than answers. There will be more questions that are unanswered than the ones that are answered. The trick is to keep going, to stay committed to your children and to the purpose. It is incredibly important to be kind to yourself and have faith in yourself.  I hope that through the course of my fellowship journey, I remember to constantly learn in order to help my children learn better. I hope we can grow together and remind ourselves that the classroom is where learning starts, but is certainly not where it ends. 

Wordsmith: Neelanjana Varanasi – Bhumi Fellow

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Purpose in the middle of a Pandemic Tue, 16 Mar 2021 06:03:24 +0000 I’ve always seen the world as beautiful, but it isn’t without its flaws and I began to see and acknowledge these inequities and inequalities once I stepped out of all the fictional stories and fairytales. I realised that a happy ever after is not handed to everyone on a platter and that it has to be worked for. 

I decided that I’d pay for my own education going forward, I wanted to explore and experience before I studied further. I applied to a few fellowships and was rejected by most of them. 

I came to realise that being able to decide and set aside time to experience, to make decisions for myself and everything that came with it was a certain kind of privilege. The privilege of ‘Knowing’. I began to comprehend these things while working with a subject called Geo-Politics in college, and it hit me hard. I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but I never really found satisfaction in writing about the changes people were making, I guess I wanted to be on the other side of the narrative. I am a recent graduate, I studied Psychology, Journalism and English Literature. I have always had a passion for teaching and a yearning for learning, I volunteered and taught with a few organisations and after all these experiences I was ascertained that I enjoyed teaching. 

3 months into 2020 and 1 month away from my graduation, the world saw a complete standstill. Everything had come to a stop, spaces that never saw their doors shut were locked away and everything was a question mark. The question marks were so many, they were hard to count. I was extremely confused. I had planned to start out professionally this year. What was an average,20-year-old, brown girl going to do with all these question marks? 

With jobs being scarce and almost lost, it was difficult for me to even sleep at night. I worried about the possibilities, I worried if I’d find a place that would let me grow. Let’s just say I worried. A lot. 

One evening as I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I saw Bhumi’s colours on a poster. It felt like the child in their poster was calling out to me, all I remember is her sparkling eyes. I clicked on it and read through the entire page, the page excited me and I decided to apply. I didn’t expect to be selected and I didn’t put much weight on what would come out of it, I filled the application and wrote straight from my experiences.

A few days later, Bhumi got in touch with me, the selection process lasted almost a month, but it still feels like it happened very quickly. The phone interviews, the video calls and the intense discussions. The interview questions led me to think about what I actually expect of myself, what I want to do with my life and where I see myself going, in terms of career. Before I knew it I was sitting among 5 others and we were discussing educational policy and the intricacies of the educational sector. I didn’t know until much later that I was part of the first cohort of the fellowship at Bhumi and I was thrilled when I heard this. 

From the very beginning, the fellowship has pushed me to think about things I wouldn’t normally consider. It has been a packaged experience and it is a mixture of challenges, learning and a variety of possibilities. In the last three months, I have learnt to reflect better, to organise myself, not just in a physical sense but also in terms of my thoughts and to accept and apply constructive criticism. 

The journey, so far, has helped me focus on who I truly am, in my core. It has also helped me understand how to use my strengths while learning and exploring areas I need to improve on. It has helped me see and create for myself a structured process to break things down, comprehend them and act on them only after the process is complete. I have become more intuitive and less reactive. 

The space in which the team exists is a safe space and it is a space that understands the challenges and the possible hardships we might face through the process of the fellowship. I’d like to believe that this space lightly cushioned my experience and helped me see the face value of things and the nature of the sector of education/the reality of poverty etc. without letting me lose my purpose. 

I know now and I strongly believe that I am where I have to be, the voice notes from the children in my class and the intellectually stimulating conversations with the team and the fellows have helped me discover and delve into facets of myself I didn’t know existed. The experience I’ve gained so far isn’t much. However, in my opinion, finding a place where you belong and where your dreams and long term vision fits perfectly is an almost impossible feat. I believe I have found my spot, for now, at least. I understand and acknowledge my love for teaching and the sector of education better now and I know that I see a purpose in what I do, even in the midst of a pandemic.   

Looking forward, I can’t wait to meet and interact with the children in my class and learn from all the teachers at the school. I hope to be able to teach the children not just lessons, but to empower them because in all truth, their brilliance can outshine any of us, if it is only tapped into. I want to learn from the children too, children sometimes have the most valuable lessons to teach. A change, even a miniscule change, is a change nevertheless. So maybe I can’t change the world, so what? However, I can change my classroom and that is a start.

Wordsmith: Charlene Judith – Bhumi Fellow

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Change- From Architect to a Bhumi Fellow Wed, 10 Mar 2021 12:17:38 +0000

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Me? Oh, I’m going to be an architect!

I had my life mapped out at a mere eight years of age. Complete my schooling, get into a good architecture school, become an architect, and build something that would outlive me. I was to be the first architect in a family dominated by engineers and bankers. A little over a year ago, I graduated from architecture school, having concluded phase two of my life plan. I’ll always remember the look in my parents’ eyes – pride intermingled with a little exasperation that the tassel on my graduation hat was facing the wrong way. Back then, little did I know that I would be undertaking a massive detour from my childhood dream, with no intention of a return. 

But looking back, the seeds for the change were sown long before. It was a slow realisation rather than a lightbulb moment but I knew I wasn’t going to be a practising architect during fourth year of college itself. I still planned on staying in the field, but either as a conservation architect or as an architectural journalist. Maybe both? Who knows! The only thing I was sure of was the fact that I wanted my work to make a change. The sheer arrogance of the thought is amusing now, but expressing it that way makes my jump into the social sector a less of a stretch. 

Like millions of other people, the turning point in my life was in early 2020. I had returned home having left my job just before the pandemic and the lockdown that accompanied it forced us to adapt to an unprecedented situation. For the first time in my life, I had no plan. I had a lot of time to reflect and think about some fundamental questions – who am I, what do I want to do, and is the work I’m doing now a fundamental need for anyone? While I’m still looking for answers to the first two, after months of conflict my answer to the last question was a resounding no. A friend did ask me whether I thought it was impossible to make a difference without leaving the field. That made me realise that it wasn’t that one cannot make a difference as an architect, it’s just that I was unable to picture myself doing so. That led to my applying for a fellowship as I knew it would be an incredible learning experience as well as allowing me to gain an understanding of the social sector. 

That finally brings me to the Bhumi fellowship. To be honest, I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was when I got accepted as a Bhumi fellow. It’s been less than four months since then, but there is a tangible shift within me already. Think about it this way, it can take ten to fifteen years for a tree to grow before it can provide shade, but it is considered young even then. That pretty much summarizes my experience so far. I’ve finally accepted that I have a lot of change and growth to undergo first and that has been very liberating. I think that actually helps you grow more. It is a roller-coaster as it isn’t easy to make things happen, especially while working remotely. But that makes the results that much more satisfying. However, the best part for me has been embracing what I learnt, connecting it to what I’m learning and working on now, and planning my life all over again having rediscovered myself.

I’ve realised that the small things like a parent telling me it means a lot to have someone listen to them, or a student drawing an incredible lion, is what keeps me going. The fellowship has offered immense insights into the field of education and has given me an incredible opportunity to work with all of the stakeholders in a school. Moving forward, I hope to take my architectural background and use it to make inroads in the education sector. Whether it is enabling creative thinking in the next generation or finding cost-effective solutions for upgrading infrastructure, the possibilities are limitless. And I’m looking forward to exploring all of them.

WordSmith:: Anjali Sarmah – Bhumi Fellow

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Being the Change Thu, 21 Jan 2021 09:32:17 +0000

The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.

Viktor Frankl

We as a country and generation as a whole are more aware and ‘woke’ than ever before. We have access to information at our fingertips in this age of the internet and information which begs the question – how many of us take action on these things that we often talk about? How many of us have stopped to question the very privilege that gives us the ability to critique and comment on the social evils that we see today? Is there a silver bullet to solving the problems of the world? How can we contribute to the solution? 

As a youngster in college, these were very pertinent questions that bothered me and a couple of my friends when we visited an orphanage on Sept 15, 2015. For the next 15 months, we would visit them every Sunday to tutor them, play with them, and just spend time with them as friends. What we taught them during this duration pales in comparison to what we learned from them. These experiences led me to do a 2-year full-time fellowship in Education where I was placed in a government school.

Fellowships are rigorous learning experiences where you learn by doing and you learn more in 2 years than you ever could have imagined was possible. The fellowship gave me clarity on my long term goals within the realm of education and the skills I needed to develop to attempt to do justice to it. The fellowship taught me the value of resilience and creative problem-solving. Teachers are said to make over 1000 decisions per day – decision making and judgment, a crucial skill in leadership was ingrained into the fellowship model by default where I was required to make important decisions that affect my children and their trajectories in school and beyond. I learned what it means to be a reflective practitioner and realized that focussing on self-development is the first step to leadership and collaboration. My class of ‘Dreamers’ taught me that there is potential in every child and a good teacher treats them equally irrespective of whether or not they conform to the ‘usual criteria for success’.

The fellowship led me to explore whole school transformation as the means of creating change that is replicable across schools and in turn, the system. I now work with Bhumi Fellowship where we envision creating the changemakers of tomorrow who lead the next movement in Education. The Bhumi Fellowship is designed for young graduates/ professionals to create systemic changes in the school system while learning and practicing crucial knowledge, skills, and mindsets to become leaders in the Education sector. The Bhumi Fellowship is a platform for thinkers to become doers and contribute to the solution of the problem. We at Bhumi believe that there is no dearth of talent in our country and if more of our youngsters join Education, we will be on the path to achieving quality education for all.


If you are a young graduate or professional who aspires to be the change, we invite you to apply to be a Bhumi Fellow. If you are someone who has been through a similar fellowship and wants to be part of the growing and passionate Bhumi Fellowship team, we invite you to join our staff team. If you are a donor who believes in this vision of creating a more equal society through Education, we invite you to get in touch with us.


There might not be a silver bullet to solving the problems of today and tomorrow but Education is our best bet yet.


Contributed by- Lokeshwaran Nagaraj, Programme Manager – Bhumi Fellowship


To Register for Bhumi Fellowship visit:

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Going Around the Path of Learning Together: Part 2 Sat, 16 Jan 2021 06:11:12 +0000 You can find Part 1 on this link:

Here is the account of  the other 3 Bhumi fellows on the Learning Circles recently conducted by the Fellowship Team: 

Charlene Judith Pereira

With every new day and every session, the Bhumi Fellowship teaches me something new. The learning circle in December served as a point of reference to check this learning and growth and reminded me that the knowledge I have is very little in comparison to the profusion of things I need to learn. It felt good to sit through the sessions and take a complete timeout to read, learn, and create structures that will help the classroom.

While my takeaways from the learning circle are quite a few, the leadership session, the resilience session, and the Math model class were my absolute favorites. 

I’m very excited to teach Math in a way that children might understand and not question the purpose because we’d have already gone over that. The WHY of every lesson fascinates me and I believe that if I can answer this question for my class and with my class, whatever we learn will stay with us. 

Through the course of the learning circle, the power of words was also reiterated to me. I understood that every change doesn’t have to be a movement and it taught me that change is an attitude. I also acknowledge that a vision is ever-evolving and the only thing that can aid the process of building what one envisions is learning. 

It was a well-balanced set of sessions, focusing adequately on a lot of the dimensions of the fellowship and in the sector as well. 

After the learning circle, I was motivated to plan lessons, structures, and assessments. It allowed me to rid myself of the fear of trying. 

Monika Thangavelu

I always look up to learning circles. This space has never let my expectations down. It has always been a place of sharing- giving and taking; and learning. What fascinates me is the fact that each of us in the team gets a chance to share our inputs and hence, this space has been a two-way learning process.

The recent learning circle had a range of interesting topics from resilience building to human-centered designs. It was surprising to know how each of the topics touched upon one of the fellow competencies- leading self, leading others, and leading impact.

One of the sessions that highly impacted my thinking was the one on ‘leadership’. This session made me visualise a leader as a person who not just has qualities such as ‘strength, confidence, and motivation’, but as someone who empathises with others and is able to ‘embrace the suck’.

The learning circle enabled and encouraged me to think more, think deeper, and internalise the ideas. The above takeaway is one such example. I have been trying to execute my learnings in my works. I look forward to more of such platforms that help me grow, personally, and professionally.

Neelanjana Varanasi

If I had to use one word to describe the learning circle, it would be contentment. Until about December and till the end of the learning circle, I knew what the word meant but I never felt it. Some of the ideas that we engaged with, and the conversations that unfolded pushed me to think about my goals for myself, my school, and community, how math is taught and learned, what it means to be a leader, how to collaborate effectively with someone, how we can engage in productive conversations and finally, the idea of human-centric design. Additionally, we were also taught how to create assessments and unit plans for our classrooms.

There were so many takeaways for me from the learning circle – the idea of a teacher being a leader in their classrooms, the power of yet, embracing vulnerability as a leader, and the words we use to communicate with our children. We worked on ourselves through the course of the learning circle, in order to be able to teach our children better and reckoned with the idea of being leaders in our classrooms.  One really important takeaway for me from the learning circle was – believing in ‘the power of yet’ and how we can get our children to believe in this as well in our classrooms. To sum up my experience of the learning circle, I would like to end with one quote which will probably remain with me forever – 

“What stands in the way becomes the way” – Marcus Aurelius

The learning circle helped me realize that a challenge is a challenge so long as we see it as one. The space taught me to look at a challenge as an opportunity to learn, be resilient, and come out stronger with the learnings.    

We are really grateful to all our fellows for taking out time from their busy schedule of building better schools and sharing their thoughts with us. If you want to become a part of our movement in transforming schools, register for Bhumi Fellowship now at 

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Going Around the Path of Learning Together: Part 1 Sat, 16 Jan 2021 05:58:26 +0000  2020 saw the biggest education crisis in the history of mankind. It is hard to imagine another moment in history when the central role of education in the prosperity of our country is so obvious and well understood by the general population. This is an opportunity to chart a vision for how education can emerge stronger from this global crisis than ever before. 

It is in this spirit that we launched the Bhumi Fellowship in October 2020 with our first cohort of five fellows, who are working towards laying out a map to harness innovations in low-income schools and help reduce educational inequality. To know more about each of them visit- 

As a part of the Fellowship Program, the team has been organising Learning Circles with the fellows.  Learning Circles provide an opportunity for everyone to be heard, creating a sense of equality and an environment in which everyone is involved in working to create the best possible outcome. They often stimulate high involvement and mutual respect. We have gathered some notes from our fellows about their views and feelings about the Learning Circle recently organised by the Fellowship Team.

Here is what they shared, we hope you enjoy reading their accounts as much as we did;

Abhinaya Sridharan

For me, Bhumi’s collaborative spaces have always been something I look forward to because I feel I get to know myself and my team better this way. This learning circle was no different, as I felt we covered so many key skills in a short period of time. Through the sessions, we focused on key competencies under the leading self, leading others, and leading impact. While these skills are relevant for the work we do, they also have changed the way I perceive challenges outside of Bhumi, as well. 

Through the training, I was able to unlearn and relearn new things. As soon as I resumed working with my stakeholders, I saw a major shift in the way I dealt with the challenges that came my way. I was in a better position to analyze the root cause of the problem and apply my learnings in order to devise solutions for the same. Especially through the focus given to Human Centred Design, I felt closer to designing sustainable solutions for the community I work with. This Learning Circle was different from the initial training period at the Bhumi Fellowship Institute because I knew my context better and was able to constantly connect the issues I face in my work with the possible solutions that emerged from our discussions.

I also greatly benefitted from the interactive atmosphere that was enabled by the Program Team as well as my co-Fellows. We agreed and disagreed with each other, but by the end of it, we all walked out with perspectives different than our own, with which we walked in. I am grateful for such an opportunity and I look forward to more such spaces. This has been an all-rounded learning experience that has made me more confident in my abilities and has opened up newer avenues of skill development. 

Anjali Sarmah

To me, Bhumi’s Learning Circle was a journey of growth both, as a teacher and as a person. Each session challenged me on both fronts and pushed me to broaden my horizons. My biggest takeaway was the idea of teachers being leaders as this is something I’d never thought of before. All the other sessions tied into this for me – whether it was being resilient, listening and responding styles, and long-term planning. Today I’m extremely conscious of the fact that my words and actions can leave a lasting impression on my students. I also found the process of learning to teach Numeracy very stimulating. Honestly, it isn’t easy as it is poles apart from what I was taught in school, but that makes it all the more enjoyable. 

I remember a conversation with our program manager where he said, “…we were going to call it a training session but later changed it to a Learning Circle because we’re all going to learn from each other.” This seems like a simple thought but it left a great impact on me. As a learner, I was made to feel that my participation and opinions were valuable in enhancing the quality of the space. Moving forward, this is something I wish to convey to my students as well, as they are at the center of this entire programme after all. 

Continued on Going around the path of learning together: Part 2

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Teaching during the unprecedented times- Journal Series of a Bhumi Fellow Tue, 12 Jan 2021 11:51:09 +0000 Every child deserves every chance; No child should have their chances limited by poverty.

Educational inequality and inaccessibility to education have been a persistent concern. Working towards addressing them during the normal times have itself posed serious challenges. Imagine, working to bridge the gaps in the educational system during the times of COVID-19. 

Since March, we have all been adapting to the online world. But, has it been easy for the kids? For their parents? A recent UNICEF report has studied the number of students being affected by school closures and not surprisingly, South Asia has the highest number of students being affected because of it. Poverty and the inaccessibility to online education due to the lack of accessibility to technology are the two important reasons that are driving them away from online education. 

When I chose the Bhumi fellowship, I thought, I will be given a school and I just need to teach. Though I anticipated certain challenges, I did not anticipate “teaching online” itself to be a challenge. I was taken aback to know that some students of my class were in a “not-reachable” position even in this tech-era. How am I going to face this reality? Will I be able to do it? What’s my first step? These were some of the questions that were running in my mind and even my co-fellows wouldn’t deny the uncertainty that prevailed. But, as a team, we started taking small baby steps. From impossible to possible, we have been able to create some impacts with the push of our program managers and consistent efforts by the team. The three P’s that I have learned to keep as my core values are- Patience, Perseverance and Persistence. 

I work with a low-income school and they don’t have zoom classes. So, the only possibility is sending out contents regularly in WhatsApp and making WhatsApp calls. This is where the three P’s become more important. 

Patience- I used to be so impatient after sending out contents and anxious about not getting replies. But, with patience I learned, “things cannot always happen at my pace”. I started understanding the working conditions of my kid’s parents, the time they require to see the content, to be able to reply and their availability to devices only at certain times. 

Perseverance- When I understood, constant communication is essential between educators and parents for effective remote learning, I prioritised this in my schedule and engaged in a consistent dialogue with them often. 

Persistence- I did not get response from my students, during the initial days of me sending contents online. Slowly, it turned from 0 responses to 1, and to 2. So, persistence made me understand, if we keep trying, we can see results.

The three P’s have been a motivator now. All these things on one side, what else encourages me? Let me share an incident. 

Two weeks back, on a Friday, I called one of my students to inquire about him, his health, his family members, and studies. The child was happy and he shared a lot of things with me. Last week, on the same day and at the same time, he called me back asking why I haven’t called him to speak. I was moved by this incident.

Yes, these small actions bring in a sense of happiness and sparks motivation. It has helped me keep moving up the ladder despite the hurdles that have come along the way. 

Where there is a will, there is a way. Hence, I re emphasise- “Every child deserves every chance; No child should have their chances limited by poverty”. 

Wordsmith- Monika Thangavelu, Bhumi Fellow

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