Meena Radio A new reason to go to school!

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What would you do if i said I had found a 2 way radio uhf short article that is not only interesting but informative also? I knew you wouldn’t believe me, so here it is the educational, superb and fascinating editorial

PATNA: It’s a chilly winter day at Bhallui village, but a kindly sunshine bathes the campus of the Government Upgraded Middle School where, in front of the building, a group of kids in white caps are seated on the ground. In front of them sits a teacher, with a radio prominently displayed, its volume turned up. The kids are nodding their heads to a catchy tune playing on the radio. The ‘Meena ki Duniya’ programme is in session.

The Meena Radio session is in progress, starting as always, at 10:30am. The radio programme ends and the teacher facilitator, Abha Kumari, starts a discussion on the goodness of fresh vegetables, the topic of the 15-minute broadcast. Being the facilitator, she has already listened to the episode the previous day, by means of the flash drive inserted into the set. The children – sixth, seventh and eighth graders – interact with her and each other in an animated way.

Across 45 middle schools in the Rajapakar block of Vaishali, UNICEF is facilitating educational entertainment via podcast – successfully piloted in Uttar Pradesh in 2011, where the broadcast reached all schools through a tie-up with All India Radio.

‘Meena Radio’, as the ‘Meena ki Duniya’ 2 way radio magazine series is affectionately called, is delivered to the schools within Rajapakar block by means of a radio set that can read audio files through a flash drive. The radio set and a flash drive loaded with the 160 episodes have been made available to the target schools. The schools turn on the radio at the designated time: 10:30am, so that a uniformity is maintained. Students from classes 6, 7 and 8 gather at one place to listen to the programme. The designated teacher-facilitator conducts the session. After the episode is over, the teacher initiates a discussion on the topics raised. The entire session takes about half an hour.

“The session is the highlight of the school day for these children,” says Abha. “Ever since the Meena radio programme started, attendance has improved. The children from the other classes also want to listen to the programme. So, once in a while during the lunch-break, we do repeat one of the episodes as a special treat. The kids sit down very attentively and listen.”

“Meena Radio tells us that boys and girls are equal. It also says that girls should be allowed to study. But I think it’s keeping clean and washing hands that are most important,” seventh grader Chandan Kumar reflects.

So, what do they hear on Meena Radio? “Stories! Songs! Jokes! Games! To keep your school clean! All girls should study at least till high school! Don’t do toilet in the open! Use the rest room,” shout the kids in turn.

Nidhi Kumari, a seventh grader says, “Bal Sansad and Meena Manch children have made a promise to parents to get toilets built at home.” In fact, in the past one month, three students proudly announced that their parents built toilets using the benefits of a government sanitation scheme. (Meena Manch is a girls’ activity group, and Bal Sansad is the student council in all government middle schools across Bihar.)

The use of soap for hand-washing has increased across all upper primary schools accessing the programme. Upendra Prasad, a teacher stated, “The demand came from the children. They asked for soap for hand-washing. And all the children use the soap!” Now the school administration makes sure that soap is purchased, an item on the school budget that would be ignored previously.

“Kids are a powerful pressure group,” says CRCC Amodanand. “Meena has become a role model, especially for girls, and the daily dose of Meena’s adventures gives them a high level of motivation. Positive changes have been happening just because the kids have got a better self-image, and the teachers are paying more attention to the children’s needs. In a sneaky way, Meena Radio also provides role models for the teachers as well. If Meena’s teacher is so understanding, why not is Munni’s teacher?”

The popularity of the Meena Radio episodes among school children has spread to their parents and neighbourhood as well.

Chandrakeshwar Kumar, a Vikas Mitra from Bakarpur panchayat demands that ‘Meena ki Duniya’ be made available for use as a communication tool during village meetings. The women folk were especially interested in listening to Meena Radio having heard about it from their school-going children. Having listened to an episode of Meena Ki Duniya, he appreciated its value as an icebreaker that could be used as a warm-up to community meetings.

‘Radio Rimjhim’: a community radio service set up in Gopalganj district, started ‘Meena ki Duniya’ broadcasts from December 16 last year in collaboration with Bihar Education Project Council, Information and Public Relations Department, and UNICEF. The broadcasts, however, were discontinued after a few days because of ‘technical reasons’.

Meena ki Duniya, with its simple and entertaining format advocating healthy habits such as eating green vegetables, nutritious food, hands-washing, etc, has the potential to reach out to radio listeners of all ages, and promoting maternal and child health, sanitation, and healthy habits.
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It’s a chilly winter day at Bhallui village, but a kindly sunshine bathes the campus of the Government Upgraded Middle School where, in front of the building, a group of kids in white caps are seated on the ground.